Monday, December 27, 2004

Tarnishing the family name

My Aunt Louise and Uncle Ed have always fostered a warped view of success. They push their kids – my cousins – mercilessly. Their nagging is constant.

Make more connections. Get better grades. Score the perfect internship. Revise resume. Date a doctor’s son. Put your name at the top of the list. Perfect resume. Schmooze passionately. Understand the system. Send resume to family, friends, strangers, neighbors. Wear the best business attire. Get your name on the door. Know the right people. Climb the ladder. Make us proud. Make our friends jealous.

They’ve never been shy to wedge their noses into my affairs, either. My aunt listed colleges that I should visit; my uncle recited the many perks of an out-of-state education. They ganged up against me, the Christmas of my senior year, to interrogate me on why I had picked the university I did and to strongly insinuate that I was much too stupid to go there. ...regardless of the fact that I’d been accepted before Thanksgiving.

I’ll point out here that I graduated from that university that would be too challenging for me. In four years with two majors, I should add.

After my junior year in college, less than a week after I’d finished my exams and moved back home, Uncle Ed called me.

Where are you interning this summer? I’m not. Who are you writing for? I’m not. What are you doing with your life? I plan to open a business sharpening pencils, Uncle Ed. When it goes out of business, which it will inevitably do, I will work retail. After being fired for shoplifting, I will begin practice as an illegal, unlicensed cosmetologist until I am caught and prosecuted and put into jail where I will rot my life away and wish that I had listened to you in the first place.

Uncle Ed decided that this was not a good plan. He proceeded to assign me to write him an article. Uncle Ed recited me the synopsis of the feature he wanted me to write. He told me who to interview and how to write it. And he told me how his master plan would work. He would take it upon himself to get it into a newspaper. Make it this many words long. Have it to me in this many hours. He was absolutely serious.

I hung up the phone and I cried. I was already angry with myself for not getting a summer internship, despite filling out more than a few applications. I was anxious enough about life after college. I didn’t want to write his stupid freelance piece. Hell, I didn’t even want to be a journalist! I was frustrated and I really, really could do without him prying into my life.

He called the next day to congratulate Meg on a quite prestigious statewide scholar-athlete award that she had won. At the end of the message, he reminded me that I had 24 hours until the article that he had assigned to me was due.

I didn’t write it. I never talked to him about it again.

For about a year, I responded to Uncle Ed and Aunt Louise’s future planning/job ambition inquiries with polite but monotone one-word answers that were punctuated by my leaving whatever room he or she was in. Time has mitigated the pain of Uncle Ed's ambush; in the last six months, I’ve been more willing to have conversations about my future with Uncle Ed and Aunt Louise.

Yesterday was marked by Uncle Ed taking advantage of me while my guard was down. He’s doing the advertising for a company in the field that I’m interning with. Print out your resume and a few samples of your work! I’ll pass it on.

Along with a hell of a lot of unsolicited advice, I’m sure.

I will maintain that my decision to hand Uncle Ed my resume without being held at gunpoint was a stupid one.

And I will continue to do so until he gets me a job.

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