There’s a little piece of a memory that sticks with me, from a high school field trip I took with drama club. Once we arrived onsite, we were allowed to pick workshops, and since I was a senior (I think?) I ended up in one about college and scholarships.
Whatever. The details, clearly, did not stick with me, but one thing the speaker said did:
“Half your group isn’t here, and why? Because they didn’t fill out the form!”
This is my personal version of those classroom-wall posters with the basketball players that say “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
If you want something, you’ve gotta fill out the form! So I’ve been filling out forms lately. One was for Nashville Software School.
Back in September, I talked to college hallmate John Q., who also went JET after graduation, and has since moved back to Nashville. I had a habit then (and for the several years leading up to this encounter) of offhandedly and only half-jokingly asking anyone I talked to if they could get me a job. John said he’d done a six-month boot camp at NSS and had gotten a fine job, now lived in the Gulch (sidebar — when we were in college, we used to joke that “The Gulch” was the up and coming neighborhood because it was pretty literally a mudhole where extra train equipment was stored. Now…. well, see the photo evidence here if you like), and you know, had a life and stuff. And I was just like, that sounds kind of nice, maybe I’ll do that too (har meaningful har).
I kept it in the back of my mind, but didn’t make any real moves on it. Then one evening at yoga, I ran into another repatriated JET friend, whom I knew mostly because of Peer Support Group. We had both been trained listeners who linked our house phones to the system once or twice a month to await any JETs in need of an English listening ear. I happened to be in a particularly vulnerable frame of mind that evening for whatever reason, some combination of Winter and Work (or lack of structure in) and Social Problems or what have you, so things almost got tearful on my side as we took a very brief moment to catch up (I didn’t even want to… it was a keep you head down and get out kind of night). But as we did, he mentioned that he too had gone through NSS and now had a job with reasonable hours and decent pay, and that he was quite happy with it.
And I, who love signs, decided I might as well fill out the damn form. It’s a long form, and took some work on my part, but I eventually did it. I get really caught up in the details when I am filling out the forms, especially in essay-form answers, so it takes me a while to be satisfied with my answers. I also decided I needed to spend some time doing free tutorials online, so I’ve done some of that (less this month, though), in order to Not Make The Same Mistake Again (re: teaching, although pretend teaching and being a teacher in this country at this time is not the same either). So my interview is later this month.
Another form I’ve filled out is an application for the World Nomad’s Travel Writing Scholarship, which also took forever because there was a strict 2,500 character (that’s letters, not words, and includes spaces) limit on your writing submission, so of course I wrote an extensive 4-page thing that covered all 3 of the possible submission topics. My mom helped me cut it down to a more reasonable size, and I eventually had to cut a lot of the stuff I liked, but we managed to wedge it into the character limit.
I’m not a huge fan of it, because I feel like I have a lot more to say and would rather tell this story with more words and even a few pictures, but if you would like to read my submission, you can find it here: Way of the Day.
Preparing for filling out this form had me going in all sorts of fun directions. On one hand, I was looking back at my Cambodia journal and photos, remembering and trying to convey in word-limit the way everything looked and felt, and the impression that our guide, Yut left (another shameless plug, if you find yourself in Cambodia on vacation, hire him, he is amazing).
I started reading about stuff in the Western Balkans, since part of the form asks which two countries you would want to visit. I figure this is for visa-getting purposes but also to require you to do some research on your own. So I made a list of all the things I read about that I thought were cool and that I would want to visit or experience, then made a tally of which countries these things were in. This was wholly unhelpful and I ended up just picking two, Serbia for raspberry festival and Montenegro because holy shit nature wow, and figured that would be a good balance to report on if I were to go.
I also did some light digging about the World Nomads scholarship mentor, and read some of his stuff. I nabbed The Best American Travel Writing 2015 from the library because he has a piece in there (and have now been reading the other stuff in there too). I read his article about the Peaks of the Balkans which you can see here. This hike was one I’d read a bit about from the rabbit hole of links, and it goes through three countries. I could not do the whole thing, of course, and I don’t know the logistics of doing any of it as a solo tourist, but in principal it appealed to me.
As you can see, filling out forms is a thing I take pretty seriously, and it takes a lot of time and research for me to feel like I’m doing it to the best of my ability. So, if you have been wondering what else I have been up to when I’m not working… mostly those things. I have a few other ‘forms’ I am interested in filling out, one of them three times as massive as this scholarship one has been, so that will take some doing.
I’m aware that any one of these forms getting a hit could change my life, even rather drastically. Or, it could be a total miss. I sometimes hesitate to fill out the forms because I’m not sure I’m ready to go into whatever the thing is I’d get if the form ends up a hit. In other words, I’m scared of success, especially success that brings change. This may seem counter-intuitive or even anti-American(!), but I think it’s also kinda natural.
…I do at some point intend to get back to my novel and give it the attention it deserves, but I keep saying I’ll do that once my ‘work schedule’ is ‘under control,’ which is like saying ‘never.’ My work schedule requires me to build it and continuously adjust it every single week, almost every day even, and that makes it pretty difficult to build a routine. As long as ‘lack of routine’ is my excuse, I’ll have it readily to hand. So, I’m going to have to build some more life systems to make it happen, and that just hasn’t happened yet.