Back in the fall of 2009 I was blindsided by a divorce. I won’t go into details, but I lost a lot of opportunities when I took up with my ex years earlier and it felt like those sacrifices were a total waste. The separation also happened just a few days before school was starting at my job. I let my office and supervisors know about what was happening, but I went to work everyday, getting work done without bringing too much personal baggage with me.
On the day of our new student orientation I came in extra early and went through the routine of welcoming new students, giving a happy, welcoming smile. Towards the end of the morning orientation, current students leaders said a few words to the incoming and tell them about different organizations and opportunities. One of the speakers was Andrew Barnes, a PhD candidate in Health Policy and Management. (He was writing his thesis on a certain sociological aspects of alcohol consumption,I believe.) I was halfheartedly listening when he told the students that they should make the most of their time at UCLA and take chances. In a self-effacing style, he said by putting himself out there and taking chances he had traveled to Europe for free, attended several conferences and rubbed shoulders with people out of his league. (I’m paraphrasing as best I can remember.) It was a short, but direct talk and the line “take chances” reverberated through my head. I wrote the line down and kept it at my desk for a while.
I moved from my East LA apartment to a student section of Westwood Village a few weeks later. This allowed me to walk to work instead of drive. For several months I started seeing a therapist to get my noggin sorted out. The idea in the sessions was not to just talk, but to change. I started practicing yoga during lunch which started out as pain and frustration, but grew into relaxation. I got back into dating and even for a short time ran a Meetup group for 30 something singles. I met a woman who was very different than the other women that I typically dated. (No, we didn’t connect on that Meetup group.) My writing volume increased as I got more involved with writing and movie making groups. I got a gig as a reporter and went to Park City to cover the Slamdance Film Festival. With my then girlfriend and now wife, we traveled to Europe and later drove across the country and back. I started getting stories published for the first time and then a couple of novellas followed. To cap it all off, this year I’ve become a father – something that would not have happened pre-divorce.Here is a video of our trip from Santa Monica to Florida and back.
While I’m not saying that those two words were the catalyst that started the change, it was definitely what I need to hear at that time and they emboldened my resolve. Although I’ve taken some chances, I feel there are a lot more opportunities where I haven’t. (See last month’s article on my lack of promotion.) So I’ll need to remember the take chances mantra. I never told Andrew about the effect he had on an administrative employee at UCLA. Perhaps I will with this post.
Sometimes the words we say can have a lasting effect… and sometimes on an unintended audience. Any words or moments that altered your life?
Travis Richardson has been a finalist for the Macavity short story award in 2014 and 2015 as well as the Anthony short story award in 2014. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in crime fiction publications such as Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, and All Due Respect. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime Los Angeles newsletter Ransom Notes, reviews Anton Chekhov short stories at http://www.chekhovshorts.com,
and sometimes shoots a short movie. His novella, KEEPING THE RECORD, concerns a disgraced baseball player who will do anything to keep his tainted home run record. “Quack and Dwight” is his latest short story and can be found in the Anthology JEWISH NOIR. www.tsrichardson.com