“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”—
I feel like Patton Oswalt reached into my soul and poured it all over his blog. I had a very similar transition starting in elementary school. My only goal in life was to watch as much television as possible, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when I became the fat kid in school rather quickly. Unfortunately, I also followed the same path as Patton Oswalt as the bully’s sidekick. I wouldn’t pick on people I didn’t know, mainly just my friends, but that doesn’t make a right. If there was a joke to be told I wouldn’t hesitate to blurt it out of my fat insecure mouth. As long as no one pointed out that I had bigger breasts than most of the girls in school, the day was a success.
Two things happened at age 17: First, I lost 80 pounds and resembled a normal human being. Girls started to notice me, I got a little confidence, and lost the need to preemptively defend myself by hurting other people.
Second, I got in a lot of trouble and made horrible decisions. I ended up finishing my first year of college commuting back and forth to Springfield, MA because I wasn’t allowed on campus except to take classes and go home. Needless to say, I had a lot of time to think about what kind of person I wanted to become and how people would remember me. That’s when I decided to track down every single person I teased growing up and apologize. I know that seems selfish and self-serving on my part but it was the only I could think up.
Well, I tracked down a healthy amount of people, some of which I’m much better friends with now. I explained what a lot of them already knew: I was insecure and scared and simply didn’t know any better. Sadly, there was one kid I would never be able to apologize to because he passed away. I’m not going to go into details because literally none of my friends know about it…but suffice it to say I made fun of him for something I didn’t understand during our first week of kindergarten. I know it sounds ridiculous to hold onto something like that, but take my word for it…it was fucked up and to this day it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done. Sure, it was one little joke by a kindergartner, but that was more than enough to send him into tears. My parents explained to me why he was so hurt and I’m sure they made me apologize but there’s no way I could have given him a genuine apology…I couldn’t even tie my own shoes.
I’ve never stop being ashamed and embarrased about the incident and I thought a lot about him during those lonely months at home. So, I made a promise to live my life by one rule: leave everyone you meet better off than they were before you met them. That doesn’t mean I have to be a yes man and tell everyone how great they are, I just have to be an honest and genuine person. Sometimes I fuck up and it takes a while to make it up to someone (especially when it comes to relationships) but I can say with 100% certainty that I will never break that promise. I just wish I had made it sooner.