I Doubt You Remember Me…

I made a resolution that I write more this year. It’s now February and I have yet to publish anything. So let’s put some points on the board already…

As I have been doing a lot of contemplation (2020 was that kind of year, right?), I have been thinking about my personal successes and failures. There are couple of patterns that emerge.

I have received a lot of help on the way: From the time I was a student all the way through to my current job, I have been the benefactor of a lot of assistance from really smart and really talented people. Some have provided a little nudge; some have absolutely carried me. The bottom line is that most of my success has been aided by the most favorable of tailwinds.

I look for the lessons that life teaches me: Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious. Don’t touch the hot oven, there is no Nigerian Prince with a sum of money, etc. Sometimes it’s more subtle. I turned right instead of left, and learned something new about myself or my environment.

Which brings me to this correspondence. As I have been reflecting on the help I have received, I wanted to make sure that I acknowledged it and thanked people for it. So, I wrote this letter.

(I did some light obfuscation and editing)

Hello. Greetings from Chicago. I doubt you remember me, but I think you taught a playwriting class in 1995 at Marquette University. If so, I just wanted to send you a thank you note for what was the single most transformative class at university. This class taught me so much about who I was (am) and what I was (am) capable of. I am currently an IT Director working at a company called Grainger that may seem to have no connection to playwriting. However, I rarely go a week without thinking about character motivation, plot, and realistic dialogue that you taught me at MU. All of these themes are very relevant in technology where we should always start with the user (character) and their interaction (dialogue) with the computer to complete their transaction (motivation). It’s all there. You once had us write a scene where the only thing our characters could do was ask questions. I have literally challenged software engineers to do the equivalent in their programs (conclusion: it gets messy). Last thing: In our last conversation, you suggested that I could write for a living and that I did not necessarily need to follow the more beaten path into corporate America. I have to say that I have played this conversation in my head more than a few times, especially in my 20s. Now over 25 years later, I can happily say that you were right. While I did go corporate, I write all the time. Perhaps not as artistically as I’d like, but it’s absolutely an essential tool of my trade. In conclusion, thank you. You made a difference. I’ve not forgotten. I hope the last 25 years have been good for you as well. Sincerely, Neil O’Malley

And he responded!

Hello Neil, many thanks for your note yesterday. I do remember you well and I find myself moved and thrilled to hear that you still use some of the techniques I taught you. In life, we don’t often get to know whether what we do means anything to anyone, that’s why ‘It’s A Wonderful Life” is on TV every Christmas. Life has been good to me, though 2020 was challenging and doesn’t seem to want to die now that it’s 2021. I ended up in NYC as the director of an art gallery for the past 20 years, doing what you do, bringing everything I know about language to bear on art, not only from the sales point of view, but in cataloguing, marketing, etc. For the past 10 years I’ve been writing essays on art for some national publications as well. The gallery closed in 2020 and left me and my family in a tough spot. But I have worked to start my own art advisory company, most of which involves writing. Among other things I have been hired to write a book about an American artist. Through all this, I have never stopped writing plays, short stories, screenplays, and have seen my work published and produced in small ways. I will have a short story coming out in a book this year and am finishing up a short musical for children. Working closely with a composer for the first time helped me keep my sanity this last year. Grainger is a great, solid firm. In fact, I have worked with Mr. Grainger, a very savvy art collector, on a couple of occasions! I also wrote what I call a quarantine comedy for two characters this year which starts with the famous question scene that reveals as it conceals and conceals as it reveals. Lately I have begun to believe that we are all always making art, that the act of perceiving is an artistic act. It’s just that most people don’t recognize this. So this has gotten long for a Facebook Messenger note! I am very happy to hear from you and that you are well. And if you ever decide to indulge that creative impulse again, let me know. Stay in touch. All the best, xxxx

Isn’t that cool?!

So what do I want you to get out of this, dear reader? A few things.

· Be appreciative of the help you received.

· Add tools to your toolbox. You might use them in ways you never thought of.

· It’s never too late to say thank you.

· Finally, when you are in position to do so, help others on their journey.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

IT Guy, Sometime Coach, Full-Time Empath