“You get to pee in a cup! I did too!”
Lucas yelled this out as we were driving over to the local Labcorp facility, where I would, in fact, be peeing into a cup for a pre-employment drug screen. Lucas had taken his physical a few days prior; the doctor had made him do the same, and now we had that to bond over. The offer finally came in on Friday; when I got the email, I was sitting at a table at the Dad 2.0 Summit, telling a couple dozen bloggers about the Craft Of Writing. At one point I was yammering on about how much I was actually enjoying my recently reacquired life as an Office Guy, because there I’m surrounded by people and moving objects, and I loved this because for me, when I’m looking for something to write about, anything can trigger something.
It rained the whole long weekend. I spent a day at Dad 2.0 and then three days roaming the massive techno-ruck of SXSW. I smiled. Shook hands. Hugged people. A lot. (Sorry, Jim Lin.) Later I’d wake up from a nap at 37,000 feet and wonder if I came across as fake. Later still I’d tweet about my insecurity. (“Sorry if I came across as smarmy.”) Maybe it was because I’d been hanging around Brand People all weekend and my brand – the PetCobra guy with the weird, random Tweets and the dry sense of humor and the quick temper – doesn’t necessarily involve being…nice. Maybe it wasn’t insecurity at all, but the realization that for all of this talk about the honesty of blogging, most of us know don’t really know the person on the business end of the Publish button. Maybe it was because I was frigging exhausted and exhilarated and those are the things that you think about, way in the middle of the air.
“So, I saw the posting? For the Social Media Communications Specialist?” When you feel like a frightened kid, you tend to talk like one. Every statement a question. I started to panic, countered it by trying to mentally calculate the number of posts I’d written since I started with Pet Cobra Dot Blogspot Dot Com some six years ago. Figure an average of three posts a week, 52 weeks in a year, six years is…936 posts? That couldn’t have been right. Seemed like so much more. Malcolm Gladwell would count the hours. For those six years, and before that…ever since I picked up a crayon and wrote JASON in child-scrawl, we’ll say. Since I could write, I’ve never not been a writer. Along the way, I’d gotten some paid consulting work, helping some PR folks understand what it is we’re thinking when we’re banging out a post at 11:00 after a long day at the office and a longer evening trying to convince the kids that eating trail mix for dinner is not a viable option. I’m a pro. Right? But we all know what happens to bloggers whose bosses find out about their secret hobbies. That’s why so many of us go by our handles, comfortably anonymous, paychecks safe. My boss, Natalie, really liked me. I liked her – smart, direct, great to work for. Six years, several jobs, and I’d never willingly told a single supervisor or co-worker about this life. I’d be bummed when she fired me. “So…I do that. Along with the recruiting, I do social media stuff. Blogs. That sort of thing.”
It was pouring down rain at 2:30 AM; there was a karaoke bar/noodle house; we were starving; it made sense. There was a small group of people belting out country tunes. I was tired but I needed noodles and singing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to a group of strangers seemed appropriate. Whit, Michael, Andy, JCO, me. The SXSW panel was almost 12 hours behind me and I was still swimming victory laps. A drunk app developer sat down next to me and started talking about his stuff; the conference badges around our necks an open invitation to engage, network, schmooze. I told the guy what I did and what I was doing at South By. Then I told him about my new job. “That is the coolest thing, dude,” he said, and who was I to argue?
I shambled into the office on Monday morning. The desk was covered with Post-It notes, overlapping like tiles on the roof of a hacienda. Two days off; catching up was not going to be easy. Interviews to schedule, offers to get out. There was also the matter of sending thank you’s and follow-up notes to some of the smart, funny, generous, resilient, inspiring, cool, hard-working, amazing, awesome people I met. There was an email from my new boss telling me how happy she was that I’d be starting soon, and how was my time in Austin? The kids beamed at me from a photo on the desk, reminding me of why I was there at Dad 2.0 and SXSW and here in the office in the first place. I thought about how nobody really knows anybody and it’s usually because we don’t let them. It occured to me then that I had one less thing to worry about; that I didn’t understand my own happiness because whatever success I’d found as a blogger was always overshadowed by the fear of getting caught. And now that fear’s gone.
So: my name is Jason Avant. I’ve been writing online since 2005. I started my career as a recruiter in 2000, working for a company called Remedy Intelligent Staffing. I’ve since worked for A-Star Staffing, Search Power, Manpower, General Atomics, L-3 Communications, NextWave Broadband, Texas Instruments, Qinetiq, Claritas, Event Network, ICW, Encore Health Resources, and United Health Group. These days, I’m working for Life Technologies, soon to be a Senior Social Media Communications Specialist. It’s really nice to finally meet you.