Prompt: What did you learn from your first job?

I worked at a movie theater when I was 16. I don’t have many good memories of it, because I don’t have many good memories from my teen years at all. But this prompt wants me to find something that I learned. After 22 years to reflect, I think I have something.

Show up on time to your minimum wage job and work hard. You’ll usually have a job and few problems.

I was nominated for an employee of the month the first month that I was there. I asked the manager why I was nominated. I had thought you needed to do more than clean a theater. He said that I was a good worker and caused no problems. For this reason, I was given more hours than most of the teens there.

“Is that all it takes?” I thought. “Is Woody Allen right about successes and how most of it is just showing up?”

As I got older, I dropped out of college and worked crappy jobs, I realized the importance of just showing up and working. Most workers in these jobs won’t show up and work. They give excuses to not be there, and they try to get out of some of the worst tasks of their shift. They’re often involved in drama, and many of them can’t be trusted. A good worker is hard to find and managers know this. This is not to say that showing up and working hard will make you a manager. Most likely you will be taken advantage of if you work too hard. But I’ve been able to hold on to these types of jobs because others do not have any standards for themselves.

This leads me to the real lesson.

Where did I get this ethic from?

My parents worked constantly when I grew up. This rubbed off. But more importantly, my parents weren’t phonies and showed me that it’s more important to express yourself with actions before words. My first job showed me the importance of a reputation. Your reputation is other people’s perception of who you are. And perception is everything. My mom and dad had a good reputation with me and my brother. They give us what we needed, and they were consistent about it. In turn, I decided to be as dependable as they were.

Show who you are, don’t tell. This is what I learned from my first job and other crappy jobs to follow.

And what did you learn from your first job?

Letter To My 15-Year-Old Self (from my 38-year-old self)

Dear 15-year-old self,

You are cooler than you think.

You ask the teacher to use the bathroom just to wander the high school halls. You peak into classes, wondering what the popular kids are up to like they’re having some kind of a party in class. You think they have something special that you don’t, but the reason why they cling to popularity so much is because they’re scared they have nothing at all. And they’re right to feel that way about themselves. You’re not right to feel that way about yourself at all. You’re already cool. It’ll take years for you to see that.

You are spectacular.

Wait until you’re 35 and see what you can do with any writing tool. Most people won’t be able to express their feelings and ideas the way you’ll be able to, and your hardship will be what allowed you to get to this level. There’ll be few friends and girlfriends and party invites and social circles. You’ll have little to no financial success, but you’ll reach depths of thought and emotion that most writers would kill to get to. And it will fill you up inside.

You are wonderful.

No matter how discouraged you’ll get, you’ll never give up on your dream, because it’s no dream. It’s a reality in your heart and in your mind. And you’re heart and mind is your greatest asset. Not something to be ashamed of.

You are an artist.

Nevermind the ones that dress, walk, talk and body modify the way they think an artist is supposed to. That doesn’t make you an artist. Bleeding makes you an artist. Practice makes you an artist. Love makes you an artist. Everything else just makes you artsy. And that’s not cool.

You are beautiful.

People might not look for you on your phone, but they will trust you and the fact that you do not change for the worst. You are a rock. People you know will express this to you verbally and through their actions. They’ll admire your honesty, compassion and consciousness.

You are industrious. 10-word poems, 15-minute-plays, 100-word stories, 120-page screenplays, you’ll try anything, you’ll fail at most, you’ll succeed at some, you’ll be proud of it all. The skills you’ll develop as an artist, a writer and a human being will be the empire that you build and that empire will be glorious, until you say it is no longer is.

You are perfect the way you are.

I can’t tell you if you’ll have the success that you think you need. I still have more living to do on this end. I’ll tell you that you’ll not be Spielberg by age 30 or have a wife and kids and plenty of money to buy video games with. But you will love yourself more. You will feel more valued. And you will know that you are cool.

Not that you play video games anymore. They’re way too immersive these days, and you have more art to create. So keep producing. But you already known that. Don’t you, Marc?

Sincerely, 38-year-old self

Meditation and Gratitude

(The real names of the people below have been changed.)

For the first time, I leaned in during our dedication of merit, the part of the meditation session where we dedicate our sit to someone or something.

“I’d like to dedicate the merits of my practice to those who have shown me kindness and compassion. We often forget that in a jungle of hurtful people, there are those who still help.”

I didn’t say it exactly like that. I never speak as clearly as I write, but I finally spoke out because I meant what I said.

Most of my life, I’ve focused on negative people. I’ve often referred to them as “my enemies”. I thought that if these people were not in the picture, I would feel respected and understood.

My Buddhist reverend stresses the importance of compassion, reinforces it through repetition. It took years of going to practice for it to finally seep in. People have been compassionate to me, and I only wanted more from everyone.

Pam was the only person who talked to me in high school without me having to open up first.

Albert helped me when I was trying to make a movie. I wanted to be known as a young man.

Donna invited me to a party at age 23 when I hadn’t been invited to one in years.

Tanya set me up on a date when I couldn’t even get a hello from a woman.

Gabriel helped me be more confident about myself when I did get more dates.

Professor Dan sat me down and helped me set up this blog.

Ellen is my friend today and is always on the lookout for potential career contacts.

Mom and Dad did so much that they cannot be thanked enough.

I can’t owe it all to mediation. Meditation was the tool. I chose meditation because there was something in it, something I needed to sharpen my awareness and love of myself. I helped Marc first. Then, the door of perception opened and allowed me to see the things I needed see at the pace that I could bear.

I don’t know how I made the choice to help myself. Somethings will always remain a mystery.