I had a talk with a woman at work the other day, one of those chats that begin as small talk but end up evolving into something surprisingly profound. This woman — for all intents and purposes — is the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons. (Really, I think she owns several cats).
She is a gruff, “take no mess” loner, who puts off the vibe that she could care less who you are and what you think of her. Being that we work in advertising, an industry that thrives on pretense and the peddling of facades, she is generally ignored unless needed. Being that I am fascinated and allured by quirky, awkward humans who exist on the margins of conventional society, I’ve always felt an unspoken affinity towards her.
A big part of what makes people uncomfortable around her is her abnormally large belly which, rumor has it, is a tumor. Also, she guzzles Coke Zeros and emits those carbonated air burps that sound like an inner tube releasing pressure, usually has sweat glistening on her forehead and upper lip, and wears oversize t-shirts (presumably to cover up her protruding mass).
So back to the conversation which began as us bitching about a co-worker we both dislike (I often engaged her in these types of exchanges with her as well as my own off the wall brand of behaviors, which prompted her to proclaim me as “weird”).
She segued our mutual gripe session to reveal that she had lived and worked for nearly 20 years in New York City. Now that in and of itself is not remarkable, considering that New York is the hub of the advertising industry (and pretty much everything else in life). No, what was remarkable is that she received a master’s degree in theater and followed the footsteps of countless Broadway hopefuls to the big city. Like many who have chased that dream, she found it was an impossible existence and ended up falling into the parallel universe that is ad agency work. This revelation was quite a surprise; I would have never pegged her as an aspiring actor, and immediately I felt a hollow pain shoot through my gut as I recalled my own lost dreams and the perpetual tug of war in the temporal lobe as I reflect on my past and the frequent discontent of my present.
As I sat there in a mixture of shock and devious glee, it was almost as if her inner drama geek took over. Suddenly, there was a twinkle in her eye and a sassy wit in her words. It then struck me that perhaps that side of her is who she really is and, maybe in spite of crappy first world problems and/or life threatening illness, our true identity is always there trying to force its way out.
I’ve been taught that I shall not regret the past nor wish the door shut on it, but often my regrets win the day. Being an egomaniac with an insecurity complex, I often feel that I’m unique in this regard. But perhaps more people wrestle with this than I thought … like, say, every carbon-based humanoid. In my epiphany with my co-worker I was reminded again “for the first time” that there is a beautiful heroism in being human, that even our mundane struggles are not immaterial, and that we face them and press on and every now and then we get a glimpse or reminder of how awesome we really are.
Evan is a Nexus-6 model replicant working in a marketing warehouse cooking hamburgers for the apocalypse. He speaks in random movie quotes and has a secondary function of exposing the truth that Leonardo DiCaprio is a vampire.