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i am not the man i thought i was
an unhinged but 100% true deep dive
It felt like a Black Mirror episode, except it was the present day and there was no futuristic tech stuff or anything.
There I was, sitting down eating a lil snack - banana and peanut butter, of course - thinking I was a certain person and then WHAM, I realized: I am not.
It gets worse: I was never that person. I’ve always been this person, this weird lil guy and definitely not that cool ass dude no way not at all.
They call this The Gap — the bottomless mimosa-like chasm between a) who you think you are and b) who you really are.
In fact, that’s where the name for the store comes from - not even lying check it out seriously that’s a real source why else would I link to it.
My personal gap is the size of Idaho1.
See, I’ve always thought myself somewhat of a classic business guy. Ya know, a guy who closes deals, who not only meets but somehow beats Q4 projections, and who will never, ever miss the fucking forest for the trees2.
How else could I have - hypothetically of course - handled contract negotiations at the startup I was at for 10 years by starting each of my comments with “per our lawyer” and then just writing whatever the heck I wanted?3
Time passes like the salt
There I was, a veritable hot shot, and I'm thinking, 'ten years just went by like that (snap fingies), and I'm tired of working for other people.' Plus, I was being sued in fourteen states, so I decided to quit and chase the true American dream: launch a successful independent media company like CNN or Applebee’s4.
Two more years pass like thaaaaat (said slowly to denote it felt slow).
Now, it is now, and my PB&B snack is falling to the ground as I realize two things:
Pretending to be a lawyer hasn’t really helped me since striking it out on my own. Banks have not, as I hoped, given me 0% loans because my email signature was “Alex Dobrenko, Esquire (means legal lawyer).”
I suck at business stuff (see #1).
Which makes no sense. How could I, now working on my own stuff where I had more “skin” in “the game,”5 be so shockingly bad at making decisions?
Like if I was in charge of the Titanic – yes, in charge, the captain, the head honcho, the one who says where the ship goes, what meals everyone eats, and whether Billy Zane gets to come onboard (yes, he's a funny guy!) — and my 2nd in command (a trusty sailor, no doubt) – ran up to me and was like 'ok Sir, here's the situation: the ship is heading straight into an iceberg — we have two options — turn a little left and probably save 30% of people up to even 50% of people, or turn a little right and save between 10% and 90% of people’, I would respond with:
"first off, Mikey (no joke his name is Mikey), what the hell are you doing with ranges that big? The 10% –90% one tells me almost nothing! But I know there’s no time to diddle daddle, oil and babble, so here’s what I think: what if we go a little left and then a little right and cover both?
Actually no, let's first think through a marketing strategy for this; do we have clear messaging on either scenario? Ok actually, I'm feeling like this is too rushed, this whole thing, and I’m getting sleepy are you sleepy? Let's go ahead and just stop the Titanic for a bit until we can do a ‘zoom out’ and have another look at the big picture."
Mikey would of course agree (his fatal flaw since childhood: being too damn agreeable) and I’d forget about the Titanic for like two months (don't worry everyone would still get fed - I made sure there were meals to last us a buttload of years.)
Four months later I'd be like, "omg The Titanic! I've spent so much time away from it chasing waterfalls (I did not stick to the rivers and lakes I was used to), and now we must start all over, back at square one (I’d marked out the Titanic into different areas - square one, circle three, squircle six, etc. This meeting would be at square one.)
I'd then fetch the new 2nd sailor (the old one, Mikey, quit after a rather out-of-character disagreement about whether the Jacks of any card deck are the sons of the King and Queen or are they not related at all — obviously they are related is what I said, he said ‘no way you can't be sure of that with 100% certainty’ so I said ‘is this the hill you’re gonna die on??’
And he said ‘yes’. and then I said, looking out to the crowd just a wee bit, cheating as we say in theater and therapy, ‘ya know what little guy (which was funny because he was a very tall man), this hill just became a mountain. You made a mountain out of a mole hill.6" and then I threw him off the boat. My boat. The Titanic.
Then I says to her, the new 2nd sailor (yes, I run a tight ship, sure, but gender equality is of the utmost import (and export!), I’d says ‘Janet, let's start from scratch’ and then I'd scratch my own arm for a while until everyone understood what a funny little Captain I had been this entire voyage; a surprise to them because I’d kept my humor close to the vest for fear of making other sailors feel inadequate.
Once everyone finally settled down from laughing about seven hours later I'd continue and say 'ok ok enough laughing we've got a serious problem: once we restart the ship, we're going to head straight into the iceberg again, but I don't remember what we could do about it, so let's do this: let's start from scratch (and now everyone would say 'do the itching thing again' and I'd say 'no no come on' but they would be absolutely relentless, not taking no for an answer, leaving me no choice but to scratch my arm after which point the laughter would begin again, this time maybe for 6 or 8 or so hours, pacific standard time.)
Then when that died down I'd say 'ok everyone I can tell you’re all so tired from laughing how about we finish tomorrow? go ahead and get yourselves one ice cream sundae each from the freezer (I invented ice cream and Sundays and freezers), and then everyone head to bed. And feet to bed too.’ (now I definitely shouldn't have done that last bit because everyone laughed for what I can only call 26 hours, meridian standard).
Did you know it takes more calories to laugh than to run a marathon? Honest to god that's true.
The next day after a HEALTHY breakfast of sunny side up-and-at-em eggs, we'd continue and I'd say, right to the 2nd in command, still Janet, I'd say ‘let's rebuild the ship, brick by brick, row by row, and when we're done, we’ll be able to make a better decision about what to do with my Titanic.’
But then, as a storm of mid-level proportions started to crinkle and crackle above, this real dirtwad of a chap in the back of the crowd with a voice like a foghorn screams 'hey but if we rebuild the whole thing, is it even the Titanic anymore?’
I knew what he was doing. I’d read my Greek philosophy RIGHT before embarking on the voyage (I was taking some me time after betting it all on radioactive water) and I said, “This isn’t Theseus’s ship, you dunglefuck. This is a Titanic and we are in a CRISIS!”
But then the crowd parted for him and he walked right up to me and I said ‘who is this guy, Moses’ and much to my surprise, no one laughed, so I muttered under my beard "tough crowd." I’ve been kicking myself for muttering that, knowing full well and good that as a maiden voyage comic, you NEVER insult the crowd.
It turned out the stinky guy in the back’s whole deal was asking people that exact question about rebuilding boats. He said that 99% of the time no one understood what he was talking about, but today he got lucky and happened to be on a ship (my Titanic) where his exact hypothetical might come true. What are the odds! And don’t get me started on the evens (I ran this joke by a focus group of sailors who said it was funny so plz laugh).
So that guy - let’s say his name was Plutarch, I’m just guessing since I never ask potential enemies for their names, so Pluto says, “no no don’t throw me over, no one even understands this philosophy about Thesueus’s ship we need to explain it more to the readers.” and I said ‘READERS? The only person who could read was Mikey and he’s D E D.”
Now, no one knew what I had spelled so I then told them quickly that I’d simply spelled the word “happy with his family” and everyone relaxed with a collective sigh.
For the first time probably like ever, I was getting steamed. Even though I’d made a promise to my wife and children (nickname I have for our dogs) that “the only thing that would get steamed on the Titanic was that hunk of love, the steam engine and if I had time, dumplings.”
So I threw Pluto into the water and screamed "does it matter what boat it is now you fucking dork" and he didn't reply, so I felt bad and jumped in after him and rescued him. Then the sailors rescued me.
It was a test, and they had passed.
At that point I was wet but alive with the glory of love (say anything, I dare ya) so I’d let everyone head back to sleep for a nap, but not before a naptime story. I regaled them with fables of Aesop and his many expensive hand creams, a life lesson hidden in every one.
We woke up
We woke up a few hours later I’m sure, refreshed but still a little groggy like you know when the nap has gone too long and now your brain is like 'wait we thought that was a full sleep, we've got everything ready to go for full sleep we can't just 'turn the boat' back to nap now' and you'd go wow brain nice use of the turn the ship analogy to remind us why we're here.
Thanks to some mighty strong coffee made by my personal friend Daddy Starbuck, we were BACK IN ACTION and I’d say 'ok, let's rebuild the boat. Once we're done, then we can decide what to do.'
So we'd rebuild the boat, which, as you can imagine, would be tougher than the steak we had for dinner last night (don't worry I fired the chef (for the stinky food) AND his soux chef (for arguing with me about how to spell soux. what’s next, you tell me dirrea isn’t spelled like that?)).
We'd rebuild the boat and that would take a while but luckily I suggested a ship wide game of “never have I never” that devolved quickly but productively into a debate about double negatives, the conclusion of which coincided rather perfectly with the new boat not being not done.
At that point, we'd need a break because everyone would be tired and so I would give everyone a two-week break to 'find yourself, find your health' with an optional paid workshop if they were so inclined.
And when we’d finish the workshop — which by the way was an absolute delight — we learned stuff about ourselves and each other that woulda taken six years of therapy, everyone couldn't stop talking about it and trying to call their families at home to let them know that they NEED to sign up for the next cohort before it fills up, which is true- cohort eight.
Hang on, let me see actually, ok, I *think* we have a couple spots left but I cannot be sure so PLEASE SIGN UP NOW I AM FOR YOUR SAKE BEGGING) so when that workshop was done everyone had forgotten about the question the whole 'should we go left or right' and who can blame them (the workshop was so good) and so I said "listen up everyone. We have to start from scratch" and I held out my arm as though I was going to scratch it but I didn't, not yet, I was building anticipation, which is almost as hard as building a ship while on that ship, but finally and after much cheer and aplomb, I did scratch my arm and everyone laughed and in fact they're still laughing, and so on and so on.
All this to say, I have ADHD.
And making decisions, whether meaningless or significant, is fucking impossible. Like how to end this piece for example. I sort of liked JUST ending with the line above. But is that enough? Should I add a disclaimer about how its different for everyone and how i’m not even really sure it exists a lot of the time because I doubt everything around me (ADIDAS - All Day I Doubt About Stuff)?
Do I do my little rant about how instagram influencers for adhd with intense high school theater energy scare me? Or is that implied? Maybe I could just tell another story real quick…Yea, let’s do that.
It felt like a Black Mirror episode, except it was the present day and there was no futuristic tech stuff or anything.
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Would you have done ANYTHING differently in terms of running The Titanic?
Do you also have mental health stuff? If so do you wanna share so I don’t feel so alone? Also fine if not i’m chill.
Is decision paralysis a thing in your life? If not, what’s that like? If so, what’s that like?
If you’re new here and are worried about…the vibes - I get it. We have pamphlets for newcomers. Also, feel free to say hello and maybe something embarrassing about yourself or even if you’re feeling crazy we could do a digital trust fall where you post your SSN and see if I use it to buy a new motor for My Titanic.
if you build it* they will come
*a reference to the film My Personal Idaho
even and especially if he has no idea what that expression means, like what is that ‘for’ doing there? FOR the trees? is this a trade where I am gonna get a forest and give you some trees wtf is this Settlers of Catan?)
Seriously though I never did that - impersonating a lawyer is the third most illegal impersonation you can do after mailman and Bill Clinton.
Why Applebee’s Is Called That: Founders Bill and T.J. Palmer looked for inspiration in a phone book and fell in love with the name "Appleby." After finding there was already a copyright on the name, they changed it to "Applebee's."
hey siri, what games are people playing with skin?? Particularly ones where the more skin you’ve got in the game, the better?
later friends would tell me I’d invented a new phrase! what a life.