Back in high school, my closest friends – and also a number of people who hated my guts – called me Mr. Resume.
This was a well-deserved nickname, and it wasn’t a compliment. I’d earned it through my relentless devotion to padding my resume for college applications. Yearbook. Newspaper. Track team. National Honor Society. Writing contests. Summer leadership camps. Volunteer shifts at the public library. If it had any chance of impressing an admissions officer, I was all over it.
So what if I never had a girlfriend? Or read a book merely for pleasure? Or enjoyed a spontaneous thought?
Because you know what I did have? One hell of a good resume.
And in the end, it delivered what I thought I wanted – entry tickets into several excellent universities.
But when I arrived at one of them 21 years ago this fall for my freshman year, I encountered an unexpected problem. I’d spent so much time doing all the things I thought would impress somebody else that I’d never stopped to consider what I actually wanted to do. And I’m not just talking about career. I’m talking about life in general.
Suddenly, all around me were people with legitimate interests and passions I’d never deem worthy of a resume, but they seemed to love them anyway. My roommate, for example, delighted in doing anything that might potentially kill him, like jumping out of airplanes or scaling domed auditoriums in the middle of the night. Others in my dorm lavished time on dancing or watching movies or shooting pool.
I, meanwhile, could not name a single pursuit in my own life that had not been undertaken to strike a pose or impress somebody in some way. An existential crisis followed that I won’t get into here. Suffice it to say, I’d never put it on my resume.
As the years went on, it became obvious that I wasn’t the only one with this problem. In fact, the older we get the harder it is to know what our deepest desires are. It’s harder still to actually find time to spend on them. Things, big things, are expected of us by our jobs and our families and society overall, and what we want for ourselves, the things that rejuvenate us, get squeezed out.
I’m not here to propose a solution to this predicament, which is otherwise known as “growing up.” However, I will say this: It’s worth trying to do at least one thing a day that would look totally stupid and unproductive on a resume of any kind.
In the summer, right about dusk, I like to go outside and listen to the cicadas in the trees. It’s a hum that’s soothing and ancient and sorrowful all at the same time, and I’ll sometimes spend the better part of an hour just soaking it in.
I could spend that time doing other things that would impress people more, but I’ve discovered, slowly and reluctantly, that it isn’t worth it. The cicadas are my anti-resume fix. What’s yours?