The Good Kind of Shrapnel


37, day twenty seven.

I didn’t want to go. Of course I didn’t. Going into an unknown situation full of people you don’t know is always uncomfortable. All of my friends think I am really sociable. I am when I’m comfortable. Whenever I take a personality test, half the time it tells me I am an introvert and half the time it says I am an extrovert.

Sounds about right.

I’m trying to be a writer. Going to a writer’s group founded by my wife’s friend who is a professional writer was clearly a great idea. So I didn’t try to back out of it. I almost backed out of it a seventy three times. I counted. Seventy three seemed like enough.

We got to the Wayward Coffeehouse– where the meeting was to take place–five minutes early. No one else was there. I had flashbacks to the many times in my childhood when my family arrived to events or gatherings early and had to awkwardly wait for everyone else. To this day I’m compulsively early to everything. I married a woman who is just as bad. Our instinct for earliness combines and turns into a superpower. For five seconds, until it graduates into a full blown neurosis. If you know many punctual people, you know that punctual people are nervous. The only way to make sure you are always on time for everything is to stress about it.

There were several tables set aside for the writer’s group. At least we had the right time and place. The group is invite only. The founder of the group had invited my wife and whoever she wanted to bring (that’s me!) every week for the last year. But what if we weren’t really invited? Or what if she didn’t show up and everyone else didn’t believe us and poured scalding coffee on us as they kicked us out onto the street? I’ll admit that wasn’t likely, but neither was life in the universe, and I’m reasonably sure that happened. We sat at a different table off to the side, just in case.

Five minutes later someone sat at the reserved table, and the first guy got up to get a coffee. My wife and I just stared at each other. Five minutes after that, someone else sat down. I suggested we move over to the proper table. I introduced us, and said that Kat had invited us. I made sure the man at the table knew that. He didn’t really care, which set me at ease. Apparently new people came and went all the time.

People started to trickle in shortly thereafter. Our table filled up first, then the one behind us. Soon six tables were full of people. It was clear the whole thing was highly informal. I didn’t know when to start writing, or if it was okay to talk while people were writing. No one explained the rules. I introduced myself to the people around me, chatted a bit, attempted to be witty, and I wrote.

Two hours later, I had a job offer for a potential freelance writing gig, and the woman across from me was telling the story about how she once beat Steven Brust at Cards against humanity. Other people came over to join our table as soon as some people had to go home, because we were having a lively and interesting conversation full of fascinating stories and laughter. I did not do most of the talking, which is unusual. I did not want to. Everyone there had something awesome to say that was worth listening to. Each person at the table clearly had a great night. Someone commented on the fact that they had not gotten much writing done, but there was rarely a conversation like this. I know that I was a factor in that. I love high-energy conversation; it tends to happen around me.

I just had an amazing night. I am hooked on this writer’s group. If every night is half as good as this one, this could be one of the best things I have ever done. I almost backed out. If my head had hurt, or traffic was really bad on the way up, I might never have gone. I would not even know what I had missed.

What I am about to say has been said upwards of forty billion times by everyone from motivational speakers to career councilors to therapists: make sure you do stuff. Don’t be one of those people who backs out of things that could turn out to be amazing. When opportunity presents itself, you have to jump on it and cover it with your whole body, so that when it explodes you absorb all of the of the concussive force and shrapnel.

The shrapnel of opportunity.

I should probably write a book about that. It will be terrible, but it will also sell two million copies. You heard it here first.


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