Meeting Norman

Young and idealistic. Broke and in debt. 

I had just graduated and hoped to land my dream job – writing for a Discovery Channel show. Instead, I hustled at a local marina to stay afloat. My $10-an-hour job scraping barnacle and painting boat bottoms covered rent for my townhouse and my student loan payments. Every month, my income vanished and my checking account hit zero. Ramen noodles were out of budget. I lived below the poverty line. 

So I hustled more. My parents instilled strong work ethic at a young age. We worked hard in my house. At 14, I worked for a carpenter. He’d pick me up in his rattling van at 6:30 a.m. and we’d head out to his jobs. I spackled and painted and cleaned rollers, happily completing the grunt work he hated. At 16, I started bussing table at Carrabba’s and worked for another carpenter. He specialized in finishing work – chair rails, crown molding, hand-crafting furniture. “This will come in handy some day,” my dad would say. 

Every day for months, I woke at 5:30 in the morning, labored around the boat yard, changed from my cruddy clothes at 4 p.m. then waited tables at Marlin’s Cafe. I’d get home around 11:30 at night,  shower off the day’s stank, then pass out. The cycle started five hours later. 

But I wrote every day. Screw the exhaustion. I carried a pen and notebook around the marina. Every now and then, I’d stop and jot down thoughts or bang out an exercise – describe an observation in three words. That sort of thing. The working was my way of staying on course toward my dream. If I stopped, my dream faded. If my dream faded the rest of my day turned bleak. I tricked myself into believing that somehow I was a writer. Looking back that may have been true. I practiced the craft more than anything else. So verbally, yes, I was a writer. Looking back that may have been all that mattered and all that was needed to propel my career. 

At that point boats were my career. 

One morning, everything changed.

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