People who graduate college with a liberal arts degree often wonder an hour after their last exam just what in the hell they are going to do next. Not me. I went to Rome again. And then I came back and immediately started teaching. I found that I only enjoyed teaching the smart kids…so, by definition, I was a terrible teacher. My teaching career lasted all of a semester. Good riddance.
But after only five months, my former boss informed me (at Burger King no less) that my services would no longer be needed in the coming semester. I thought to myself, “Just what in the hell am I going to do next? I have a history degree and I dislike teaching! I spent all of this time learning a language that, at best, lets me confidently use the ATM at The Vatican!”
(Yes, there is an ATM in the The Vatican and yes, it is in Latin)
–I had to tell my wife. That loomed over me like giving a bad report card to my parents. My wife, just like my parents, wants only what is best for me. And Shanna, like always, was supportive. Over beers and Mexican food she told me that she never thought that I was a good match for the school anyway. She was right.
–For the record, my former boss offered to buy me a coffee but not an egg and cheese biscuit before she canned me. I declined the coffee because I didn’t know that she was planning to let me go. In hindsight, I would have asked for an extra-large.
What to do? What to do? I have a discipline that people are doomed to repeat and know a language that nobody cares about. Also, I have A LOT of debt. Like anybody else, I moped for a bit and wished that I owned a moped so I could scoot around. My wife would play the part of Audrey Hepburn.
–Shanna put up with me during this time, God love her. She knew that I had to work through this problem myself.
Throughout my college career, friends occasionally asked me to frame a band poster or something. I did it for extra cash. I never focused much though because I hadn’t yet learned that I was a crummy teacher. Well, I needed money. I needed to pay off these student loans because, unlike our stereotype, us liberal arts graduates don’t expect Uncle Sam to pay them. So I took a job at Fresh Market. It sucked. I hated it. But during that time the friends who had stuff framed showed their friends, and those friends showed their friends, and soon I was taking orders for strangers.
–I should mention that I was never starving or anything. Shanna got her degree in math (that most employable of all liberal arts) and, combined with her creativity, intelligence, and work ethic, managed to secure a high-paying job. So things could have been much worse. But one does not jointly take on a $30k debt with a beautiful and successful woman and then expect that woman to stick around for years while the other languishes, ambition-free, in a pedestrian job.
“Fuck it, I’m starting a framing business.” – I finished my shift at Fresh Market because I liked my immediate supervisor and then never set foot back into the building.
Starting a business from scratch is hard work. It requires a lot of critical thinking. It requires the ability to communicate one’s thoughts effectively. It requires working on deadlines. Good news! I learned about all that stuff while studying history! For years I had been tasked with coming up with new ideas, communicating those ideas in various forms to many different types of people, and doing so by noon on April 24th, no exceptions.
–Holy shit! So that paper I wrote on Thomas Jefferson’s naturalistic pissing contest with the Comte de Buffon about wooly mammoths and grizzly bears with (count ’em!) two pairs of gigantic grizzly balls actually taught me something beyond our nation’s dire need not to be emasculated?
–Yes. Yes it did.
I’m aware that when I sell a person a frame I am not selling them a necessity like food. I am not selling them a hobby like records. I am not even selling them a luxury version of a necessity or a hobby like gluten-free broccoli or that Tom Waits box set that some people just have to have. I’m selling a luxury version of a luxury.
–I need to be able to explain why I’m a better option than Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. And so far it’s working out for me. If things keep going like they are going, in another year the cost of college will have been “worth it.”
People seem to like the pictures I frame and the things I write about them. People seem to like my honesty. People seem to appreciate the fact that I put a great deal of time into every one of my Facebook posts. People seem to respect the fact I use full words for words instead of numbers and single letters. People even seem to enjoy my disjointed writing full of comma splices and incomplete sentences.
–Smart nerds anyway.
–Smart nerds are the ones who have the money to spend the luxury versions of luxury items.
–There is a business freebie for you.
And I suppose, that is what I am selling. Hobby Lobby sells a terrible misunderstanding of Jesus. Michael’s sells…cakes I guess. I’m selling my intelligence, such as it is. I’m selling my problem solving. I’m selling my critical thinking. I’m selling my writing. I’m selling deadlines.
Also, I’m a fucking fantastic picture framer.