When I first graduated college, I was clearly ill-equipped to take on the adult world. A random corporate recruiter might have looked at my resume and said, “Why, you graduated from a prestigious business school…with a fantastic GPA, lovely…and wow, looks like you were pretty active on campus…and what a *strong* Christian name. *Thomas*. You know, my bother-in-law’s name was Thomas. No, he died from the swine flu, tragic that. Anyway, when can you start?” However, if you were to dig just *one layer* deeper, you’d discover a tragic pattern of lofty idealism and an unfortunate commitment to the “Humanities”. In reality, I spent the first three years of my collegiate career thinking I’d become a high school Latin teacher (outside of that one semester where I thought archaeology was where the money and fame was at). As such, most of my time was spent conjugating verbs, translating the classics of Roman poetry and literature, and taking ill-advised art history courses on the ancient and classical world. Come my junior year, I could not have told you a single compelling thing about global supply chains or search engine optimization. The best I could do was recount the Gallic Wars in almost uncanny detail, and give you a brief (yet illuminating!) sermon on the use of gerundives within the Latin language.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever spent a lot of time with Classical Studies majors. But we’re not exactly an extroverted and engaging bunch. We literally chose a major which, at its most optimal, involves nothing more interesting than sitting in a library trying to decipher why a particular Roman poet chose to place a verb at the *beginning* of a sentence vs. at the *end* (looking at you Ovid, you crafty little bastard). Having spent most of our time in scarcely used corners of the library, we were not particularly well-equipped to voyage into capitalist American society with a wide array of high-utility life skills and business savvy. We were a group bred for a single purpose: keep the past alive well beyond the point where anyone living still cared about it. Yes, truly, modernists hated us, Catholic priests loved us, and history students wanted to be us. But above all else, *nobody wanted to hire us*.
Which is precisely why, come what would have been my normal senior year, I applied (and was accepted! Yay! Capitalism!) into the UW Madison business school. From there, I studied laboriously to get out in as fast a time as I possibly could. I chose the major that would be most conducive to this. Took the most classes I possibly could to accomplish it. And traded late nights translating Roman political propaganda pieces for determining internal rates of return and quantifying the impact of copper scarcity on the cost of machine components (*puts gun to head hopefully yet tragically*). This high-motored business drive coupled with a willing tendency to stretch resume content to the very brink of truthfulness ultimately landed me my first (and incidentally *only*) internship in corporate America – from which I would never look back.
Now, when I started in corporate America, I didn’t exactly crush it from day one. I had only the faintest idea of how to work a copier (and by that I mean, I most emphatically did not know how to work a copier), I had no idea how to maneuver effectively within a corporate environment, nor how to network with co-workers and build a reputable brand for myself. I was as lost as an abducted kid on a milk carton. Fortunately, I did have one saving grace – a strange propensity for spreadsheets, and no shortage of co-workers willing to shamelessly poach my time to take advantage of my talents.
One of these parasitic spreadsheet leeches was another young intern named Danielle. Danielle came from a slightly different collegiate background than I did. Having been raised by a group of socially aggressive, mentally ill pseudo-little-people with a propensity for swindling and high-stakes business dealings, she had been prepared for a life in corporate America from day one. And like any good business protégé, she came equipped to prey on the weakest member of the herd to further her own agenda…”Hey, I’m Tom! Nice to meet you!”
Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback when I first met Danielle. Which I think is fair. She’s a 4’10”, half-Filipino firecracker with no shame, little regard for social norms, and a shockingly unwavering devotion to National Geographic. She fits more aggression into her sub-five-foot frame than most NFL teams can fit into their roster, and she has a tendency to cackle as though she were a witch, or a particularly ill hyena. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure she was a real person until about 2019. Even now, I still have my doubts. But what began as a shameless attempt to leverage me for vlookups and pivot tables, quickly evolved into a lasting and meaningful friendship.
That being said, each moment of this friendship has been uniquely defined by Danielle’s special brand of chaotic vim. Let’s examine a few:
Getting Me To Eat: Most of the time when you enter Danielle’s home, you’re met by a fairly consistent sight: Literal piles of laundry covering the floor like dozens of tumbleweeds that just lost the energy to go on, her husband standing over the sink, eating a pork tenderloin or a rotisserie chicken bare-handed, and Danielle, cooking about two dozen dishes at once, brandishing a wooden spoon like a despotic Italian grandma from the old country, and singing aggressive *yet oddly poetic* remixes of traditional Catholic hymns. When you walk into this environment, you do not say no to food. It is, in fact, impossible to say no to food. Not only due to the literal piles of protein shoved forcibly into your arms, but due to the demented look in her eye suggesting that “If you do not eat this food, this wooden spoon is about to get cracked over the top of your head”. Admittedly, given her short stature, it is unlikely that she could reach that far. But in the moment, rational thought is the farthest thing from your mind, as you cautiously and fearfully take that first bite of chicken.
Getting Me to Wear Adult Human Clothing: If you recall from prior posts, I go into detail about my admittedly scarce and lackluster clothing collection, including (and almost entirely limited to) that one *intentionally holey* pair of jeans, that one *less intentionally holey* button-down shirt, and that one pair of (somewhat) nice shoes that I sometimes wear when I tire of the giant hole in the bottom of my running shoes. Fun fact – all three of these items are a direct result of Danielle’s hyper-manic intervention. And by intervention I mean “Forcibly dragging me to several department stores, strong-arming me into trying on multiple items, and ultimately spending my own money for me.” To be fair though, it was a much-needed push. And obviously I appreciate the aggressive poaching of my income. Because I still wear these articles of clothing to this day, despite the fact that this liberal poaching of my time and earnings happened almost 5 years in the past. And in all fairness, had this not occurred, I’d have no shirts or pants or shoes. Because if left to my own devices, I’d simply spend all my money on books, candles, and bourbon. So, thank you, Danielle.
Getting Me to Talk on the Phone: Like any self-respecting adult male, the very notion of talking to another human on the phone fills me with intense and immediate social anxiety. I’ve chosen on multiple occasions to just go to bed hungry or eat popcorn for dinner because I didn’t have the mental of emotional fortitude to call in for carryout. And I feel like most of my friends fall into a similar pattern. Or at the very least, they don’t go out of their way to call other people when a text or benign silence will suffice. But this little watermelon-demon *just* *keeps* *calling*. And unlike most people who would either a) let it go or b) leave a polite message indicating the reason for their call and expressing a hope to connect at a later date, Danielle leaves messages that read closer to the death threats of a psychotic cartel leader who forget to take her meds: “What the actual fuck, answer me now I WILL FIND YOU. k bye. Oh, do you want chili tonight?”. And after taking three to four hundred calls over the course of a calendar year, it began to have a profound impact on how I interact with others. Hopping on a call in corporate America has become a breeze – how much more difficult could a conversation regarding the cost of goods sold of a microwave be than a series of mentally debilitating death threats? I’ve even begun fielding *and initiating* phone calls with other friends. Absurd.
The number of stories and examples beyond these three are fairly limitless. Each day in the life of Danielle is a chaotic whirlwind of activity, high octave vocals, and an almost uncomfortable amount of soy sauce. But these will have to wait for another day – she’s leaving to go out of town in a few days, and I need this extra time that I’d normally spend writing to mentally prepare myself for the amount of food she will attempt to proffer up to me (*rubs stomach fearfully*).