The True Story Of My Life
reproduced with the kind permission of The Ormondian
When I was an undergraduate, I woke up one morning and it was my finals and I'd forgotten to learn any maths. That wouldn't have mattered so much if they'd been law finals, but they were maths finals. I went and sat in the exam room and wrote a poem. The poem was crap, so I didn't submit it.
A few weeks later I graduated, but I'd forgotten to work out what I wanted to do for a living. Thinking about it, I decided I wanted to be a musician, but I recognised that you have to be lucky, self-confident and assertive to make a career out of that. You also have to be able to play an instrument. I could play the piano quite well, possibly to an international standard, but only if somebody else was sitting at the keyboard pressing the keys down for me.
Having sold the piano to my family trust, registering a sizeable tax gain, I made a list of all the things I didn't want to do, and determined that I would do all the others, in alphabetical order.
When I was a computer programmer (having failed to get a position in aardvark training etc.), I faced the problem that most of us face at one time or another: what to say at parties when people ask you what you do. To my surprise I got away with saying I was an art student. I got away with saying I was a buyer for a women's fashion store. I even got away with claiming to test-drive tanks for a living — clearly a very implausible statement to be coming from a 22-year-old, since "t" is nowhere near the start of the alphabet.
One of the careers I didn't manage to break into on the way to "c" was beach poet. A beach poet sits on a beach and poeticises. To this day I have never found out who pays them.
The most difficult decision of my life (possibly next to having to decide whether to have just 5 more minutes in bed, something I have to decide every five minutes between 7.30 and 10 every morning) was to get a grip on my self-esteem and stop lying at parties. Somehow I had to stop getting invited to parties. I insulted all my friends, sported a beard with no moustache, campaigned for VSU, etc. It didn't work. I still kept finding myself at parties. Admittedly only my own parties, but I am nothing if not a perfectionist.
Conducting (the next obvious career after my dismissal from IBM for the minor offence of never having been offered a job there in the first place) was amusing for a while, but I soon grew tired of the Bolshoi, the New York Met and the Berlin Symphony, especially since I hardly ever got in on stand-by. The three leading firms of conduit manufacturers were unable to decide among themselves which of them should take me on, and so I turned to the next career alphabetically: philosophy.
I've been having trouble working out what it is that philosophers make, and so I think have a lot of other philosophers, which is probably why they can't sell any of whatever it is. My greatest contribution to the subject, and the one for which I am most likely to be remembered posthumourously, has been the rather technical insight that
(((p -> p) -> p) -> p).
The magnitude of the discovery is a bit marred by the fact that I'm not sure what p is.
I am determined to have my autobiography published so that others can learn from my mistakes. I will be serialising an only slightly toned-down version weekly in the Ormondian, omitting nothing, no matter how embarrassing, except (for legal reasons) the page numbers.
Jason Grossman, 2000
See also autobiography part two.