Not Interviewing Mandela

Times I have interviewed a famous rock star: 0

Times I had to admit this fact at Career Day: 8

Kids I caught sleeping with their eyes open while I babbled: 2

I have never kicked back with Nelson Mandela. Or offered a Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut Bar to Daniel Craig.  Now that we have that out in the open, please pretend that you still respect me.

But really, Career Day and the five highly revelatory presentations I gave to the fifth graders were pretty darn good. I did sit through the cardio-thoracic surgeon’s presentation and wonder what I had to show for the last 12 years of my life that was equal to medical school, two residencies and specialized heart transplant surgical training, but otherwise, I came out unscathed.

Question asked with the most frequency: have I ever interviewed anyone famous? This is a loaded question. Maybe some of the people I’ve interviewed have considered themselves famous (writers, artists, politicians), but by fifth grade standards, I was forced to answer a definitive no. I watched as my shining “Writer” badge grew tarnished in front of their very eyes.

But I have held the shiny iridescent fabric to light a reporter’s face while they are speaking on camera. Is that amazing? No? Or what about the time when Steve Miller punched the CNN cameraman while I was working there? No? Or when I helped cover the 1992 elections when Bill Clinton was elected? Seriously. That was a lifetime ago, quite literally, for them.

The Career Day concept was to get the kids thinking about their interests, get them serious about making good grades in the long haul and give them advice about what kind of education they would need for a career in a specific field. It kind of made me tired.

All of the stress, angst, confusion, and self-doubt… it hasn’t even started happening to them yet. They are pre-career worry. They are fifteen career considerations away from an actual career. They haven’t had a nightmare about being back in college and the final exam is here, but they forgot to attend any of the classes. They still believe all that stuff people say about being whatever you want to be, right before you start failing Calculus (just a random example).

What I told them: keep up the grades, keep learning always, keep up your curiosity about the world around you. Take criticism and learn from it. And realize that the bog-standard, regular people around you are pretty amazing. Even if they’ve never interviewed Mandela.