The Talent

I love camelias: just when you think that nothing else will bloom until spring, beautiful, puffy, pink flowers explode.

Miles run today: 4.5

Quart of Goodberry’s pumpkin ice cream given to me by my BFF: 1

Twitter account opened today: 1

It’s a funny feeling when you find yourself starting over.

Everyone does it at some point in life: maybe the weight you thought you’d shed forever has come creeping back, or the marriage you thought was forever ends, or the children you thought would stay toddler-sized for more than a minute head off to college.

At age 40, some of the same feelings I had at age 20 have come creeping back: that stepping-off-a-cliff feeling, the anticipation of a new adventure with a fear of the unknown thrown in there.

Back when I was 20, I spent a summer interning at CNN.

My intern supervisor was older and sophisticated in a hipster sort of way. At the seasoned age of 26, she had her own cubicle with a tacked-up magazine photo of Right Said Fred, a bald pop star who sang about being too sexy. Her friends had hung it there for cool, ironic effect.

Everything was done for cool, ironic effect.

I was overdressed and overeager, ready to tackle any new challenge, whether it was holding the large, silver reflective disk to better light “the talent” as they did their standups, or cataloguing B-roll for later use.

The CNN Center was an overstimulating playground for interns, full of newsy types in glasses rushing around and a revolving chair of anchors being made up before they went onscreen. Computers lined the atrium high above the newsroom, and we could stop by on our way to running errands to check in with the inter-web about entertainment news or the latest on the Gulf War.

The budding Information Superhighway was befuddling: I was never sure what to search for.

I had a crush on one of the two guys interning in the next Cubicle Town: he wore a hemp bracelet and ironically distressed jeans. He found it laughable that I had never heard of Haight-Ashbury.

His friend, a tall, goofy sort with curly, dark hair and appropriate work clothing kept asking me out: to dinner, to lunch, to coffee. I don’t know why I was so indifferent: I mentioned a boyfriend, the one who thought we were on hiatus. One time, a Georgia Tech guy I dated only to pass the time while my friend flirted with another Georgia Tech guy sent me flowers to my intern job. The goofy CNN guy stopped asking me out… just about the time I decided I would go.

Don’t judge me.

Each time I would arrive at work, I would try to imagine working at CNN after college. I couldn’t.

That summer, we sifted through over 500 resumes from Ph.D.s, chefs and actors hoping to lend their talent to our show.

One day, after I had spent my morning holding the silver reflective stuff for one of “the talent”–a female comedian from L.A. who found our footage of singer Steve Miller punching our cameraman so distasteful she had to watch it a few times, muttering, “He thinks he’s so cool” over and over–I stood in Cubicle Town waiting for my boss to give me my next assignment.

In the once-abandoned cubicle next to me, the new guy, the “new talent,” was setting up shop.

He was old and married, about 30, with either an ironic or hopelessly uncool small mustache.

As he unpacked the box of his work belongings and laid them out on his desk, he asked me, “So what is it that you want to do?”

I didn’t know. I still didn’t know. I still didn’t know.

“Maybe producing…” But I still didn’t understand what producers did. (Before I started playing violin, orchestra conductors seemed completely extraneous; all they did was wave their little sticks around while the musicians did all the work.)

He gave me a kind look. “You know, you’re pretty enough. You could be on camera.”

“Oh, no. Oh, no, that’s… I’m not…”

He nodded and went back to arranging frames and pencils on his desk.

When I was back at journalism school that fall, giving wooden deliveries of school news stories, I thought about the “new talent” guy. I hoped his calm, kind, un-ironic, innocent hopefulness triumphed in a fast-paced world of super-cool.

I hoped I would discover what I should be searching for on the new Internet.

Most of all, I hoped my own talent would emerge before it was too late.

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