How we measure success in this life

Shortly after moving to Atlanta in 1993, Linette and I started publishing our zine, Crimewave USA. We didn’t have many friends, and it gave us a reason to leave the apartment and actually do things. We’d wonder around, having little adventures, and meeting new people, and then we’d scurry home to scribble everything down before we’d forgotten what had happened. And, a few times a year, we’d gather up everything that we’d written, and we’d publish it, sending copies out everyplace that we could think of that might either write a review, or put a few issues on a shelf to sell. And, slowly, we started attracting readers, some of whom would take the time to write long, beautiful letters to us, telling us about their own lives, and what discovering Crimewave had meant to them. Well, one of those folks was a girl by the name of Steph Green, who’d write to us from a little town somewhere in Connecticut. I can’t remember the specifics, but, as I recall, she told us about her life, and how liberating it was to have found the underground press, which had opened up a world of possibilities to her. And Linette and I would write back, encouraging her to keep questioning things, creating art, and evolving into her own person.

As the father of a 13 year old right now, I’m not sure what I’d think if she told me that she’d wanted to become pen pals with with guy twice her age, but, at the time, it seemed totally fine, and Steph’s mother, as I recall, encouraged her interest. So, for a few years, these letters of ours would go back and forth, and, through them, Linette and I kind of watched Steph grow up from afar. Eventually, though, as you might expect, the letters came less frequently, and, at some point, we kind of lost track of one another. A few days ago, though, shortly after I’d posted about turning 50, lamenting the fact that I hadn’t accomplished more, I got a note from Steph, who is now apparently married and living in Pittsburgh. Here it is.

I asked Steph, who now has kid of her own, by the way, if I could share what she’d written here on the site, and she agreed. In part, I just wanted to preserve it here, as it makes me happy. I think, however, it might also serve as a good reminder for others out there that the little things we do in this life really do matter. While it’s true that very few of us will write the great America novel, or, for that matter, even produce a single episode of a mediocre sitcom, we all have the ability to made a difference in this world. And it really doesn’t take all that much. A few words of encouragement at the right time in a young person’s life can make all the difference in the world, and the resulting positivity can literally ripple through generations. [When Steph’s kids grows up to do something awesome, you can be damn sure I’m going to take credit.]

So don’t be too hard on yourself if you haven’t achieved your dreams. Just look for opportunities to be kind to people, and encourage them to keep moving forward and growing. When you get right down to it, that’s all that really matters.

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  1. Sad
    Posted February 15, 2018 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Great piece. It even made me feel a little….happy.

  2. stupid hick
    Posted February 15, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Mark, you consistently meet or exceed the expectations of an anonymous internet hick. You’re good enough, smart enough, and people like you, ok?

    Posted February 15, 2018 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Awwww! I remember hanging out with you and Linette in the Crimewave days (frequently hiding from the pizza guy under that insane wagon-wheel table you had). Aside from the fact that this post makes me feel old as hell, it’s so lovely to know that the little things that matter to us, no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time, can potentially have enormous impact on others. I’m really happy for you that you were lucky enough to learn about the mark you made on someone else’s life…not everyone gets that kind of feedback. You’re a good egg!

  4. anonymous
    Posted February 15, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    OK, you’ve convinced me. I’m going to be kind to the Warlord when he returns from his travels.

  5. teacherpatti
    Posted February 15, 2018 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Mark, that is so cool! I think you should be a teacher. :)

    Just a small correction though–we will *write* the novel, but it will not get published.

  6. Oliva
    Posted February 16, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I agree with teacherpatti re. you should be a teacher. Well, in many ways you are . . . you present ideas and invite others to think.

    Worth repeating, beautifully put–thank you:

    “So don’t be too hard on yourself if you haven’t achieved your dreams. Just look for opportunities to be kind to people, and encourage them to keep moving forward and growing. When you get right down to it, that’s all that really matters.”

    (And still keep loving and pursuing the dreams, to honor things like creativity, humility, perseverance, wonder, the inner glow of accomplishment or good trying, or just because.)

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