The Island of Misfit Toys

In the eighth grade I submitted an annual science fair project that tested for what stressed the body more: mental or physical exertion. The conditions were hardly lab-worthy; I gathered my friends together and staked my affection for a few jumping jacks and rounds on Milton Bradley’s popular toy, Simon. The judges at the science fair, despotic rulers on high from Genentech, were not impressed—dolling out a paltry third place (the last of three rankings given to everyone who participated). Short of conferring the title of ‘Miss Congeniality’ or slapping me upside the face, this was a giant banner of disapproval from the minds I embraced as kin (my mother inviting this idea through years of indentured service in a UCSF laboratory). Needless to say, I found myself exiled with the other misfit toys deep on the island of Arts and have since there remained.

And though I obviously hold no discernible grudges against the scientific community (shove it!), I do feel as if my experiment deserves a second glance. For though the conditions of my research proved that physical strain overpowered all; new evidence reported in the New York Times shows that in this age of mediaddiction, psychological stress can overwhelm and overrun the body.

Take that Genentech. Hell, maturity be damned. I’m a writer. I can’t limit ego-scratching, as much as I can promise watching my salt-intake after a certain age. There are some days when healthy mental habits are simply impossible—even more so when you’re a journalist.

This takes us to today.

With an unimpressive dossier building in Los Angeles, and virtually no room for improvement (outside opportunities in dog walking and homelessness), I resigned hopes of staying in the City of Angels to move back to the clear skies and clean beaches of Santa Barbara—accepting a fellowship with Miller-McCune magazine.

I walked into what is now my professional home for the next nine months and was given an office uniform fit for a person my age: the cubicle. (And not just any cubicle, but one that invites onlookers the luxury of making my neck hair stand on end. If I was ever intellectually erect, the placement of this cubicle thoroughly ensures creative impotence. ) Still, this was not what caused unbearable stress.

The cubicle, my duct-taped life raft in the tumultuous sea of Journalistic making-it-tude, was besieged today by an apocalyptic infestation of crickets. It isn’t bad enough that we have to endure sweatshop conditions in churning out news soma for the mediaddicts, now I have to nurse belabored creativity from the festering onslaught of bush bodies. And SEO specialists scoff at bloggers’ reluctance to update their sites.

So it seems I’ve been prized with an eternal last place. But there are days when the relentless assembly line of life as a working-wage reporter gives a moment or two of respite. And while undoubtedly cozied next to a glass of wine, and finally updating my blog out of guilt, I’m happy that the chirping of my actual crickets has given way the numbed buzz of metaphorical ones. Even misfits enjoy their island lifestyle.