Dear Captain Awkward:
I’m a grown-ass woman who has been through a few cycles of therapy that have (along with medication) helped my stress, anxiety, and ADHD. I’ve gotten to a point where I am financially self-sufficient, comfortable in my life and community, and blessed with a strong friends network. I’m not in a relationship and have no desire to pursue one. I’m ok.
Now I’m at the point where therapy always screws me up. It’s time to talk about setting long term goals. And…I don’t know what my long term goals are.
I’ve tried career counseling and I run into the same thing. I’d like to make more money. I can list things I’m good at. I don’t understand how to translate those into a better or different job and when I try to articulate this people tell me I have a lot of options and it depends on what I want to do. And there is nowhere to go from there. I have been at the same job for 12 years with no advancement even though as far as I can tell I am dependable and do good work. (I’ve applied for other positions in the same organization and never gotten one, and my precise job description is not one that transfers to another field or organization).
It seems like trying to do something else professionally is within my reach — a general overview of my accomplishments is greeted with ‘oh there are plenty of ways to use that’ but everything misfires at the point of ‘what do you want to do?’ ‘Oh I’m willing to try lots of [soft skills, writing and communicating, etc]’ ‘But what do you want to do?’ Very quickly I feel like a fool.
This doesn’t just apply to my personal life but creative work (writing, blogging) etc. The thing is I’ve been involved in some extremely fun and fulfilling projects and organizations but they always seem to result from serendipity. They’re not things I can ‘complete or ‘sell’ in the long term. Occasionally I’m jealous of people who have creative success or large audiences but generally speaking I don’t want the payoff enough to do it.
Basically, I’ve never had long term goals in my life and I don’t know how to start now. I don’t know WHY to start now, I just know that when I talk to my therapist in a couple weeks, I will cry and feel bad because I don’t have good answers (or I will make some shit up that I don’t really want to do.)
PS this has nothing to do with lockdown, I’m actually less stressed out working from home than I have been for a long time, and even before the economy tanked I felt the same about planning the future.
-Not Ambitious and Why Should I Be
Hello Not Ambitious:
A script for your therapist could be: “I have no idea how to set or articulate long-term goals right now. I know that I am ‘supposed to’ have some? But I don’t.”
Possibly you don’t have to make up things you don’t feel or want in order to be a ‘good’ therapy patient. You’re allowed to not have answers. You’re allowed to make therapy a place where you live with the questions for which “I don’t know” is the truest answer.
I can’t speak for you but I can speak for me and that desire to perform and receive praise for being demonstrably good at something runs deep in me, but it has rarely led me anywhere I truly want to go. I honestly suspended therapy for a few weeks recently because I felt like I was forcing myself to come up with things to talk about in therapy but my true feelings were “I am tired of myself and of talking about myself.”
If it helps, you’re not the only person who has written to me this month for career advice of the “what the heck should I do with my life?” nature. You are not the only person who has written me many, many words about goal-setting and “marketable skills” and “why can’t I want anything” and “what’s wrong with me that I can’t want anything” and “is it the right time to become a freelancer” and “I’m graduating into…this? economy?” and “productivity” and-and-and-and-and-
This is neither silly nor is it surprising. Upheaval and crisis have a way of pushing people to re-evaluate their lives and wonder, Marie-Kondo-style, “Does this career/partner/path spark joy?” A professional advice-giver and serial-career-changer like me should probably have all kinds of tools up my sleeve for helping people figure this out, but the thing that is missing from the text of all these questions about “career” and “fulfillment” and the promise of our “potential” are the questions screaming out at me from the subtext:
- How does one plan a bright, fulfilling future under a fascist, corrupt, authoritarian state amid a global pandemic?
- What does ambition, accomplishment, and long-term goal-setting look like under a corrupt, fascist, authoritarian state?
- What does a career look like amid collapsing institutions, massive unemployment, rising death tolls, and spiraling crises?
- What if you fix yourself and find all the ways to be happy and productive and the world is still like this?
- What if you are successful in your career and your fellow humans are still dying in droves from preventable, forseeable causes because our rulers are in a death cult that deliberately gutted every single institution and program that might help, because passive genocide serves their purpose?
- What if you find a job you like and your government can still disappear people into prisons and camps and hold them indefinitely without trial?
- When the mass graves are dug will we finally find a daily planner or productivity app we like?
- What if there are no long-term goals that make sense while authoritarian kleptocrats are in power and the rule of law is suspended for them and their enablers?
- What if the 2020 election is cancelled, or stolen again, or the regime won’t hand over the keys?
- What if the food supply breaks down further, how will you eat? How will your neighbors eat?
- Did you know that it’s almost impossible to get a passport right now? If you needed to leave or even just wanted to, could you? Where could you even go?
In the face of questions like these, what if your persistent and upsetting goal-lessness is less a personal failing and more an authentic reaction to present realities? What if your whole system is like “Long-term plans? What? FUCK YOU, we’re trying to get to next WEEK.”
I promised to write more about Brandy Jensen’s great column from last week, so here we are:
“That these are sad times and it feels bad to live in them is hardly insightful, but lately I’ve been wondering if it’s not so much the sadness but the sameness. Watching wicked people prosper over and over, having the same conversations about powerful men and the consequences they will never face, witnessing suffering that was easily anticipated and avoided, asking again and again what can be done about it and being told again and again, essentially, “nothing.” For a moment, early on in this present calamity, it felt like perhaps this could be a real rupture, but by now it’s clear our response will be more asking and more answering with “nothing,” more suffering, more pointless conversations, more prospering for a few of the expense of the rest.
Which is all to say, did you truly think that you could make all of that okay by finding a job you like?”
There are so many life hacks and productivity resources and meditation guides for figuring out what color our parachutes are and where our cheese was moved that would tell us to dig deep and focus on The Important Things and control-our-controllables and brainstorm what we can offer to The Market in return for money and that elusive feeling of “fulfillment” those of us in a certain class and standardized-test percentile were promised awaited us in the adult world of “careers” (a word that is meant to be distinct from “work.”)
Is it possible to find fulfilling, meaningful, enjoyable work? Yes, of course, I say, as I move a cat off of my pajama-covered leg so I can get a snack and take a break from “blogging,” a “career” that didn’t exist back when I was going to Career Day presentations at school and, had it existed, I would not have been encouraged to pursue. I used to teach in an art college, I am literally the last person who is allowed to tell you that you must absolutely settle for something that bores you if your heart lies elsewhere.
At the same time, in the United States where I live, are the people who grow, make, package, and sell the food we all need to live dying in large numbers because their employers have decided that mass death remains less expensive than taking sensible precautions for worker protections? Also yes.
How to reconcile these things at the same time? Is 2020 the year I’ll finally get that book deal? Is 2020 the year 80,000 of my country people (and counting) died in just a few months because their lives were of no value to shareholders and the government actively hindered and dismantled every system, institution, and protocol that would help them survive? Here in 2020, the year my doctor said “Oh, by the way, if you have strong feelings about intubation or a DNR, make sure those are in writing, you don’t want that to be up in the air if you’re intubated and lose the ability to speak.”
I don’t know how to fix all of it, I’m just one lady, some days I don’t even know how to carry all of it in my mind, so I make my little lists and do my best, and I don’t want to shame people or guilt them, like, “why are you caring about your CAREER when people are DYING” but I also know that the fear I feel (we’re well past anxiety, it’s just fear now) has something to do with the reason that so many of us cannot articulate goals or make long-term plans or focus or be “productive” or find the right self-care routine to get us through. And I honestly think it has something to do with political and economic realities, the way institutions and safety nets and shared realities are breaking down to the point that they starkly reveal the limits of the self as a tool for actualization or for building the kind of society where such actualization is possible. We’re at the point where the desperation and fear felt by society’s most vulnerable people (who always understood the necessity of community and self-care for survival) is starting to break through the glass houses of the so-called Middle Class, as we realize that our overlords see no difference between us and all the people they told us deserved to go without because they’d supposedly made bad choices and we’d made only good ones. In the midst of that breakdown, we’re being forced to reckon with the the ways that having a career is both the same and not the same as having to work, and we’re being encouraged to override our own survival and empathy instincts and try to carry on the same as we always did as we fantasize about a return to “normal” life.
If you’re a certain kind of academically-gifted middle class white person like me, it’s possible that literally your whole way of life has been built on the self: self-care, self-promotion, self-knowledge, self-fulfillment, self-examination, becoming good little self-starters and self-advocates who will be self-sustaining.
Most career advice for our sort of people says, “get A Good Education, try out things you might find interesting, look at successful people you admire, figure out how they became successful, and try to imitate that. There is A Career Out There that will be the Right Match for your unique skills and offer stable, safe, and well-compensated employment, you just have to find it and work your way up. If you can’t find something fulfilling, there’s always finance, law, or STEM, where you may not be happy, but you’ll definitely be rich! For the artsy types, “Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure? Maybe you should go to law school just in case? Ah well, do what you love and the money will probably follow, if it doesn’t, learn to code or go to law school, you’ll be fine.”
I had, by all accounts, an excellent education, one of the most expensive and prestigious money can buy, one that gave my parents bragging rights for decades as they patiently transferred the university’s logo decal to the rear-window of every new vehicle they bought, one that still makes people visibly open their eyes a little wider when they scan my resume, like, oh, you went there, you must be smaaaaaart, I will take you slightly more seriously for at least a few minutes!
It’s the exact same education that produced Kirstjen Nielsen and a shitload of other heinous war criminals and neo-Nazis so forgive me if I have my doubts about both the education’s value and its values, which is a word the institution likes to use a lot in their marketing materials, like, “we’re not just teaching material or skills or fostering the kind of social environment where people find their lifelong golf foursome like those other universities, we teach values here.“OK? Given that during two semesters of required philosophy and ethics courses and several required courses in theology and political theory I had to read On Liberty by John Stuart Mill nine separate times, zero writing by women, and where St. Augustine filled the sole Person Of Color spot, I feel comfortable saying there were some gaps in my education and what and who it values.
With some exceptions*, the history classes we aced replaced the history of movements and of systems with stories of individual thinkers, individual “heroes” and “decision-makers” who managed to “transcend” race (& gender & disability & etc.) We often discussed those individual heroes in terms of their most inspiring quotes sanitized out of context and made “universal” and their lessons applied to “all of us” where “us” means “white people” and “inspiring” means never acknowledging how much the things they fought for and against are still very much with us. It was history as a story that said, “Yes, things used to be bad, but they got better, and things will continue to get better when you are in charge of Things someday!” I didn’t start playing Civilization until years after I graduated, but its Guns, Germs & Steel praxis of how societies “evolve” and where capitalism has all the advantages was highly familiar.
This way of teaching history sometimes acknowledged workers, work, unions and mass movements as success stories from the past (or irrational hindrances that cost money and fucked up our curves in Econ), but never as movements that were still active and important now. The general gist was that unions had had their day, but they had outlived their usefulness. The battle for civil rights was also presented as pretty much a done deal, and programs and plans for ensuring that it continued were debatable, as in, we debated them, sometimes for fun, in debating societies where “Is Affirmative Action Past Its Prime?” was a topic that a group of predominantly white, well-off 18-22 year-olds were invited to expound upon. In 1994. Think of the presumption inherent in that framing. We students were obviously going to be the bosses, not the workers, so why would we need to understand what workers went through and how we might fight those battles ourselves someday or be in solidarity with those that do? And who does it benefit if a bunch of mostly white rich college students are preoccupied chiefly with the question of whether someone from a marginalized background might “unfairly” get “our” spot and not with the white supremacy that made government interventions necessary? Yes, we read Important Books, we debated Important Questions, just, we read all the same books all the people who fucked shit up thought were important and we debated the same Important Questions that all the same people who fucked shit up debated and we probably shouldn’t be surprised when the same winners who always get to write history won that round.
In that environment, the “You are just as good as Gilbert Blythe, Anne Shirley!” feminism I was raised with was a useful tool for ensuring my own equality with white men, but, what was I worried about, I’d made it here, right? Did I know that they didn’t used to even let women in? What triumph, what progress, what an example I myself was! If feminism and feminist movements or thinkers were mentioned at all, it was to deride the misguided student groups advocating for birth control on campus while simultaneously dismissing consciousness-raising groups, organizing, letter-writing campaigns, protests, the grunt work of who watches the children and washes the dishes, and all the boring, repetitive and repeatable work of changing the world were quaint, hilarious, strident, cheesy anachronisms in 1990s Washington, D.C.. Didn’t our First Lady also Have A Career? Come on, anything’s possible! “Hahaha I’m a feminist but don’t worry, I shave my legs,” was a reassuring thing to say to men.
As a woman, one project of my education was to find an inspiring, exceptional story from history and then imitate it, graft myself securely onto it and make my inspiring, exceptional path that could be featured on the cover of the alumni magazine someday. Why bother fighting obsolete and irrelevant systems of entrenched power when I had the opportunity to re-make myself into someone so amazing that patriarchy and its limitations might no longer apply to me? Didn’t I want to “transcend” my sex and become “universal” and thereby gain access to the levers of power? Along the way, the mistakes I made could become learning experiences, the failures I suffered = growth opportunities, the struggles I faced = hard lessons, the institutional barriers or systemic issues I might encounter = building blocks in my personal story of success, and the harm I might do with the power I was so clearly meant to wield converted into “case studies” and “lessons learned” for the army of consultants, advisors, analysts, and aides who might come after me. I was taught everything about how to know about politics but almost nothing about how to usefully do politics as a shared, ongoing, collaborative project, everything about ambition for its own sake and very little about purpose for all that word was thrown around.
If the only vehicle is the self, if the only project is the self, when things go wrong, the problem must reside in the self. Therapy and counseling can be extremely useful, I would probably not be here without it and I want everyone who needs it to have it if they want it, but when you break it down, therapy is one more exercise in centering the self. Having problems? Find out the things in yourself that are preventing your happiness and work on those, i.e.”The only person you can control is yourself. “
It’s not that these precepts are completely untrue or useless, which is what makes their hijacking as part of the capitalist project so maddening. Leaving your mental health untreated or putting yourself last won’t make you happy, sometimes we are our own enemies and wrestling with our own limitations and brainweasels is hard, brave, necessary work and one hour a week to talk about oneself with a kind and caring professional is a necessary luxury. Therapy helped you and it helped and helps me. But therapy has its limits and maybe this is a good time to talk about some of those.
Is this the clinical sort of anxiety and depression or are depression and anxiety a reasonable reaction to current events? Yes. So what parts are treatable and what parts require further action? Maybe treat what we can and take action about the rest.
We’re our own enemies, but under a criminal authoritarian regime, do we still get to say we’re our own worst enemies? Probably re-examine that. What if some things are obviously getting in the way of our personal happiness projects and what if turning inward and looking for how we are personally to blame isn’t going to solve them?
Another common self-care and therapy refrain is “How are you going to love anybody else if you can’t love yourself” and to that I say what if you could do actions that are kind and caring to yourself and others without having to feel a certain feeling first, and that when some people say “love” they really mean “solidarity.”
Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others” = Yes, of course, but also, put your own oxygen mask on and then help some others, let’s figure out that part instead of assuming that the self-care will automatically take care of the other part without any training in things like “how to organize with other people” and “how to be in solidarity and build an effective long-term movement when you don’t necessarily like or look like anybody else in the room” and “how to be a part of movements and conversations that don’t center you” and “how to keep going in that solidarity even after setbacks and defeat and squabbles because the shared project is still important.” When everybody assumes you’re always going to be one of life’s winners nobody gives you tools for being on the losing side or wondering why there is a losing side in the first place, and this is an area where many, many, many of us are completely lacking the tools and knowledge to be effective and need to do some catching up. [Recommended resource: Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism. A great interview with her is here.]
I said that I didn’t have the answers, and I don’t. I don’t want to goad you into further despair or paralysis, or load you up with all of my considerable anxieties, quite the opposite. It’s not that you have to solve all the scary things in the world before you’re allowed to want a different a job or that you’re not allowed to manage your own daily intake of scariness before you can have nice things. It’s that possibly everything you’ve ever learned about “how to career” told you to tune out the noise of the world and focus on perfecting yourself, and there is a certain point where pretending things in the outside world are not affecting you or that there exists an optimal amount you can perfect yourself that makes those outside forces irrelevant creates a cognitive dissonance so great that it is actually destructive. Even if you felt this way before lockdown, lockdown and an economic crash bring new, urgent questions, like “will this career even be here in 6 months?”
I also want to say that if you’re feeling disconnected and useless and unsure of what your purpose should be right now, you’re not alone, and it’s possibly because a lot of the messages you were given about how to be safe and good and happy only worked if you cultivated a habit of tuning out the suffering of people who made your comfort possible and mentally reframed a history of institutional and systemic failures into individual inadequacies. If this is so, you didn’t do it all by yourself, your family who wanted you to succeed, your schooling, your workplace, and your media all taught you that this was the right way to be and were very ready and willing to help you maintain that “tuning out” habit, and any time you turned your attention toward the project of correcting injustice in the world or thinking about systems, chances are someone quickly stepped in to tell you that you were overreacting and wouldn’t you be more comfortable over here, buying things and honing yourself into the perfect fit for the right career? Then when you ran into trouble, everybody told you to look within yourself for the answers and work on yourself, so you did, but here you still are, because it turns out that “inside the letter writer’s self” isn’t the only place that problems live and because the pacts that promised a certain amount of success and security in return for perfecting the perfect economic unit self are breaking down much faster and more obviously than usual and breaking down for groups of people who had previously marked themselves “safe” from the whims of politics in a way that is new and stressful for us. We lucky ones who are able to work from home are in a place that we cannot goal-set and self-improve our way out of, and the people who are dying in meat plants are not cautionary tales of insufficient self-actualization who just need some therapy and some goals. If goals must be set, what if we behaved as if our fates were connected to theirs? They are connected, but what if we actually behaved as if that were true? What would we have to change? What would we have to do?
That doesn’t mean things are hopeless or your skills are useless, or there’s something wrong with you for wanting things or unable to perform sufficient wanting at this time. Your dreams (whatever they turn out to be) are important and real and I want you to have them, I want you to have all of them, including the freedom to search for them for as long as you need, including the freedom to say “I’m not particularly ambitious but I’d like a job with nice people where I make $x more dollars than I’m making now.” That’s a perfectly good thing to want.
Brandy Jensen, to whom this post owes so much, suggests:
“I recommend cultivating a healthy resentment toward your work. Put in just enough effort to keep your job and no more. The fantasy that an exciting career is enough to sustain a life is one of the most harmful of the modern age—you were never going to find meaning there.
I don’t think we really find meaning at all. We build it, most often with others. The only real antidote I’ve found to a sense of ever-present sameness is to attend to things that grow and change: living things. Care for something alive—start with something small and pitiful like a plant, if you want. A cat; a friend; a neighbor. Be wasteful and unproductive in your pursuits.”
“Be wasteful and unproductive in your pursuits.” YES. You have a job that pays your bills and gives you room to blog and create and have friends and follow serendipity where it takes you. THAT IS GOOD. The same forces that devalue people and work also devalue anything that we don’t do for money and try to turn every pleasurable human activity into some kind of grotesque side hustle. It’s great when creative work can also pay the bills, but also 100% good and normal to have hobbies and creative pursuits that don’t ever become career fodder or markers of success. If you stated your ambition as “I want a job that gives me enough pay and leftover mental energy and time to do the stuff I really like doing with my free time” = Would that be enough for you? For your therapist? When are you allowed to say “I’m good enough as I am?”
I would add: If you still feel like something is missing, action is the antidote to despair. Maybe you don’t want (career ambition) things. Maybe you don’t want to talk about yourself or keep trying to want those things. But you’ve got time and hands and an internet connection, so do things:
- Do what you need to do to keep a roof over your head and keep everyone under that roof alive. (If that’s all you can do, you’re doing a great job. Surviving is your #1 job.)
- Do what you need to take care of your own soft, alive, animal being. (If that’s all you can do, you’re doing a great job. Surviving is your #1 job.)
- Do things that give you pleasure and joy and make you feel good. (If that’s all you can do, you’re doing a great job. Surviving is your #1 job.)
- Find one thing that helps somebody or something that is alive stay alive and do it. (If that’s all you can do, you’re doing a great job. Surviving is your #1 job).
- From there, find one way you can lift your voice and put your time into helping people and getting this boot off of our necks. Maybe long-term planning will feel possible again, in the meantime some humans will be safer and happier and better fed because of you.
- If you are using this post to beat yourself up for what you can’t do or should be doing and why you can’t possibly do it and now you feel guilty, you’re using it wrong. Do what you can sustainably do. I believe you about whatever that is.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, some organization in the world is already doing something that makes life better for other people around an issue that you already care about and there are plenty of ways to organize and advocate that don’t require leaving the house, stuff like:
- Find your neighborhood’s mutual aid society and join it. (“But I can’t contribute anything” = Okay, but do you need help? You’re allowed to need help, too, and give it when and how you can.) New to mutual aid? Here’s a 101.
- You’re a writer, use your voice: Op-eds, fundraising appeals, social media campaigns, white papers, informed letters on good stationery to your elected officials, grants for organizations that need money, reports to funders, resume & cover letter help for people who are looking for jobs, postcards to voters.
- Organize a union at your current workplace.
- Read books by organizers about organizing, read all the stuff they didn’t assign in school, not so you can know more facts or become an authority but so you can do politics in an informed, sustained way.
- Once you’ve done some reading, maybe ask an exhausted organizer or activist you know and trust who works on something you care about what they most need. Listen quietly and carefully to what they say, and then (this is key) take some of the gruntiest of gruntwork tasks off their plate as you are willing and able.
- Pick something you can do to heal the world and do it to the best of your ability with the energy and focus you can give.
Will that contribute to your eventual career path or look good on your resume? I don’t know! Is it useful, necessary, and will it make you feel better about yourself to be useful while you think about what you want long-term? I hope so! “But Captain Awkward, I’m already doing some or most of that” = GREAT, then acknowledge your efforts and coast on them for a little while instead of always measuring yourself against what you think you should be.
I’ve been to a jillion career days/fairs/open houses/networking events and here’s what nobody ever taught me about work: All work is work and it all deserves fair compensation, safety, dignity, and respect. (People who cannot work deserve these things, too.)
There’s work you enjoy.
There’s work you are good at.
There’s work that’s interesting and fulfilling and/or intellectually stimulating.
There’s work that is highly paid and respected.
There is work that is necessary.
Those things don’t necessarily overlap and you don’t always get them all or get them at the same time, even if you’re one of the lucky class-and-educated people.
I once spent a winter shredding documents in a closet because that was the only thing I could find that would put food on my table. Was I made for better things? I certainly thought so and my family lecturing me about my “wasted” education and talents certainly told me so every chance they got, framing certain jobs as punishment for unwise life choices. At night, I went to film festivals and made friends who made movies and that led me to interesting places, but my day job and my real job didn’t overlap for a long, long time.
In high school I had a sort of internship with one of our town’s selectmen and we successfully got the funding to start a food pantry in the town. ( It’s still going, the acronym “Charlton Helping Its People In Need (CHIP-IN)” might be baby’s first copywriting gig. 🙂 )My parents thought volunteer work would Look Good On My College Applications, and that’s how I came to see it, too. I can’t remember really thinking about the people who used the pantry, what it might be like to need food or how to serve them, how that act of putting food in people’s hands was important on its own and not for the opportunities it landed me later or how it looked on paper. My mistake. My loss.
The jobs my parents and teachers used as examples to try to scare me into studying harder and making good-looking college applications are the ones that are keeping all of us fed these days. They are work. The jobs we love – many of them are what @noveldevice calls “purple collar jobs” because they try to pay you in “passion” instead of money – are work. The care work that keeps a household and community going is work. Writing code is work. None of it is above or beneath anyone, and it’s work whether or not anybody got paid or how much. This should be obvious but it isn’t. When you remove the idea of prestige and hierarchies and that some work is inherently better than other work, you start to remove the brutal hierarchies that say that some people are inherently worth more or less than other people. If nothing else comes out of this weird time, we have to remove that cruel lens from how we look at each other.
To make a long story long, I don’t know what you should be when you grow up. Here’s what I guess might be some good next steps for you, absent inspiration or strong desires from yourself:
1) Be very, very, very gentle with yourself.
2) Be honest with your therapist about how you are feeling and why and see what they have to say, knowing that therapy is just one tool and working on yourself is just one facet of the project of feeling good and doing good in these times.
3) Survive to outlive these motherfuckers and help the people you love do the same.
4) There’s plenty of work to be done that will help other people and build a world where long-term plans feel possible again, so find some and pitch in wherever & however you can. What is worth fighting for? Who is worth fighting for? Start there.
5) Consume enough news and current events so you are motivated to take action and then stop. More information about every single thing won’t make you more prepared or feel better.
6) If you start saying mean things about yourself, go back to step 1.
*Profs. John Esposito, Alan Karras, Amira Sonbol, Andrej Kaminsky, and Joe Murphy: I’m grateful for you.