You can take the boy out of Jersey City, but you can’t take the Jersey City out of the boy. Fortunately, I never had any Jersey City in me. Even more fortunately, I no longer commute to Jersey City, either.
I decided that my job at New Jersey City University (Motto: Yes, Jersey City has a University! Google it!) was a bad fit for me.
This bad fit became apparent after I was hired by Macmillan to write a children’s chapter book series. The main character in the series, Prince Carlos Charles Charming, was a prince who’d much rather be a court jester. Prince Carlos’s internal conflict mirrored my own; I was an alumni magazine editor who’d much rather be a freelance writer.
My dear wife, Ellen, who is always supportive and always awesome, agreed that I should return to freelancing. So I quit.
I also decided to take a little souvenir.
I have a habit of taking souvenirs when I leave a job. Nothing big, mind you, nothing that anyone would miss, just a little memory. On my last day as a newspaper reporter, for example, I took a letter opener that advertised a garbage company. (I had this job back in the ’90s before email dominated everything; pretty much half of my day involved tearing into envelopes.)
My A. Fiore & Sons letter opener doesn’t get as much exercise as it used to, but I’m glad it’s still with me.
Selecting a souvenir to commemorate my 11-year tenure at The Lawrenceville School was a no-brainer. For more than a year, I had a habit of wandering Lawrenceville’s nine-hole golf course on my lunch hour. When I stumbled upon a lost or abandoned ball, I would slip it into my pocket. These balls would then be emptied into my desk drawer. On my last day at Lawrenceville, I had 376 of them.
So I took a couple of balls home. An orange practice golf ball now lives on my car’s antenna. (It’s really easy to find my Kia Spectra in a crowded parking lot.) Three other balls live in the drawer of my drafting table.
My NJCU souvenir was less creative: my NJCU ID card. I had always wanted to edit a college alumni magazine. My ID card was proof that I had done so.
Unfortunately, the NJCU Human Resources Department didn’t care about any of this. HR would not allow me to keep the card. In fact, they wouldn’t give me my last paycheck until I sent it back to them.
Because I value paychecks more than souvenirs, I complied with their wishes.
Fortunately for me, I had a backup souvenir. Something that, I think, symbolizes my time at NJCU quite well.
I wrote a post about this book a few months ago. Long story short, I rescued it from an abusive relationship. Its previous owner was a thug and a monster.
The book deserved a good, loving home. So it’s not a souvenir, exactly; it’s a humanitarian act.
“Fear not little book,” I whispered to it on my last day at NJCU. “You’re safe now. I will repair your binding. I will stand you upright on a bookshelf with similar nonfiction titles that are alphabetized by author. And if anyone tries to rip your dust jacket or dogear your pages they will FEEL MY WRATH!”
Something tells me that spending time in Jersey City may have tweaked a few of my brain cells. That’s kind of a souvenir, too, isn’t it?