#4. The USMNT, Mauna Loa, and You
We were, in fact, ready for ~some~ football.
Welcome back to That’s Marvelous! I’ve been pretty busy this week working on some other stuff that you might enjoy if you like this newsletter. In the midst of all the antisemitism in the news, I wrote a little humor piece for McSweeney’s called “How to Hate a Jew Like a Jew” that I’d love for you to read! Plus I was on this week’s episode of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me with panelists Paula Poundstone and Skyler Higley as well as celebrity guest Dana Carvey!!! Oh! I was on this week’s episode of Alice Fraser’s wonderful podcast The Gargle too!
Plus I booked the aforementioned Skyler Higley (and the super funny Karen Chee and Isabel Hagen) for my What’s New? show on 12/12 at Union Hall in Brooklyn! If you’re around, grab tickets and see new stuff from some super funny comedians!
Okay! Time for some pep talks!
THE PEP TALKS
PEP TALK FOR THE USMNT
Hello, United States Men’s National Soccer Team. After your ball-breaking victory over Iran, you suffered a heartbreaking defeat at the hands (but mostly the feet) of the Netherlands. Still, this World Cup was a success! For starters, you got out of group play. And yes, I know that sounds like a euphemism for flaking on an orgy, but it’s a huge achievement. Not for the Brazilian men’s soccer team, or the U.S. women’s team. But for the U.S.M.N.T it’s a really big deal!
So much of life is about managing expectation. If you order a pizza with peppers and onions on it, but a plain cheese pizza arrives in its place, that can feel pretty disappointing, even though you still get to eat a delicious pizza. But, if you’re bracing to get kicked in the face by a horse, and instead you are merely bitten on the butt cheek by that mean, freaky horse, that’s a big win, even though a weird horse bit your ass! U.S.M.N.T., a nation was (metaphorically) prepared for you to get kicked in the head by a horse, and you delivered us a cheese pizza. America thanks you for it!
Besides, making it to the knockout round of the World Cup at all is incredible. Most people never do that!!! I would be a liability on your team even if the notoriously corrupt F.I.F.A. leadership could be bribed into letting me use my hands. For two weeks, you were in the national spotlight as opposed to your regular careers where you are incredibly famous everywhere but in the U.S. I assume.
Sure, the idea of holding the World Cup in Qatar in the first place was morally reprehensible. And yes, the fact that the U.S. women’s team made more money when you got to the knockout round than when they won the entire tournament is wildly sexist. But you didn’t cause those things! You just played some pretty good football, which is all that could be asked of you.
So, yeah. You had a rough weekend in Qatar, but on the scale of how bad things can get, you still had the greatest weekend of most people’s lives.
PEP TALK FOR MAUNA LOA
The haters thought you were finished. You hadn’t erupted in thirty-eight years. But as of last week BOOM!!! you’re back in the game. Wait…I don’t actually know what sound a volcano makes when it erupts. It could have been more like CRACK! POW!!! or TSSS, GLUG GLUG GLUG!!! or even AWOOOOOOGA!!! (Probably not the last one, but a guy can dream.)
You showed them all, is where I was going before I got derailed! On November 30th, a fireball burst forth from your…uhh…volcano mouth, like Fireball gushing back up from the stomach of a college freshman. Then, over the weekend, your lava continued to flow at about forty-feet-per-hour, which sounds pretty slow, but it’s actually really good for a volcano of your age. The eruption might even shut down a major Hawaiian highway (Hawaiiway?), which I imagine will be expensive and inconvenient while also providing incontrovertible evidence that you’ve still got it, kid!
People are traveling from all over to see you do your thing after all these years. You are basically Celine Dion performing a Las Vegas residency made of molten rock. You are a fireworks display without the annoying Revolutionary War jock jams.
Mauna Loa, you are an inspiration to us all. You take your time and give it all you’ve got once you’re good and ready. You defy age and expectation. You’re full of surprises and magma. Your name means Long Mountain, but your body of work means you’ll keep ‘em waiting even longer if you want. The next time I’m feeling unproductive or sluggish, I will think about you and take heart. I’ll erupt when I damn well please.
PEP TALKS FOR READERS
As always, I occasionally pair up pep talk requests that feel related, to me. And I’ll do a little condensing for space and clarity!
I’ve been working for myself for the last 13 years and am pivoting a bit into entirely new territory of trying to start a business that educates on sustainability practices via seed paper and biodegradable pots 3D printed with nuisance algae pulled from the oceans to help protect birds, fish and mammals. I’m unsure of where this project/new biz should go (and if it’s foolish to take any time away from a digital marketing business that’s pretty reliable after more than a decade of website building.) Any words of wisdom will be taken to heart!
- Laura O. longtime pep talk appreciater, first time DMer
I recently switched careers to a full time writer, and while I have a great full-time salaried job, I was hoping for freelance pieces to make up for some of income gap from my last job. I’ve been pitching pretty steadily for about a year but only had a few accepted, and recently had a piece killed after being stuck in edits for a month. I’ve also been struggling to finish some longform fiction manuscripts, and while I’m proud of sections of them, they’re not fully coming together the way I was hoping. Pursing a writing career with a massive career shift is hard because it’s extremely fulfilling when it works out, but also a lot more crushing when things don’t. I suppose I’m having a hard time getting over the hump of caring a lot about my writing, and not always finding the success I was hoping for with it.
Hi Laura and J.R.! First of all, congratulations on embarking on these exciting new professional ventures! It can be so thrilling and fun and terrifying and raw to launch a new thing, especially when it’s your thing. It can be so comforting to get to thrive or struggle under the wing of a larger institution where even when you do a horrendous job, most people will never know. Not that that’s what I shoot for. I am good at having jobs and try hard at them, potential employers!
When you’re on your own, though, any failures feel so personal. It’s hard not to hear “You aren’t good enough!” even when the people you’re dealing with just mean “I was looking for a different thing entirely than what you offer, even though your thing is great too!” (Which is what they mean a lot of the time!)
People say you that if you internalize good news, you also have to internalize bad news, and I think that’s wrong and, frankly, silly. The setbacks simply do not mean as much as the successes. No career consists exclusively of steep linear growth. You’re going to fail a lot. Every success is against at least some odds (fewer odds depending on demographic data and how rich/famous your parents are, but still some odds).
It’s definitely worth learning from disappointments, thinking about what you can do better. And it’s not a great idea to get a blinking-invincible-Super-Mario-with-a-star-power-up feeling over any professional success. But this is not an advice newsletter. I’m here to hype you up, so here’s the hype:
Your victories are not accidents! You’re making them happen with effort and skill and sometimes being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right person! Through trial and error (and also success, which is also a part of that process even though it doesn’t get headline billing like the other two steps) you will find the balance of what works for you! Conversely, your failures do not define you! You are not a collection of your worst traits wrapped in a trench coat and sitting on each other’s shoulders! Progress made is not just worth considering in opposition to how far you still have to go! It feels much better to also consider how far you’ve come from where you started! You can always move the goalposts on yourself, but you can’t shift the starting line once you’ve moved beyond it!
With practice and intention, you’ll most likely get to do more of the stuff you want and will be obligated to do less of the stuff you don’t enjoy! And, as always: Even when it’s good, work can be annoying, and it’s fine to feel that way too! You’ve got this! Or, at least, you’ve got enough of this to make it feel more or less worthwhile if you let it!
I'm 50, twice-divorced, and celebrated Thanksgiving by napping on my couch. I’m also unemployed! And my indoor cat somehow has fleas.
- Pathetic in Pittsburgh
Hey, PiP. I understand how in aggregate these things could feel pretty lonely and demoralizing. But, taken one at a time, the individual issues are not the worst. Leaving a toxic relationship is hard but good. Not having a bad job is very good. Napping is great. Obviously you’re not in the position you want to be in (I’m assuming you’re shooting for healthy relationship, good job, and awake, in which case you’re already 1/3 of the way there)! In fact, I’d submit you’re closer to the other 2/3 of that equation than you think considering your time and energy are not being consumed by unfit situations. It’s much better to meet the love of your life while you’re divorced than when you’re married to someone else! Just from a paperwork point of view even. And you will, eventually, be employed again, but until then you can at least allow the fact that no one can tell you what to do to offset the financial and existential stresses of the moment. I know this may sound inappropriately optimistic, but if you come to the pep talk store, you’re gonna get a pep talk. That’s what we sell here.
I will say, the indoor cat getting fleas is a truly crushing and poetic metaphor for that feeling of “when it rains, it pours.” It’s a turn for the worse that barely seems possible. Like a brain surgeon pushing your hospital gurney straight out a window or a fire truck exploding, causing your house to burn down. It is basically impossible that your life will continue to be bad in a way that is so literarily ironic. So unless your only pair of reading glasses shatters immediately after you commit to using your unemployment to catch up on reading, you have nowhere to go but up, irony-wise.
I chose two songs this week because it’s my newsletter and I do what I want. Both are by artists that I saw live this week (and who also were guests on my dormant podcast Make My Day). Enjoy!!!
Laura Stevenson - “Jellyfish”
Laura, if you don’t know, is one of the best living songwriters and songsingers! “Jellyfish” is not a happy song, but it is so musically propulsive that it always makes me feel the opposite of the emotions that the lyrics describe. Maybe it will help you too feel less hideous and spiteful! Or at the very least it’ll give you a top shelf self-loathing anthem for the winter.
Open Mike Eagle (ft. Still Rift and Video Dave) - “Circuit City”
Open Mike Eagle’s new album is so good, and this song thumps especially hard (as does the closing track)! I’m including this as the pick-me-up because when Still Rift raps “Walk about this town like it’s my canvas/I leave a mark, y’all pointing like ‘Whose man’s this?’” it makes me feel extra swaggery as I walk around town!
Side note: These lyrics would both make excellent quotes to have used as AIM away messages in the away message era. Do you ever think about what song lyric you’d sincerely post if that were socially acceptable to do as adults? Sound off in those darn comments if so! I’m always curious about this!!!
Upcoming Tour Dates
If you enjoy this newsletter, maybe come see me tell jokes in person?
12/27 - Parkway Theater in Minneapolis
12/28 - Zanies in Chicago (almost sold out!!!)
12/29 - The Milwaukee Improv
1/12-1/14 - Comedy Bar Toronto (three shows)
More info and dates available at joshgondelman.com/schedule!
I also have a standup special called People Pleaser that’s free to watch for Prime members in the U.S. and available to rent for everyone else! (I think Vimeo is the easiest place to rent it internationally.) It’s totally different from the hour that I’m doing on tour!
Okay! That’s all for now! Thanks for reading! And as always, if you enjoyed the newsletter, please subscribe and/or share it with a pal!