Heidi Kyser

Journalist, writer

Days Like This

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Days like this, I don’t love my life.

I’m walking my bike home from coffee with a publisher because, for the fourth time in a month, I’ve gotten a flat tire. Yes, I know how to change a flat tire. Do you think I didn’t try that?

My hands are covered in bike grease, which has undoubtedly stained at least one article of my clothing. The breeze keeps sticking a clump of hair in my lip balm, making a diagonal line across my watering eyes. My nose is running, and I forgot my handkerchief. I look up and see a dirty, disheveled man walking his moped a half-block ahead of me. “I’m like him,” I think.

After arriving home to find we’re out of spare inner tubes for my bike, I see that Peter’s rescued Border Collie has exorcised his separation anxiety by knocking over the recycling bin and strewing plastic and glass containers around the carpet. Some of them were not completely empty.

I wash my hands and sit down at my computer, where I find an e-mail newsflash from the R-J reminding me what I learned yesterday from the Daily Beast: I live in the city with the stupidest population in the U.S. Following that is another flash about police in Louisiana finding the remains of a 12-year-old Las Vegas girl whose mom and boyfriend probably killed her and dumped her body in the wilderness.

My momma did not say there would be days like this. My momma said, “Count your blessings,” and “You reap what you sow,” and – my personal favorite – “Every cloud has a silver lining.” My momma said I would be famous, change the world and buy her a house someday with the millions of dollars I’d make in the movies or curing cancer or whatever Nobel Prize-worthy pursuit I chose. My momma said I could do anything I put my mind to.

I was always a good student, and I learned everything she taught me. As I was walking home today, I did feel ashamed for being so grumpy on such a pretty autumn day. Approaching my house, I realized how lucky I am to live in a nice area with big trees and friendly neighbors. I thought of the guy with the moped. Is he homeless? Chances are, he is. I opened my refrigerator to look for lunch, and wondered if there was some way I could share my blessings with him.

I used to believe you reap what you sow, but I’m not so sure anymore. I’ve seen Peter plant and fertilize and water plenty of crops that produced something completely different from what he expected, or nothing at all. Besides, that sowing-reaping expression smacks of the same annoying fatalism people reveal when they say, “I believe everything happens for a reason.”

I don’t believe that. I am certain some things happen for no reason whatsoever. Case in point: Carmen Electra’s fame.

I prefer the idea of karma. Generally, your attitude in life will determine how things work out for you. That’s not to say certain results shouldn’t be expected from certain actions (e.g., earning a master’s degree should improve your job prospects… shouldn’t it?). It just also takes into account that some things – like a child getting kidnapped and killed – happen by no fault of the person they strike. The part you can best control is how you handle what life throws at you.

Despite her Christian-based platitudes, in the big picture my mother was dead-on. I wanted to be a writer, and I am one. Work is scarce, but the way things are going, I’m lucky to have assignments at all. Besides, nobody stays in this business for the money; I love what I do. (Ma will have to buy her own mansion, I reckon.)

And there’s a silver lining lots of people in my position are starting to notice lately. For a writer, there couldn’t be a more compelling time and place to observe than Las Vegas in the Great Recession. It’s like having the opportunity to go back in time and document the Dust Bowl from Salina, Kan. Lots of excellent journalism will come of it, I predict. Some of it may be mine.

I may yet get that Nobel Prize, Mom. If I don’t, though, you can be sure I’ll handle it with the gratitude of someone who has walked her bike home, frustrated and scared, but surviving in hard times.


Written by Heidi Kyser

October 27, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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