SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 48: … Of Hope Itself

Hello, dear blog readers, random curiosity seekers, and people who stumbled onto this site while looking for the newest celebrity trainwreck (nothing here about the Khardashians, sorry).

You may notice a bit of a difference in this blog entry.  There’s a reason for that.  And the reason is simply this: I’m not Richard.  Instead, you’re going to be treated to (or suffer through) a “guest blog.”

My name is Michaelbrent Collings.  And when Richard asked if I would accompany him on his daily “365” and write about it from my point of view, I approached it with a bit of trepidation.  I’m a writer, so it’s not the words that scare me.  I’ve actually written best-sellers and had screenplays produced in Hollyweird.  But most of what I do write is either horror (ghost stories and books about serial killers) or light fantasy (kids who discover they are magic users and become embroiled in a battle to save the world).  And Richard’s blog – or as he would probably prefer to say it, the blog of the people whom he chronicles – is neither of those things.

But I agreed to give it a go.  Challenges are fun.

And almost immediately upon meeting his “365”-er for the night, I started to regret my decision.

Not because she was awful, or difficult, or whiny.  Quite the opposite.  It’s because she was simply delightful.  When asked if she would like to be a part of the project, she lit up.  “Sure!” was her immediate response.  And when she walked away after the experience, she literally jumped in the air and (I think) even uttered a “Yippee!”

Her name was (and, I suppose, still is) Janel.  Richard and I met her after a long day on the set of a photo shoot he was doing.  He and I went to dinner with the client and the ad agency people, and Janel came along as the significant other of one of the folks who was at the dinner.

And it was such a lucky thing that she did.

“Where do you see yourself in ten years?”

Some people are defined by what they take in.  They are collectors.  Of information, of wisdom, or (in bad situations) of other peoples’ morale and energy.  Then there are those who are defined by what they give out.  Janel is one of those people.  She smiled.  A lot.  She wears her hair differently every single day.  She does yoga.  She is fascinated by humanity, but (I think) is still struggling to define her own.  Not in a bad way, but in a way that highlights the fact that she is still deciding what kind of person she will be.

And actually, maybe I am a good person to write this blog.  Because I do write fairy tales.  Tales of magic and fun.  Tales where the good guys win, and the evil-doers are punished.  And Janel, I think, is someone who is striving to discover the fairy tale within herself.

“Fit, healthy, and happy.”  That’s where she sees herself in ten years.  Not “in a fancy house,” not “surrounded by expensive things,” not “in this particular job at that particular company.”  But “Fit, healthy, and happy.”  She is energetic, spritely, and so it should come as no surprise that her personal vision for the future is one that focuses, not on the place, not on the thing, but on the energy, and on the feeling her existence will exude.  “Fit, healthy, and happy.”

“If you had any words, counsel, or advice you would like to share with my readers, what would it be?”

Janel is also something of a contradiction.  Again, not a bad thing.  Quite the opposite.  She has intricate levels that interconnect to create a person of unusual depth and passion.  So while she is a person who looks like she could probably run a 10K every day of the week and step it up to a full marathon on the weekends, she can also be quiet, and attentive.  She likes to talk, but doesn’t mind listening.  She seems as happy to laugh at another’s story as she is to laugh at her own tales of life and its idiosyncrasies.  Again, a rare quality.

So though at times she seems as though she is wandering through life on a journey to who-knows-where, she is also possessed of a certain inner assurance.  “I’ve worked for a three-star general,” she declares.  “He taught me how to be competent.”  I agree with her that competence is a quality rarely found, and much to be admired.  She wears her competence on her sleeve.  If she says she can do it, I have no doubt that it (whatever “it” may be) will be done.

And along with that competence, as though to balance out the happy, energetic, almost childlike quality that captivates those around her, she also has the ability to say something directly… and have it mean something.

“What counsel would you like to share with my readers?” Richard asks.  And in an eyeblink, she sobers, and says without hesitation, “Quit if you need to.”

Not idle words.  How many of us go through the motions, living our “daily grind,” and slowly dying inside all the while because we are too afraid to reach out and find something new – and better?  How many of us find ourselves locked into something – a career, a pastime, a relationship – that isn’t right for us… but just don’t have the personal wherewithal to simply stop?

Not Janel.  She tells Richard (and me, the horror writer turned anthropologist for a night) of her experience in grad school.  Pursuing a career she had dreamed of since she was eight.  And then realizing that something about it was wrong.  Something about it didn’t feel like it should.  What was I that felt off?  Simply this: she hated grad school.

So she quit.

The ramifications were enormous.  Starting, and perhaps ending, with the fact that she is no longer sure what she is going to do with herself.  Not that she doesn’t work – she does, and probably does an excellent job at it.  But “it’s not my dream job.”  And she isn’t quite sure what would be.

Which is, it seems, all right with her.  Because better to be a bit unsure of what the future holds that to suffer the certainty of misery.  She didn’t like where she was, so she changed it.  Obvious, really.

But how many of us could have done the same?

And even in that simple statement that her job isn’t her “dream job,” lays another implicit facet of Janel’s character.  She believes in dreams.  She never says this aloud, but it seems from the twinkle in her eye and the dimples that are so deep you can almost see through her head, that she does believe.  In the possibility of a better tomorrow.  The chance of a more perfect world.

In the hope… of hope itself.

Good night, Janel.  It was a pleasure.  And I hope your dreams come true.

Michaelbrent Collings is the bestselling author of RUN, Billy: Messenger of Powers, and numerous other novels.  He can be followed on Twitter @mbcollings, and his Facebook page is at  He also has a website at