Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Freaking Out

by Robison Wells

May I remind you of a few things?

First, I'm in grad school. You know this, because I tell you about it every other day. I'm always complaining about finals this and financial aid that, and frankly, you're sick of it. That's fair.

Second, I'm on an internship right now with ConAgra Foods, doing marketing for Orville Redenbacher's popcorn. Specifically, I have spent the last two and a half months looking at kernels--that is, the popcorn which you don't cook in a microwave. Popcorn is my entire life. You like popcorn, don't you? Enought to devote your life to it???

Third, this is how brand management internships work: an intern will spend all summer on a very specific project--something meaty with strategic concerns and large dollar values attached. Then, after eleven weeks of research and testing and thinking, the intern gives a big presentation to company decision makers.

Well, my presentation is today. At 3:00pm, CDT. I will be presenting to local folks, like my boss and coworkers, but I'll also be videoconferenced to Chicago and Omaha, so that the four company presidents can be watching and asking questions. That's right--the four men who report to the CEO of a Fortune 250 company.

Oh, I forgot to remind you of the fourth thing: I once took a personality test which included this gem: "A major source of concern to [this personality type] is the haunting sense of impending failure." This statement has always been me to a T. In fact, my other blog, which describes my day-to-day struggles in the MBA program is entitled "The Haunting Sense of Impending Failure."

But, until the last month, I had no idea what impending failure was all about.
For the first time in my life, I've started getting panic attacks. I can honestly say that until July, I've never had these things--I didn't even really believe in them--but I now understand, and I hope to never have them again. They're not just my usual run-of-the-mill pessimism. This is an overwhelming feeling of wanting to run away (and, lest I be misunderstood, I'm speaking literally, not figuratively).

So, panic attacks, big presentation. Lately I have been working about thirteen hours a day, six days a week. I sit in my little cube, crunching numbers, making graphs, exploring hypotheses and running into dead ends--all in preparation for the big presentation. August 12th, 2008.

You'd think that was enough, right?

But then my wife flew home. My daughter starts school on the 18th, and we worried that we wouldn't be able to drive home quickly enough to get her there for the first day. So, the wife and kids packed up and flew out last week, leaving me a lone man.

And then she got home and discovered that our apartment (where we haven't been since May) had apparently flooded in the relatively recent past. Fortunately, it only festered for a few days before maintenance came in and stripped it bare, pulling all of our furniture out into the street and replacing the carpet and scrubbing the muck and flith off the linoleum. (And then they put all our stuff back inside, but couldn't remember where it went. So, when Erin got home Friday night, after a cross-country flight with two little kids, she was in for a real treat!)

And then, back here in Minnesota, I had to leave my apartment. We'd found a really cheap sub-lease, and it's been great all summer, but it had the catch that the owner was returning a week early and we needed to move out. Now, everything I own is in the back of my crappy Korean car, and I'm living in the local Microtel.

So, my point is: things are deteriorating rapidly around here. I mean, I ate a frickin' salad today--purchased from a diner selling "Butterburgers"--so you know my mind isn't where it ought to be.

I finished my presentation preparations today (I'm writing this Monday night). It was as good as it was going to get, and I left work at the first decent hour in weeks. And, to reward my lonesome self, I went to a movie. I saw The Dark Knight. And, let me tell you, if you're looking for a movie wherein you can relax from a mountain of troubles and turn off your mind, this movie ain't the one for you.

And then, as I was driving home, I was listening to an old NPR interview with Isaac Hayes, and they played his version of "By The Time I Get to Phoenix", (which, for you unclutured youths, is a very sad song about a man who is away from his wife), and I wanted to bawl like a little girl.

And now I'm back here in the motel, watching the Olympics and eating Chips Ahoy and trying to counteract all the good that salad did for me.

By this time tomorrow (Tuesday), I'll be done and happy and I'll probably pass out from eleven weeks of sleep deprivation and caffeine poisoning.

But, for now, I think I'll just sit here and freak out.

P.S.: if you are Josi or Jeff or William or Annette or Heather or LuAnn or Alicia or Derek or any number of other people: yes, I've gotten your emails and I'll be responding soon after this presentation is over. Just give me a minute to hyperventilate first.


At 8/12/2008 10:35 AM, Anonymous William Morris said...

Break a leg! Or an unpopped kernel! Or a marketing exec! Or whatever is most helpful.

At 8/12/2008 11:19 AM, Blogger Pat said...

Reading this makes me glad that I'm old, settled, and boring!
Best of luck - hope things turn your way soon.

At 8/12/2008 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get panic attacks too. Believe me when I say I feel your pain, and I hope your presentation goes off without any problems.

At 8/12/2008 11:56 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Thoughts and prayers are with you today, my friend. I am feeling an impending sense of incredible success headed your way, so brace yourself.

At 8/12/2008 12:09 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

By the time you read this, I'm sure it'll be (successfully) over. But know that I'm one of many people crossing fingers for you.

If you try replying to e-mails in the next couple of days without recovering first, we'll have to smack you. So get some much-deserved rest.

Just to lighten things up a bit: We popped some of Orville's kernels last night. Turned out great. But I have a 50 lb bag of ConAgra flour that is the crappiest stuff I've ever used. I don't blame you for that, though. You just work with the kernels. The flour's almost gone--halleljuah.

At 8/12/2008 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did some baking with your Conagr popcorn. The cake turned out terrible. The popcorn is nearly gone. Hallelujah! We going to pop some flour tonight and see if your stuff is any good Rob. Is it too late to use this feedback in your presentation? Tell em to pop more chcolate cakes, and reccomend customers bake their carmel corn at 350 for 45 minutes. Don't add any eggs.


At 8/12/2008 1:08 PM, Blogger Kimberly said...

I recommend including a small packet of floss with each bag o'popcorn. Come on. Use that as an icebreaker. It'd be great.

Fingers very much crossed for you. And hey, I'm in Canada, so that means you've got two countries rootin' for ya!

At 8/12/2008 1:15 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

I'm rootin' and prayin' for you too, Rob. I don't see how the Rob I know could do anything less than Ace the thing. Go get 'em!

At 8/12/2008 1:25 PM, Blogger Matthew Buckley said...

Rob, in all sincerity, and from the depths of my soul, may I be the first to tell you...

Your fly is open. Did you hear me! YOUR FLY IS OPEN! Check your fly, man, for the love of all that is holy!

Phew, crisis averted.

At 8/12/2008 2:05 PM, Anonymous mean aunt said...

Rob, if you need me to unleash my meaness on any executives, let me know. I have dagger eyes and everything.

At 8/12/2008 3:46 PM, Blogger Michele Holmes said...

Hope your presentation went well, Rob. Look at things this way---Wymount is going to seem like luxury living after your time alone in the microtel.

Seriously, thanks for the reminder of why my husband and I are soooo glad to be done with school.

Drive safely on the trip back.

At 8/12/2008 3:47 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

Start with an interview with Orville. Your interviews are so funny they'd put everyone in a good mood. :)

At 8/12/2008 3:56 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

What the heck is a microtel? Good luck! Can't wait to hear about it!

At 8/12/2008 3:59 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

If it's any comfort to you, I've popped two bowlfuls of Orville's finest non-bag kernels in the last two days. Yum!

Go get 'em, Tiger! I'm rootin' for you.

At 8/12/2008 4:16 PM, Blogger Middle said...

Hey! There is a new LDS Middle Singles weblog and support group! Join us at:


At 8/12/2008 4:34 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Do whatever it takes to get that salad out of your system as quickly as possible!

Hope everything went well -- I've seen you give presentations and I think you're great. Just so you know.

At 8/12/2008 6:07 PM, Blogger Tamra Norton said...

I'da gone for the butterburger, dude. Anyway, it's 5:00 pm central time on the 12th and I guess you're already done so no sense wishing you luck on the presentation (I'm sure you were fantastic long as you took Buckley's advice and had a zipped fly.) Good luck on the journey home though!

At 8/13/2008 10:17 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Hey guys,
The verdict is: it went really well. There were a couple a flubs in the beginning--a few questions that I didn't have good answers for--but on the whole it was good.

Thanks for your support. I know it might not seem like it, but as I was getting these comments appearing in my inbox throughout the day yesterday, they genuinely helped. You guys are awesome!

(And Heather: A Microtel is a motel where the bathroom ceiling leaks when the guy upstairs is taking a shower.)


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