Michael Callahan hadn’t spent too much time figuring out what to do when he grew up. Why should he have? It made more sense to live day to day. How does anybody decide what to do with themselves?
The canning factory closed in 2008 after the economy hit, so Michael was then out of his third job in a row. Time to give up?
Not having anywhere in particular to be makes time go by fast and slow all at once. Have you ever tried it? Not just for a weekend, but a long stretch of time, weeks, months.
TV gets dull. Really really dull. Michael found that even shows he would have called his favorite a year before had lost all their charm. Daytime court shows are straight insipid. Is there even any good TV anymore?
He tried all kinds of sleep routines. Nocturnal like a raccoon, check. Are you familiar with polyphasic sleep? Did that. Sleeping sunset to sunrise. That one's better than you think.
At this point, you're wondering how he survived, financially. Newton was a low-cost town. He got an unemployment check and completed the bare minimum to keep that up. His parents, a mile and a half from his spot, weren't willing to feed him dinner every night. But do you think they'd let him starve? No, of course not.
And he wasn't 100% without work. The odd job came to him. That's why they're called odd, you know? Michael was surprised to find he liked house painting. It's boring, not particularly hard.
It was all a paradox. A lot of decisions about doing nothing. Why bother showering? When should he make lunch? How much beer was too much for one evening? Whom should he call to hang out? What did he want to be doing, a week from now, a month from then, a year out? Is it okay to stay home for three straight days? How does anybody decide what to do with themselves? Would life be different if he won the lottery? (Should he play the lottery?) Do most people in his situation plan or just go with the flow? What are you doing today that matters for your tomorrow versus your next year? How do you be the best version of yourself in the worst situation? How much have you figured out? Are you prepared for changes? Are you prepared for no changes?
By Neil Bardhan
photograph by Gretchen Halpert
66 OURS - Collaborative Writing Project
Starting with Phase 1, writers had 66 days to base their writing on 1 anonymous person & 1 vignette, dutifully and judiciously assigned to each writer by Amelia.
Photos given to the writers
Each writer was given a combination of 1 person + 1 vignette from the following: