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(Warning: Potential Triggers)

Little known fact, I was meant to be a twin. But shortly into my mom’s pregnancy, the other cluster of cells that might have been another human being ruptured and the cluster of cells that some how managed to make me continued to be a cluster of cells long enough for brain stems to grow and I evolved somewhere along the way.

When I was three, I was playing tag with my cousin in my grandparent’s house, and I slipped and fell and split the back of my head open on a corner.

When I was seven in the second grade, my father and I were in a head-on collision with a pick-up truck. The guy had a broken leg, a broken wrist, three broken bones, and a concussion. My dad broken his neck.

And I walked away with a split lip and some missing teeth.

I’ve never broken a bone in my body, only severe sprains, and the scar on my mouth from the crash isn’t visible any more.

But at the same time, I’ve always been acutely aware of impending death. Which sounds like a broad statement, but I’ve always worked hard to prepare for the worst, or even the best. I have absolutely no idea the direction I want to go in life, but I hope that through my hard work, hours of studying, internships, tried my damnedest to network, and gain real life experience– maybe, I will be put in the right place in the right time.

If I understood him correctly, that’s what Reid means about being proactive, about having an energized mind. Because let’s face it, growing up the world definitely seemed like it had a grudge against my entire existence as a human being. If I don’t take up every opportunity, if I don’t engage with every person that comes across my path, then it’s a real slap to the face to whoever has had my karmic back all these years.

Recently, I was turned down for a position at Make a Wish. Opposed to making 42K a year, learning from a man with 25 years of non profit experience, and staying in gorgeous Burlington Veront with my two best friends, I’m going home to live in Texas with my mom. Not exactly the dream story to celebrate after graduation. That being said, I’ve got a job lined up in Austin that will actually pay pretty decently. My brother, 17 years old, actually texted me out of the blue and said he’s really looking forward to becoming better friends. The friends I was going to room with– it looks like they’re not going to stay in Burlington either– regardless of my decisions.

I’m not saying that Fate is directly leading me down a certain path and I’m not saying I’m bursting down every door on which opportunity knocks. But damn, at the end of the day, “que sera sera”, and if Doris Day AND the founder of LinkedIn agree on this, maybe I have to as well.

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Immediately, I found a lot of enjoyment out of the contrast between the two readings. While Drucker looks ahead to a post WW2 future, full of global conflict and mistakes, the first chapter of Reid is almost uplifting. This is ironic to say because Reid states that the former social structure of management, business, and administration is gone. No one in the government is going to support you if you cannot find a job, and certainly, as employer’s expectations of life-long commitment begin to fade, even the company you work for no longer promises a successful rise in your career.

Terrifying, no? On the bus to my internship, where I literally stuff letters, paste name tags onto envelopes or unwrap packets of playing cards, I was mortified at the suggestion that this very well could be a job post-college, and for a while— because entry-level positions are becoming more and more concrete in preventing advancement. As Reid states, aren’t we all raised to believe that if you put in good work, prove your worth, and reflect the values of your company, you will be rewarded for your hard efforts. Now, I don’t think that’s “millennial” entitlement spewing out of my mouth— it’s the reason why we go to college. Because that little slip of paper says, “yes, I am drowning in debt, and probably will be for the next 25 years, just so I can get a job that adequately pays for my basic human needs—oh, and the HELLA AMOUNTS OF DEBT.” (okay that was a little millennial)

The point of this blog post is not to rant and rave and try and make the claim our generation is literally at the tipping point of society, going in the direction of humanity that has yet to be discovered—so I’ll let Reid do it for me. He admits that through globalization and technology, the old world has rather died, and continuing to play the roles assigned in the old world, that means we will die along with it.

In his 2006 book, The World is Flat, Thomas Freidman outlines three stages of globalization. Stage One goes from the 1400-1700s. Stage Two is the 1700s to 2000, and then Stage Three is 2000+.

Stage One was the world pre-industrialization. Families were small, they believed absolutely in the existence of God, and everything was done by hand. Think Puritans but WORLD WIDE. Life, in essence, was simple. If you could survive chicken pox, the flu, and birth, you probably had a good chance of coming out okay. Unless you were a witch: in that case, you are so going down.

Stage Two is the boom heard around the world: the Industrial Revolution. Suddenly, it doesn’t take four horses and a week to till a field; a machine will do it for you. Everything is stamped out on an assembly line, and suddenly, God is not the Almighty any more: it’s science. What is this world we live in and how does it work? How do we all fit on this tiny blue marble?

Stage Three is often referred to the as the Age of Technology, and more prominently, the Internet. Today, we still are unsure of how to regulate a sphere of influence that has no physical basis, nothing we can hold in our hands, and yet still feel the need to control. Selfies is now an accepted word by the Oxford English dictionary (writing this on Word, no squiggly line showed up under it) and we are spiraling towards hell and damnation because of Twerking and GMOs.

At every precipice, we are convinced this was the end. This is how it all went down: because we stopped believing in God, because science helped the Nazi agenda and brutally massacre thousands, because states are still allowed to decimate based on physical appearance (thanks NC). From Drucker’s perspective, yes the world was changing, and potentially into something scary and bad. But because it was new, Drucker couldn’t see the goodness that Reid can. Of course, everything is about relative history, and where you stand in it. But quite honestly, I refuse to accept that because now the old models of business are changing, this means we’re all going to die. Who knows where and when Stage Four of Globalization will appear, and it might be soon. But for now, the earth continues to spin— and simply put, society is starting-up again.

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In an ever-expanding, ever-globalizing, and more specifically, Westernized world, social media has become inescapable. Facebook has become a center for communication, sharing, and information collection that has spread to all reaches of the world. Youtube is a platform for social justice, music, and collaboration, while more and more employers review your LinkedIn more than a resume. Twitter has transformed civil rights, communication, and connection. However, there is a deeper beast, dark creature at play. Because of the increasing speed of the Internet, all of this social media is quite literally instantaneous, and therefore it feeds our vanity, our sense of entitlement, and the belief than anyone and everyone is an authority on any subject.

But is it possible to drown out the noise? As Drucker says, “communication has proven as elusive as the unicorn.” What is more, does our twitter count constitute any sort of rational authority and direction?

In another direction,just like any other drug, watching your twitter follower count rise, your tweets be reposted, and your thoughts shared across the globe can create an addiction. There are literal pleasure sensors that go off in your brain when someone follows you, or likes a picture. Some of the most successful marketing campaigns are defined by the response on Twitter– you either get people talking about your product, or the consumers talk back to you (one of the many advantages of having active receivers).

In terms of a marketing team, what’s truly remarkable about Twitter is that you have all the channels, audiences/consumers, and feedback you can ever want, and the process to run it is virtually free. But often, because of Twitter’s widespread net, as the consumer it is too late to know the rabbit hole you’ve fallen down, until its too late.

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In the Information Age, western society’s collective memory doesn’t hold for a long time. Technology is changing daily, and with the advent of apps, there are new challenge rocking grounded institutions to their core. Taxi services, dating sites, and health trainers are being forced to change, to embrace the new 21st Century buzzword: innovation. With Twitter, Yelp, and Tripadvisor all holding travel companies responsible for their services, the power of the people to demand quality treatment is now no longer an option, but an expectation. Many of the international airlines now have their own apps, used to track flights, hold your electronic tickets, and play in-flight entertainment. And despite the great use of this new technology, many companies still cannot uphold basic travel necessities.
According to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, while keeping the technical team happy, United was seriously lacking in its customer service: “In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, United was responsible for 43 percent of all consumer complaints filed against U.S. airlines.”
“In 2012 and early 2014, when American Airlines Group, Delta Air Lines, and Southwest Airlines reported large, and in some cases, record profits, “the new United” lost money.” “There were layoffs, furloughs, and baggage handling and gate agent jobs were outsourced. Former Continental employees say they’d been discouraged from giving out vouchers to placate unhappy customers who had been bumped from their flights, though United says they hadn’t been.” (Bloomberg)
As a service-based company, I’m actually surprised customer satisfaction wasn’t first on United’s to-do list. They are still in the process of removing the tarnished image of poor service. What that tells me is that their profit was number one priority, and that’s what killed their customer satisfaction. Furthermore, the three CEOs in 2011 resigned, not fired.
As Drucker says, some CEOs/innovators are “kissed by the Muses”, and these brilliant ideas seem to happen out of nowhere, but true innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If I’ve learned anything from my Consumer Behavior marketing class, there’s literally not enough information you can collect about your market in order to make the perfect business plan.
As Twitter continues to grow as an outlet for customer frustration and therefore an influential factor to public opinion, airlines are forced to update and increase their customer service. American Airlines is one of the top airline companies, both in sales and in customer satisfaction. Perhaps what makes American so successful is their ability to cater to the most basic human need food. “American hopes to make long waits a little easier for passengers with a new test program at New York’s JFK Airport that brings free food to delayed customers.” (Star Telegram) Providing exceptional customer services is no longer a nicety for airlines; it has become a standard.
With something as simple as providing food to frustrated customers, maybe fancy apps aren’t needed. Behind-the-scenes support doesn’t matter as much to the public as results, on-time arrivals, and personable staff do to the consumer. Nothing will always go right, but it has been shown time and time again that if compassion is shown to the customer, client— whomever you are servicing— any inconveniences are seen as minimal and company reputation remains intact. In a world where everyone’s a critic, and everyone can see those reviews, it doesn’t matter if a company is providing the latest and greatest technological innovation. “Innovate for the present”, Drucker says. United could definitely learn something from him.

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In the early 1900s, Sociologist Max Weber lectured in the University of Vienna from his papers of Politics as a Vocation. In it, he outlined his personal ideal types for political leadership, something he called the tripartite classification of authority: charismatic, traditional, and legal. Weber defines authority as only being legitimate if those subjected to it effectively recognize it. Within the three classifications, each type of leader must master the necessary avenues of legitimacy in order for their rule to continue.

Drucker was aggressively and unnecessarily condescending to the HR representative. While yes, being a responsible leader is much more than have a charismatic attitude, it is impossible to separate leadership and charisma. While a leader’s type of charisma might not be the “shmoozy” or “smooth-talker” type, one can also be engaging and electric, impossible to ignore. Charisma, as I see it, is the ability to turn people to your cause, however that may be. Furthermore, it’s something that cannot be overlooked and Weber agrees.

As part of his charismatic authority (also known as charismatic domination), Weber states that this is one of the most difficult forms of authority to maintain because all of the leader’s power is entirely dependent on the collective followers’ belief that the leader is simply just powerful. His accomplishments and/or actual power is inconsequential, and it’s entirely built upon the perception of strength. Which is why, in a cult of personality, an active media campaign and propaganda is critical to the continued success of the (often times) dictator.

As Drucker mentioned before, communication is all about perception. If a Kim Jong Il-type figure announces to his nation of followers that they are in fact the most powerful nation in the world, and that is what the audience is expecting to hear, why wouldn’t it be believed?

However, this type of authority is often most dangerous to cult-of-personality figures for two reasons: 1) often, theirs is not a lasting legacy by the very nature of their authority and 2) they are unable to accept the rest of conditions of being a leader.

Because the authority is based on perceived achievements, generally after the death of the figure, the power is immediately disbursed because there is no possible way for the successor (if there is one named) to absorb the same “divinity” of the original leader. This is why traditional authority (sources of authority for a monarchy) and legal rational domination (power given by ownership of legal office) tend to be much more stable when designing a power structure.

I believe that the defining factor of a leader, not just someone who holds the ability to harm or help others, is someone who accepts responsibility. While work and trust are important, I think first acknowledging all success AND FAILURES are due large in part to the execution and design of the leader should be first in foremost. If that were a widely recognized factor, then I think there would be a significant drop in the global volley for a position of authority.

Power is alluring. But responsibility for the safety, health, and success of those whom you lead is often less so. And those qualified to fulfill the role of leader— not those who forcefully take it— dwindle the numbers even further

 

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(these chapters resonated with me like a tuning fork so we’re gonna go a little crazy on this one, but bear with me. Being a good human person is a pretty good thing to do, and nonprofit work is my jam, so just sit back, get a soda, and read on.)

 

I’ll be completely honest: these are the two chapters (so far) that have held the most importance for me, my future, and just general interest. I’m SO glad Drucker included the “business” of non-profit work in his book on management, for a lot of reasons. But before I jump right in, I really want to focus on his integration of management into this chapter.

Of course, this whole book aims to reflect management in all its forms, generally through the lense of some aspect of business. But his direct reference of management (in my opinion) expands a little bit past the previous messages/meanings of management he’s been discussing in previous chapters. It is almost as if he’s revealed more about management in a passing gesture than he has attempted to do directly. This is the quote:

“But they [the nonprofits] also realize that good intentions are no substitute for organization and leadership, for accountability, performance, and results. Those things require management and that, in turn, begins with the organization’s mission.”

Up til now Drucker has imposed upon the reader that management is an act of all-seeing, professional wisdom that some, whom understand the game properly, can rise up to achieve. In a sense, managers swivel their wheely chairs across the Black Lands of Office Space, looking for improvement and ways to make their company more efficient. While my allusion here is a little extreme, managers (as we all believe) are Lords of their domain, and we, the half-lings, run back and forth trying to stay out of their gaze. However, here, in this quote above, it becomes apparent that management is often just a manager who is, more often than not, human, who held accountable for their actions, performance, and positive and negative results as they align with the overall company goal.

While this might not seem like a revelation to some, the idea that a manager can literally be anyone, and often times, it is a human touch to an enterprise that is the revolutionary act– that is what’s surprising. Which leads me to my next point:

There is no secret formula to success, other than listening to your customer, and in that regard, your fellow human. What fascinates me about the human condition is that when we are determined to be always, and forever, right– when clear data suggests otherwise. The “hoax” surrounding global warming comes to mind. When someone steps aside, however, and lets a “subordinate” generate ideas, success tends to be mind-blowing. If anyone has seen Deadpool recently, and the exquisite rendition of the Marvel character that team put together, then you know what I’m talking about.

In recent years, the definition of the bottom line has expanded into the triple bottom line to include two other things that had been horrifyingly left out of the business model: profits AND planet AND PEOPLE. While it’s easy to blame the Supreme Court’s decision in 1919 that Ford motors did in fact owe a responsibility to its shareholders as the reason for focusing on profits more than the people who create and survive from those products, the simple fact is that greed is an overwhelming force. So much so that corporate social responsibility is being treated with awe, and respect, and praise, when in reality, it’s literally just people with bigger hats and shinier name plates being nicer to those who don’t.

That’s what I mean when I say it in fact is a revelation that managers are just people too because we’ve been conditioned to believe that big business is a terrible empire of the Dark, and while what they’re doing to the planet is terrible, there really isn’t much to be done to stop it. But when we chose to believe that the everyday person– a volunteer, a priest, a convict– can actually do something to shake up the status quo, well, hey, the nameless troopers are suddenly John Boyega* with his big smile and purple suit– and not so unchangeable after all.

Institutions with a lot of control operate with fear. Nonprofits aim to combat fear in all its many forms: starvation, sickness, disease, war, etc. However, a commitment to management, organization (yes, that means color coordinated calendars), and leadership are things that make a company (or anyone) successful, financially or otherwise.

But it is a respect for your fellow human being creates legacy, for which you will always be remembered.

 

*John Boyega is Finn, the rebel Stormtrooper in the new Star Wars movie. He’s a very nice human being, and yes, he wore a purple suit to one of the launches of TFA.

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As we move onward towards graduation, it is a natural reflex to look back on the journey we have taken to reach this moment in our lives. The fear that haunts me most often is whether or not my younger self would be proud of where I am, of who she became. Before etiquette, and responsibility, and creative limitations molded our growth, as children we were probably the most genuinely ourselves as we ever will be again. This being said, I occasionally worry that little Taylor Covington would be pleased with my decision to enter into business, because growing up, that was the furthest thing from what I thought I wanted to do. While I don’t see myself running a Fortune 500 company even as I’ve grown older, my initial rejection of the business mindset is probably perplexing given that the majority of my family acts within the industry. My father was in sales. My mom is a Director at Emerson Process Management. And my uncle, my grizzly-bear-like, conservative, Broncos-loving uncle, runs both a jewelry supply store and a school for making jewelry out of Boulder, Colorado. That is pretty much my only connection to entrepreneurship and that’s where the focus of this post is headed.

For years, that same loud, chatty, Taylor Covington would wander around her uncle’s supply store, touching rocks and gold chains, daring my brother to poke one of the sculpting blades. Back then, I knew he had graduated from the University of Texas with an Arts degree, specializing in metalworking. My house is STILL littered with shapes of jade curved into bizarre shapes and smoothed to a shine. He moved out to Colorado when he was still young and from there began making his own unique brand of jewelry. My mom often forced him to go out and sell his items at trade shows— and yes, he did extremely well.

From there, he founded The Naga Tools & Supplies in 1976 about twenty minutes from his house. It was a small shop, providing high-quality material. It eventually expanded backward, creating more space for storage and display cases. It now has a functioning website where you can place orders, track your order, and find what you’re looking for by brand or by function. Currently, it has become the largest resource of tools and supplies in all of Colorado.

About 10 years ago, he and his second wife officially opened the Denver School of Metal Arts, just next door to The Naga. Darlene, my aunt, runs the school mostly while my uncle prefers the work of the shop. There are over twenty instructors, teaching metalsmithing, workshopping around specific technics, and intensive casting procedures.

He still lives in the same house he has for the past twenty years. He still drives the same car, barring any repairs, and still shops and eats at the same stores.

These descriptions are not meant to brag or bore; it is simply worth noting that entrepreneurship comes in many different packages. I doubt my uncle knows the first thing about “the toll-gate strategy” or how to be the “fustest with mostest”, but it’s impossible to ignore his success and growth from just a shop-owner to an educator. So while I’m certainly not discounting Drucker’s formulas for success, I think the majority of what he is suggesting can be boiled down to a simple statement: “see a need, fill a need.” My uncle began by doing what he loved. He had— and still has— no desire to become a supply store mogul. But by listening to the customers, by going to conventions and meeting people one-at-at-a-time, my uncle undoubtedly made a lasting positive impression on the community. So if I one day follow my uncle’s footsteps and end up impacting my community in an authentic way, I’m pretty sure Little TC would be just fine.

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There is a psychological phenomenon called Baader-Meinhof, and I bet you twenty-bucks someone tells you about this same phenomenon within the week. Am I a weak psychic? Unfortunately, no. But I am backed by science: the phenomenon occurs when you learn about something new and interesting (either a person, place, or fact) and suddenly, out of the blue, you hear it again. It has something to do with synchronicity and the brain’s ability to selective attention, but honestly, all I’m feeling is that the universe wants me to understand I am graduating in the adult, career-driven world in less than four months— and it wants me to understand it VERY clearly.

When that time comes, the training wheels that have been knocking along steadily beside me are going to be thrown off and it’s time to ride or die. At that point, despite the overflow of emotional, physical, and mental sludge of the past year, I’ve really got only three questions to answer: What are my strengths? How do I preform? What do I value?

Thanks, Drucker.

The past couple of days it seems those are the only questions I’ve been presented with from the universe. When I think I’ve come to the answer of at least one of those questions, they all get tossed right back at me, my internal response clearly not the right one. So we turn to the internet for answers.

According to the Via Survey, my top five strengths are:

  1. Humor
  2. Love of Learning
  3. Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
  4. Kindness
  5. Social Intelligence

While my top five lowest strengths are:

  1. Humility
  2. Bravery
  3. Forgiveness
  4. Prudence
  5. Spirituality

When I first read the results, my immediate, unconscious thought was, “wow, I’m a golden retriever.”

But too often, I think being a happy person is viewed as being ignorant, or being kind is some sort of weakness. In true Baader-Meinhof form, it’s been made apparently clear to me that for both myself and in relationships with others, I have high expectations. “Knowledge workers,” Drucker says,” do not have good human relations because they have a ‘talent for people’ [but because] they focus on contribution in their own work and in their relationships with others.”

What do I contribute to humanity?

Even the ones lower on the list, I still find true. I am an incredibly proud person and I’d like to think that when it comes down to it, I would make the right decision. But isn’t that what we all assume? (If you’ve ever doubted your label as a good person, read The Spire by William Golding. He’s got humanity figured out.)

Graduation is quickly approaching and desperately, as I’m sure we all are, trying to answer the question: who am I? And more over, am I outstanding?

“For knowing where one belongs makes ordinary people— hard-working, competent, but mediocre otherwise— into outstanding performers.”

In all due respect to the VIA survey, I believe one of my greatest strengths is curiosity, about this world and everyone in it. I perform best when I’ve got something to lose, especially if it’s the respect of others. I value loyalty, compassion, and honesty. I value happiness, and bravery in the face of adversity.

I fear mediocrity. And I fear living without a plan. Truth be told, a VIA survey about what you fear the most would be much more entertaining. Haunting, sure, but as professionals, we all must understand our limitations— and what’s more paralyzing than fear?

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If you have access to a television, a computer, or occasionally scavenge Twitter in hopes that Zayn Malik will notice that you’ve retweeted his new video over five hundred times, then you’re probably heard that artist B.o.B believes, and continues in the face of all reason, logic, and scientific proof, that world is in fact flat. In a matter of hours this story has gone “viral”— a term that has taken on a new, electronic opposed to organic meaning— and everyone, even Neil DeGrasse Tyson, has attempted to convince the rapper otherwise. Teachers everywhere have resorted to heavy drinking, sniffing paint, and straight up popping acid to combat the guilt for the failings of our education system in this country. However, had this been the 90s and every personal, idiotic thought could be kept to the minds of those who think them, we would have all lived our lives assuming B.o.B wasn’t a special kind of moron. This aggressive portrayal of ignorance never would have been possible without the advent of two things: 1) the internet and 2) a globalized community.

When you make chowder, you have to be careful about how much milk you add, or else the mix would become too thick. Too little, and you’ve just got soup. Too much, and the whole thing is a disaster. That is the effects of having our leaders— our managers— having access to this globalized community with a megaphone as big as the internet, and being horrifically stupid. As it stands now, should one economy fail, all of us are screwed, and it’s up to managers to be aware and accountable for these actions.  “Few [have] yet [to] accept [management] as a social function,” claims Peter Drucker, renowned management consultant. “But it is precisely because management has become so pervasive as a social function that it faces its most serious challenge. To whom is management accountable? And for what? On what does management base its power? What gives it legitimacy?”

Peter Drucker worked for over sixty years in various positions and from his experience, wrote several books, taught several classes, and founded many academic institutional programs centered around the elusive concept of management. Well-deserved, he is known as the founder of modern management, and despite all of his teachings, many still miss the point. In our world today, it seems anyone can be an executive if you talk loud enough, and if you make the company stacks and stacks of cold cash, well, damn, you’re hired for sure! But both of those personas negate Drucker’s own concept of management: “Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”

What I find most interesting about this new “network of connection” is that humanity choses to remain as erratic individuals, instead of one, integrated culture. Shouldn’t we understand by now that there is a large chance that if you found Nyah Cat hilarious in 2007, your Muslim neighbor would as well? Cats are cats, and cats are funny, and the Pepe meme is not a Western conglomeration of our humor, but the very depiction of every dark, weird, nonsensical, chaos-worshipping chip that makes up our collective human soul?

Maybe that’s not what Drucker intended, but at least he was well aware of the real-life effects of managers being effective or ineffective, and how being an idiot and a leader— even a well-known public figure— can have very serious detrimental effects to our society.

“The result of a hospital is a healed patient. The result of a school is a student who has learned something and puts it to work ten years later. Inside an enterprise, there are only costs.”

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2/2/11

Then I saw it.

A giant armoire in the back of the attic. I heard scuffles of feet running on the floor below me. It was now or never. With my heart pounding in my throat, I navigated over chests, picture frames, boxes and cable wire. Going over around a stack of boxes that touched the ceiling, I hit a lamp. I watched with horror as it toppled over. The thud it made was unmistakable; clearly something had fallen over in the attic. The scrambling downstairs stopped. I had minutes, maybe seconds. My knees buckled with anxiety and fear. My hands fumbled with door and my shoe scuffed the bottom of the armoire as I climbed inside.

Continue reading On Edge

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