Sorry, my crystal ball is broken right now

crystal ballI’ve never been a long-term thinker. I visibly cringe during job interviews when I get the clichéd and dreaded, “So…tell me…where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

I have no idea. There are just about one bazillion factors that could change where I see myself in 5 years. If I win the Powerball, I’ll probably be in some bungalow up in Seattle, looking out on the ocean and working with a pet rescue. If I get hit by a bus and have to learn how to walk again, I might be living with my parents, having been abandoned by a husband who was supposed to stick with me in sickness and in health. If life goes on status quo, I’ll probably be right here, glued to a computer screen and working 60 hours a week.

The point is, who knows?

Sure, there are a lot of steps we can take to steer our future in the direction in which we’d like it to go. But I’ve never been good about thinking much farther beyond my next meal.

When my family finally embraced technology beyond caller ID and we got our first AOL account, I decided to set up an email address so that I could hear the echoes of “You’ve got mail” permeate through our house and see what the big hub bub was all about.

tom hanks in you've got mail

A username that will be associated with me the next 10 years? What the hell, let’s go with the first thing that pops into my head.

I pressed the computer’s “on” button, went and swam 10 laps in our swimming pool, came back to the computer room, clicked to dial up the internet, went and did 30 minutes of Tae Bo with Billy Blanks, took a leisurely shower, and then returned to the computer room just as the internet connection was established.

Seriously, how did we survive the 90’s?

steve urlel family matters

The 90s…a time of glory and horror.

Of course, during the hour of waiting to dial up, I didn’t spend a hot second thinking about what my screen name and email address should be. My friends had all gotten playful with their accounts and had handles like Jennifurby4eva and shit like that.

Furby and cats

I had no idea what email address to create, I just knew that it could never be something as boring as my And really, what did it matter what I called myself? I just needed to get online and set up my account immediately so that I could join chat rooms or whatever it was that people were doing on the interwebs. It’s not like I was making some major life decision, like picking out a dress for prom or naming my Build-a-Bear.

I decided to combine a song from my favorite rock band and add on my favorite number. Voila, an AOL screen name was born.

And, in true, non-thinking-ahead fashion, I spelled it wrong.

Let’s say it was supposed to be “favorite67.” Well, I spelled it favourite67. With a u. Like I had momentarily stroked out and transformed into a Britophile or something.

Now, this misspelling wouldn’t have been so bad if it’d only been my AOL screen name. But of course it didn’t stop there. It probably took me a solid few weeks to even realize that I’d spelled it wrong. And once I did, I can imagine I gave a half shrug, said “whatever” and emailed my friends about going out to the bar to see the best local band ever instead of seeing if the proper spelling was available.

Pretty much every internet site I signed up for over the next 10 years required a username. Of course, I used my AOL email handle for all of those, too. My username is tucked into every cobwebbed corner of the internet, tied to me for eternity. Spelled wrong, everywhere, like I’m on the road to becoming a Darwin award winner rather than a bright, esteemed graduate of a highly competitive college. Who minored in English.

This misspelled atrocity was the email address that perched itself at the top of all the résumés I sent out. It was the first thing prospective employers saw about me. And I was so arrogant indifferent about this that I never bothered to change it.

The first job I landed out of school was proofreading and editing ads for a national magazine. Then, with that same résumé, I landed a job as a website editor for a local radio station. In fact, for one job I was interviewing for, our initial conversation went like this:

Interviewer: So, I have to ask…

(I braced myself for the “where do you see yourself in five years” question.)

…are you a Pearl Jam fan?

Me: Um, yes, have we met before?

(I racked my brain for all the humiliating Elaine Benes-like dancing I’ve subjected thousands of strangers to at PJ shows.)


Interviewer: No, I actually noticed your email address and wondered if you picked that because of a Pearl Jam song.

I left knowing that I’d only landed the interview because the hiring manager was as much a fan of the band as I was. It was weird, and it made me think that it might be time to get a new email address. For every PJ fan out there, there are probably a lot of haters.

Nobody ever called me out on the misspelling of my email address. I guess the moral of the story is: most people are terrible spellers. And you never know what a person is going to respond to on your résumé.

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