LAKE ÉTOILE DÉCLINANTE, ILLINOIS — Phillip Fillmore, a lifelong resident of his sleepy midwestern hometown, in a small midwestern town, recently sat down and wrote some of his friends and loved ones a heartfelt letter, thanking them for being so supportive and encouraging of him. Fillmore has spent the better part of his 42 years on Earth trying to find a career as a premiere carpenter and wood-based artisan. In his letter, Phillip thanks his friends for their years of “undying loyalty, support, and friendship, even in the darkest times of self-doubt or pity.”
But he also wrote in his letter that, perhaps, his friends are “really, really bad judges of human potential.”
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“Friends, I’m over 40 and have yet to be recognized as a master craftsman, or even much more than an amateur word worker, let alone the cream of the carpenter crop,” Phillip wrote, “which makes me think if you guys are all just really, really bad judges of human potential. Maybe I have sucked for pretty much the whole time I’ve tried to be a carpenter and none of you had the heart to tell me to my face. Which, of course, makes you amazing friends, but again, amazing friends with absolutely terrible instincts for who has the potential to really make in this world.”
Over the course of the 22 years he’s tried in vain to reach the top of the carpenter game, Fillmore has certainly had his triumphs. Friends and local businesses have hired him for the odd job here or there, and they are “mostly pretty happy” with his work, he told us in a Skype interview. However, he’s also never “gotten the call to the big leagues of word working,” either. He’s never been called with a job offer from a major carpentry firm, and he says that the times he has put himself out there and submitted a portfolio of his work, he’s been rejected.
“God knows I’ve tried, I really have. And every time I make a new spice rack or bookshelf for my friends, they tell me how amazing it is,” Phillip tells us as he finishes sanding a piece of wood for a project. “They all tell me that any day now, I’ll get the call. Someone will see one of my creations and decide they have to have me at their design firm or woodshop. But, I mean, who am I kidding? Maybe I’m just shitty and my friends don’t have the heart to tell me, know what I mean?”
Fillmore says he doesn’t think his friends are trolling him or being sarcastic in their praise of his work. He just thinks they may have inflated senses of their own ability to judge someone’s potential. He takes it as a source of pride that his friends believe in him, he says, but he thinks it may be time to “throw in the towel and admit some hard truths.”
“Maybe it’s just time for me to turn off my jigsaw and hang up my sawhorse once and for all,” Fillmore said. “I could possibly go get a job at Blockbuster, or Toys R Us or something. I bet they’re still hiring. They’re always hiring. It’s probably better working there than continually trying to prove to the world I have potential to live up to. I’m just tired of deluding myself, and I want to let my friends off the hook.”
Jane Jansen, a friend of Phillip’s for over 25 years, thinks he’s “just being too hard on himself.”
“I mean, don’t get me wrong, Phillip is a fucking LOSER on a lot of levels,” Jane said, “but he’s our loser, and just because he can’t seem to tie his shoes without getting his dick stuck in his zipper, metaphorically speaking, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have marketable skills. He just hasn’t gotten his big break yet. Phil needs to just pick himself up, dust himself off, and keep trying.”
Phillip says Jane’s words are “insightful and true,” but he still thinks “she might just be being nice” to him.
“Jane’s sweet. And she’s right, I’m a fuckin’ loser on a lot of levels, but maybe she’s just not an expert in human potential,” Phillip said, “just like I’m clearly not an expert in carpentry. Then again none of my friends are carpenters, so maybe that’s what this is all about…mutual ignorance.”
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Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook, Spotify, and Instagram, but not Twitter because Twitter is a cesspool.