What This Guy Wants

A newsroom. I was in my mid-twenties. Unruly red hair. Big nose. A necktie that was suffocating me. Don’t ask me how, but I had a job interview. I was pure nerves.

I had no business being there. But then, I have a well-documented history of being in places I shouldn’t be.

“No journalism degree?” the editor said, squinting at my resume which read like a Hardee’s breakfast menu.

“No ma’am.”

“So, what’s your degree in?”

I explained that, at the time, I was in my ninth year of community college. And I was showing true potential as a promising liberal arts major.

“Aren’t you a little old to be applying?” she said. “What exactly do you want?”

It paralyzed me. I didn’t know how to answer. She waited. I made no human-like sounds. She asked me to leave.

Goodnight John Boy. Thanks for playing.

I loosened my necktie. I ordered three tacos from a Mexican dive downtown. The tacos came doused in a red sauce that would forever burn the protective lining from my lower gastrointestinal tract.

I sat on a curb. What DID I want?

I saw a group of young men, walking the street, wearing suits and neckties. They did not look like me. They were cleancut, perfect teeth.

They probably had vocabularies which did not contain words like, “y’all,” and “twelve-pack.”

I was interrupted.

Across the street, I saw a young woman struggling to lift a wheelchair from her trunk. I offered to help. She asked if I’d lift her sister from the vehicle and place her into the chair. I did. I sort of had to bear-hug her sister to lift her out of the passenger seat.

And this did something to me. I discovered what I wanted.

And I’ll share it with you, if I may:

First: I want my friends to feel important. I want children to feel loved—all children. I want dogs to follow me for no reason. I want my mother to be proud.

I want to fish during the summer. I want to go entire decades without washing my truck. I want to leave my family in better shape than I found them.

I want to notice anyone who feels invisible. I want to make sad people laugh. Hurting people smile. I want to eat too much peanut butter.

I want to meet kids who’ve lost fathers—just like I lost mine. I want to tell them that there’s life after death.

I want pop-stars to get less money. I want kids with cancer to get more. I want young folks to know that success is a myth. I want people who claim they’ve attained success to stop trying to claim to the world that they’ve attained success.

I want my funeral to be well attended. I want it to be a bonfire party, a baseball game, and I want my friends to eat barbecue.

That day, I want people to sip beer and say to themselves, “Wasn’t he a mess?”

I’ve always wanted to be a “mess.”

And not that you care about this, but I’m no journalist. The truth is, most of the time I don’t know what the hell I am.

But I do know what I want. I want to hug people instead of shaking hands. I want to be someone who treats the homeless like royalty. I want to help women lift heavy wheelchairs.

I want you to know that your life matters. I want to be the one who puts those words into writing.

And most of all…

I never want to wear another necktie again.


  1. grantburris - January 13, 2020 7:34 am

    That was another good one, Sean. I liked it. I don’t know why but I know it made me feel good. Thanks.

  2. Sharon Brock - January 13, 2020 7:39 am

    There is a line from the Wizard of Oz which perfectly describes your life: it is not how much you love but how much you are loved by others. And you are Sean. Oh and apropos of nothing at all, I feel the same way about pantyhose as you do about neckties.

  3. Steve Winfield - January 13, 2020 7:58 am

    I’m pretty close with the dogs & I know you are too. Some dogs got an attitude though. Probably ain’t their fault but they do. They’ll usually come around if you give them enough time.
    You’ve got me on the eating though. My weight dances around 128-133 so I’m not a big eater like you. I love to eat, just not that much at once. I love good biscuits & I make some fine ones. Sausage gravy & catheads served here a few times a month. Plates are always cleaned & I never have to call ’em to the table twice. I try to leave 1/2 a dozen & enough gravy for the kid to have breakfast before school all week. I hope her class mates are being treated as well.
    I love you bunches. Maybe one day you can have a meal here. Chicken & dumplins. Collard greens w/ smoked neck bones. Cornbread and biscuits. And a whole stick of soft butter.

  4. GaryD - January 13, 2020 10:30 am

    You may not think you’re a “journalist” but you’re even better, Sean. You’re a good man.

  5. Elizabeth - January 13, 2020 11:14 am

    A life well lived!

  6. MJ - January 13, 2020 11:38 am


  7. Leigh Amiot - January 13, 2020 11:41 am

    I agree with GaryD, a good story teller is even better than a journalist. Many of those aren’t so trustworthy these days, but I can trust these little dabs of water which tried to escape my eyes after reading this. I’ve got a list to make along this line; this type list is way more valuable than resolutions. Perhaps the reason so many fail to follow their New Year’s resolutions is they are most often about self. Your list is mostly about others.

  8. Leigh Amiot - January 13, 2020 11:43 am

    P.S. You’re a mess. A fine, loving mess.

  9. Steve Scott - January 13, 2020 11:50 am

    And the choir said “Amen and amen!” You have found what success really is. It took me longer to figure it out. Out of all I have accomplished in 77 years, I think my greatest is that my children and grandchildren are kind. Finally meeting Sean and Jamie is pretty far up on the list too.

  10. Charles Mathers - January 13, 2020 12:17 pm

    Hot damn! I never knew I had a twin brother!!! Except of course for the red hair and age. I am twice as old and am snowy white! Preach it brother Sean! Preach it loud!!!

  11. Rhonda Porter - January 13, 2020 12:20 pm

    You make me smile and feel better. I hope you get everything you want. Hugs!

  12. Denise DeVries - January 13, 2020 12:28 pm

    This is one of your besT yet Sean. I love all your words, but this one hit home. I am a hugger an.v d self confidence builder. The ability to give.

  13. Jackie Keeling - January 13, 2020 1:02 pm

    I look so forward to being with you and my coffee every morning. You always bring a smile to my face. Sending you a hug, Sean. (( 😀 ))

  14. Anne Arthur - January 13, 2020 1:09 pm

    I am happy you are no journalist because that job would stifle your exceptional talent and rob us all of this blog. Keep going, keep writing, keep loving – and yes, I am happy you discarded the necktie.

  15. Barbara Sullivan - January 13, 2020 1:15 pm

    Love you and you blog! Nailed it!

  16. Phil S. - January 13, 2020 1:16 pm

    Another classic. You are a good Boy Scout. Said it before, but bears repeating: in the immortal words of the late, great Jerry Clower, “BE (short pause) YOSELF!” Would you please run for president?
    And now, the Scout Benediction: “May the Great Scoutmaster, who watches over all good scouts, be with you until we meet again.”

  17. Jimpa - January 13, 2020 1:28 pm

    When I grow up (I’m 72), I want to be like Sean.

  18. Jo Ann - January 13, 2020 1:44 pm

    You have reached your goal, Sean, you *are* a mess! But, what a great mess, one we would all aspire to be & would like to meet. Thanks, Sean.

  19. Allison Cobb Gilmore - January 13, 2020 1:47 pm

    Sean, sometimes your columns make me smile, sometimes they make me laugh out loud, and sometimes they make me cry. But your writing always makes me think and always makes me want to be a better person. ,

  20. Peggy Savage - January 13, 2020 1:49 pm

    Being a journalist is no big deal. But touching the hearts of others through your writing is a really big deal. You have a true gift that brings joy and love to all who read your thoughts. Thank you for sharing your gift.

  21. Susan Reese - January 13, 2020 1:52 pm

    You are a bright spot Every morning!

  22. Lita - January 13, 2020 1:55 pm

    Being a mess rocks. Love from A Mess.

  23. Wanda - January 13, 2020 2:07 pm

    God bless you for making me feel hope & love.

  24. Shelton A. - January 13, 2020 2:15 pm

    You are a writer, and a dadgum good one, just not your everyday sort of writer. What you are is perfect for you. Lewis Grizzard would be proud.

  25. Larry Ratliff - January 13, 2020 2:56 pm

    Amen Brother! People spend a lifetime of either chasing their parents dream of what they want them to be or trying to become someone they’re not.
    Take me for example, adopted by my Great Aunt and Uncle, raised in P-cola, I had no asperations as far as I could tell, except for…. not to be like my father.
    My Aunt Sara would tell me all the time “I was turning out just like ole “Playboy Bob”. I guess it was some sort of affectionate term coined by my Aunt to describe my father. The only Playboys I knew of at that time lived in a mansion wearing these bunny ears and a cotton tail and I couldn’t figure out why my Dad would want to do that for a living. It turns out he just liked to drink and smoke and party all the time.
    The words children hear, if said long enough can form them and turn them into something there not. It happened to me, but I broke that mold placed on me, its not to say I didnt become like “Playboy Bob” for a short time in my life…… but I never “became” him. During my second hitch in the USAF, I decided to be me! Not some label placed on me, not what others expected me to be…….just plain Ole Me.

    Thanks Sean for all your insightful stories, I learn more about how I should be and lose a liitle more of the old me in the process

  26. Edna Barron - January 13, 2020 2:57 pm

    Sounds like you have met your goal, Sean. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  27. Sybil Smith - January 13, 2020 3:33 pm

    Today’s message of true love and care was one of your best.
    Love your ability to just be you.

  28. Anita Ryan - January 13, 2020 3:39 pm

    Loved this one, as always! What really caught me, was the illustrative rose…how did you make it bloomlike that?

  29. Jim Thomssen - January 13, 2020 3:41 pm

    Nicely said. I put 35+ years into the same job. I retired a year ago and have not really recovered yet. I to want to be helpful, kind and not wear any more times as well. I want to be a good neighbor. Shovel snow out of policemans driveways. (We live further north than you) I want to be a better husband than I’ve been in years past.

    Thanks for helping clarify some things. Now about those pop star salaries….

  30. Gale Smith - January 13, 2020 3:45 pm

    Success is getting paid to do what you do anyway….if you only had the money….money or not that makes you a success, Sean, and you are a mess, and a wonderful writer. You are also a blessing.

  31. Gail Young - January 13, 2020 3:56 pm

    Sean, you also make people better thinkers and writers. Most comments on writing are cliches, but your fans’ responses are gems!

  32. Tim House - January 13, 2020 4:06 pm

    Worthy goals, Sean! 🙂

  33. Joe Patterson - January 13, 2020 4:23 pm

    Thanks again happiness is success you are there

  34. Linda Anderson - January 13, 2020 4:34 pm

    Sean, you make this world a better place. God bless you!

  35. Connie Havard Ryland - January 13, 2020 4:38 pm

    You are the best kind of “mess”. You make us all better just by being who you are. And you give great hugs.

  36. Linda Moon - January 13, 2020 4:42 pm

    Young men with perfect teeth are highly over-rated. You, Sean, have a kindness that makes us, your readers, feel proud and noticed. And the “just like you” kids, know…..thank you for thinking of them. Messes like you with big hugs matter to me. Two someones I know and love who are twins turned 80 yesterday and had a SURPRISE BLOWOUT PARTAAY that rocked! And nobody wore a necktie! Stay tieless ,My Friend, and keep the words a’comin!!

  37. Becca in Columbiana - January 13, 2020 4:43 pm

    BEST EVER! Now I know how to respond to the same question! Thank you, Sean for my answer!
    God bless!

  38. KAT - January 13, 2020 4:55 pm

    Sean, You hit this one out of the ballpark! I’ve been feeling a bit invisible myself lately. Just retired from my job and kind of lost. But I’ll find a new purpose and I will make a difference in this world. I believe that a life well- lived is one that makes others feel noticed and that they matter. Yes, everyone can give themselves away to another.
    Thank you Sean, for always sharing your tender heart with us.

  39. Joyce Anne Bacon - January 13, 2020 5:03 pm

    I’m with you Sean. When I leave this world, I want to leave the people who knew me with pleasant memories of something I did to make their day brighter.

  40. Dee Cullen - January 13, 2020 5:08 pm

    Gosh Sean, we are so much alike!

  41. Kathy Selby Duncan - January 13, 2020 5:17 pm

    This may be my favorite yet! I am fairly new to your writings, but, after my morning devotional I immediately read you every morning! I’m old enough to be your mother, or possibly even your grandmother, but your heart is so on my level! Keep being real and, by all means, keep writing!

  42. Carol - January 13, 2020 5:37 pm

    Whoo hooo!!! Your a Mess !!
    Love ya!

  43. Robert Chiles - January 13, 2020 6:21 pm

    Come to my funeral. There’ll be beer and fried chicken.

  44. Patti A. Culp, CAE - January 13, 2020 6:26 pm

    Sean, I love what you want!! You’re a great guy , you’re a great husband, you have a great wife, and you are leaving a great legacy – your stories!
    Thank you!!

  45. Penny Johnson - January 13, 2020 6:30 pm

    Love this! That’s what I wanw too! Love your books and blogs! ❤️

  46. Harriet White - Atlanta - January 13, 2020 8:03 pm

    This was excellent. You’re not a fake journalist. You are an authentic writer who speaks from your heart!! I hope I can see you in Alabama at the Writers workshop. That would awesome. Peace out ya big mess!

  47. John Phil McLaney, Jr. - January 13, 2020 10:28 pm

    You could not have said it better.

  48. Charlotte - January 13, 2020 10:59 pm

    We would have a perfect world if everybody had those same ambitions! Thank you for inspiring your readers!

  49. Dawn Bratcher - January 14, 2020 12:42 am

    My heart burns in joining you in loving our fellow man. Forget excess & fame for one’s self. There are so many people right in our daily lives who could use some help! You are a Man after God’s own heart!

  50. Thomas Montgomery - January 14, 2020 1:46 am

    You have just described what happiness is all about ! If more people wanted to live their life in accordance with the TEN COMMANDMENTS and Boy Scout laws, we could all be happier and more safe !

  51. Jill Eckenrode - January 14, 2020 3:54 am

    I just love you. 😁

  52. Jon Dragonfly - January 14, 2020 5:14 am

    Yes, Holden, you want to be the catcher in the rye. (Don’t we all.)

  53. Patricia Gibson - January 14, 2020 6:29 pm

    Love you Jamie and I am so glad you are in my life!

  54. Janet Mary Lee - January 15, 2020 9:58 pm

    We are all coming, Steve!!

  55. Lori Carlisle - January 19, 2020 1:44 am

    Thank you for being a light Sean. This one was extra special.


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