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MIT staff blogger Kellen M.

An Origin Story by kellen manning

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Jinchūriki

I felt the sudden urge to write something tonight. I wasn’t sure what it would be, or what exactly to say, but I guess it’s always good to start at the beginning.

Now that I think about it, the beginning makes a lot of sense considering I’m in the middle of reading applications for students who are about to start a new chapter in their lives.

So, where’s my beginning? I guess it would be May 2010. I finished graduate school the semester before and had just completed my graduate assistantship, so it was high time for me to find a job and start my life. There was one problem: no one would hire me. Every response to my resume started with an apology chased by “Naah. We’re good around here. Keep it moving,” or something along those lines. I can’t remember the exact wording, because I was too busy drowning my sorrow and leftover stipend money in milkshakes from McDonald’s. These, my friends, were dark times.

It’s a bit unfair to say no one would hire me, because by August I had two job offers: part-time sales associate at Best Buy and part time building manager at a nursing home. Now, I was in no position to be picky. I took both.

There I was, me and my degrees, pouring coffee for the elderly and selling landline phones to the masses01 I'm old . I wasn’t the only one who noticed either. I remember during one particular dinner at the nursing home, I was pouring a “nice” lady’s coffee when she yelled to her friends, “HEY! This guy has a master’s degree and he’s pouring my coffee! Can you believe it?!” She must have noticed that the light in my eyes had started to diminish, so she patted me on the arm and said, “Don’t worry, son. I was talking to my sister and she said the person who mows the lawn at her facility also has a master’s degree.” That moment was the dark night of my soul.

While working those two jobs, I received several dozen rejection calls and emails for other jobs that I had applied for. The idea of failure was crushing and at times it felt like I couldn’t breathe. Add that to the fact that every time I went online I saw my peers living their absolute best lives. “How can they afford to do that?” I would ask myself. Every new Facebook photo felt like a million arrows to my heart.

My shift at the nursing home was 4:00 p.m.—midnight every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The interesting thing about the second shift was that most of the guests were asleep by 8:00 p.m., so, outside of the occasional lap around the building to make sure everything was okay, I had nothing to do.

Quick aside: The next revelation I had is why I think the question of “what do you do for fun?” is one of the most important things we ask on your application.

All right, back to what I was saying. As I was starting to figure out that I really didn’t have much to do at work, the kitchen chef said that after they closed, I could take anything that I wanted from the fridge. With this new greenlight, I developed a routine that would eventually guide me through those dark times:

  1. Get to work
  2. Check in with the director.
  3. Check in with co-workers.
  4. Help residents with dinner.
  5. Sit at the front desk and wait for everyone to retire to their rooms.
  6. Take a lap around the building to make sure everything was ok.
  7. Stop at the kitchen and grab some sort of cake or pie.
  8. Go back to the front desk, go to Hulu, and turn on…


That’s right! NARUTO! Ok, so I watched Naruto a bit in undergrad, but then I kind of fell out of touch once I started graduate school. A few months before this, my brother told me that the show had changed its name and skipped ahead several years. With this in mind, I decided to see what I had missed, and lo and behold, I was 150 episodes behind. As I said before, it’s always good to start at the beginning. Episode one. Play.

At that point I was hooked. Every work shift was the same: watch two episodes, go on a walk, watch two more episodes, go on another walk, watch two more episodes, go home, apply for eight jobs, go to sleep. This went on for months. As time passed, I witnessed Akatsuki stealing tailed beasts, taught myself to code, saw the beginning of the fourth great ninja war, learned more about graphic design, and saw the reformation of team 7. The best part was that I was no longer consumed by the fact that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I just wanted to see Naruto become Hokage.

And then, almost out of nowhere, I got a call back. The Boston University Alumni Association was looking for a temp to run their social media, website content, and email marketing. I did a phone interview and it went well. I did a Skype interview and that went well too. Actually, it went so well that they said they would give me an answer soon!

“Soon” came. My phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “We thought you were great, but I don’t feel comfortable making you move to Boston for a temporary position. Sorry, but we are going with a different candidate.” I don’t remember what was said after that, but I do remember everything going dark.

sad naruto

A few days passed, and I started thinking about Naruto and how he would have reacted in my situation. It would have been with positivity and belief in himself and belief in other people and screaming about his ninja way and how he would be Hokage someday. My version of this was sending a follow up email to the person who interviewed me at BU. I thanked them and asked them to keep me in mind for future positions. A few days later, I got a response. I had been invited to Boston to interview again because things hadn’t worked out with their previous hire.

shocked naruto


I’m already at 1000 words, so I’m going to do my own time skip past this part. Long story short, I got the job! It actually hinged on the time I spent teaching myself how to code. I guess looking back at it, the time between the end of my assistantship and when I started at BU wasn’t that long. It was about eight months, give or take. But, in the middle of it, it seemed to last forever.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m not a good enough writer to put that lesson into words. Maybe one of the other bloggers can do that for you in the comments. For now, I’ll just tell you that everything matters. Music, games, books, movies, shows, hobbies, whatever— they’re all important. Embrace them and embrace how they make you feel.

I’m not really good at endings, but I think I do remember hearing a certain blonde-haired ninja say that “failing doesn’t give you a reason to give up, as long as you believe.” I know. It’s a bit cheesy, but as someone who just told you that he spent most of his 20s watching Naruto, I can’t think of a better way to end this

Happy Naruto

  1. I'm old back to text