I liked him immediately. I just wanted to be around him. I still do.
Katie Prestemon, On Meeting Her Husband
Entirely unaccustomed to alcohol, Chris Prestemon turned 21, drank one and a quarter beers and had to be driven home by his fellow church intern and future wife, Katie. Chris had been cultivating a colossal crush on Katie for months, the kind of crush you can only have the summer you turn 21. Emboldened by the evening’s very modest revelry, Chris decided to tell her how he felt.
“I just kind of launched into it and told her how much I liked her. Then I kind of rambled and got way off topic. I was super into gorillas at the time, so I started rattling off a lot of gorilla facts,” he explains, as if that’s a common thing to do. “She just got very quiet and dropped me off.”
It’s a story that paints Chris as an off-putting, if not endearing, oddball. It’s also immediately disputed by Katie, who is listening to our conversation.
“That’s not how it went at all,” she breaks in. I am interviewing Chris over the phone on a Sunday afternoon and she’s in the room. “He was so sweet. I wasn’t quiet because I didn’t like him back. I was quiet because I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to say because… because… I mean, how often does that happen? How often does the one person that you like so much just out of nowhere confess that they like you too? I couldn’t believe it.”
In spite of the gorilla facts or maybe because of them, Chris and Katie began seeing each other. They had their first official date over pizza and talked for so long, they had to be asked to leave. Since they were already friends, they knew each other’s answers to the standard issue, boilerplate first date questions. Instead, their conversations were more probative, more intense. They dissected each other’s insecurities and Chris admitted to feeling adrift.
Having first hand experience being a listless twentysomething, it would almost be weirder if, at 21, Chris was well adjusted and confident. Hearing him tell this story, I realized there’s nothing unusual about feeling a little out of place in your early 20s, but being self-aware enough to know your ennui is typical almost makes it worse.
“I knew I couldn't do anything related to math. I knew I couldn't draw. I knew I couldn’t be a developer or anything with computers. I knew a guy who was a copywriter, and when he described the job to me, I couldn't believe that was a real thing. I always liked the idea of persuading people and being creative at work, but I didn’t have any formal writing training. In the end, I convinced myself that I could make it up as I went along.”
Chris Prestemon, On Choosing a Career
Earlier last year, I was struggling to write a long-form article and in desperate need of substantive direction. “Maybe talk to Chris?” was the exasperated suggestion from my ACD. No longer the self-doubting eccentric (or at least no longer self-doubting), Chris Prestemon, now Senior Content Writer at Paradowski, had developed into a thoughtful and talented creative force.
I interrupted him from whatever more important thing he was doing and he graciously talked to me for the better part of an hour. He sent me a few of his pieces to illustrate some of his suggestions. Reading his work, I was jealous, humbled, and inspired—in that order.
As writers in this industry, our goal isn’t to cultivate a personal style. We adopt the voice of the brand and we explore the nuance of its personality. Chris does this with an expert’s grace. He disappears into a perspective and builds a compelling narrative devoid of any individual editorializing. His writing resembles the inside of a clock. Each word appears simple and unadorned, but is meticulously chosen. The result is a bold story made with a spartan structural economy. Every element clicks and works in concert for the designed impact.
With this kind of ability comes an inevitable downside. Chris now suffers my endless requests for help whenever I’m stuck.
“I remember being obsessed with things for short spurts. When I was nine or ten, I got obsessed with the Olympics. One day I put on an Olympics games for all the neighborhood kids in my yard. The next day, I never thought about it again. I've always liked cooking, so there was a time I got really into making cakes. I would literally make a cake every night of the week. It was the fattest I’d ever been.”
Chris Prestemon, On Passion
When people under 30 want to get into shape, they start jogging or sign up for a Crossfit class. Chris swims. It’s an odd activity especially for someone who once told me his greatest fear was being seen shirtless.
“You want me to say something artsy about the water, right?” He responds when I ask what drew him to swimming. “I crave stimulation. I’m always listening to music or a podcast. I can’t do that in the pool. The isolation is good for me. When you’re running or lifting weights, you’re confronted with the reality of doing those things. When I’m swimming, I can trick myself into thinking I’m flying.”
The gray, early winter Sunday has yawned into darkness outside my window. I’m still talking with Chris and Katie even though I’ve been out of questions for a while. We’re discussing how we both used to watch SNL reruns on Comedy Central and which t-shirt company is most closely associated with UFC (he says Tapout, I say Affliction). Katie is telling me how she convinced Chris, once an avid pet hater, to not just get a dog, but a puppy.
We’re joking around and laughing until we both realize this could go on for hours and there are Sunday evening adult responsibilities to attend to.
We say our goodbyes and hang up, but not before I blurt out “I think of you as my real friend, not just my work friend.” It’s an abruptly effusive outburst but Chris doesn’t hesitate to reciprocate. It reminds me that as much as he describes himself as a curmudgeonly loner, Chris Prestemon (never just Chris, always Chris Prestemon) is a man of extraordinary talent and limitless kindness.