Perspective on Perspective
A week from today, my collection of lie essays, which I have titled, Thoughts I Wrote Down Because I Hate Talking to People will become available for free as an ebook. Though there are some reminiscences in the collection, it isn’t a memoir, per se.
I’ve joked about writing a memoir someday. I tell people that I’m not sure when that someday would be, but it would at least have to be after my life became interesting.
I did write a sort-of memoir once, if you stretch the term to its limit that is. It wasn’t published, and wasn’t intended to be. It relayed the experiences I had being a member of a cast of a play in college.
The play, the first full length production I was ever in, had in many ways been life-changing, or even life-affirming at the time. Not because of the script, (much of which we ourselves wrote) but because of the process. From start to finish it was about a sixth month process of workshopping, writing, editing, rehearsing, fighting and eventually bonding with one another. Or so I thought when it was happening, as people I didn’t like evolved into people I did like through work, through social activity, and through familiarity.
The show, which we took out on the road a few times, brought me the largest, most responsive audience I’ve ever performed in front of. It was because of this production that I not only knew I wanted to keep acting in some way, but also came to realize (so I thought at the time) that I did in fact have the means within me to make positive impressions on the lives of people. I could befriend people. I could, in essence matter to people in the way I wanted to matter. This, perhaps more than the play itself, was the source of the power of the experience. A connection with people who at last seemed connected to a part of me I never was any good at bringing forth.
So moved by and appreciative of the experience was I, that I wanted both to remember it forever, but also gift my thoughts and feelings about it to my cast mates. After all, they helped make it all happen. So the following summer, I spent much of my free time writing a brief but detailed account of my experience in the show, wherein everyone came out looking good, and I confessed my own contributions to some of the early difficulties we went through. Inside jokes and stories we all loved to tell one another were included, as was acknowledgment that the people changed my life for the better.
The memoir, like the production itself, became a labor of love for theatre, for the production, and yes, for the people involved.
Of the six people for whom I in large part wrote this heartfelt memoir, one read it and enjoyed it sincerely. One other read it but didn’t have much to say about it. One read it, said it had it’s moments, but that I hadn’t been totally fair to everyone involved. He said his wife, (also in the show) straight up refused to read it at all, preferring to remember the show “in her own way.” Two others never read it at all, as far as I recall, though they had scattered to the four winds by the time I finished it, and may never have had the chance.
The note from the cast mate on behalf of his wife and himself was the last thing I ever heard from him. Attempts to befriend him or his wife on social media in the years since have been met with silence, and I have long since given up. I still talk to three of the others on Facebook sometimes.
Hurtful. That’s the most direct way to describe it. While everyone experiences something a little differently, I didn’t think that my memoir would cause reactions ranging from indifference to irritation. The bonds I thought that particular group had formed weren’t strong enough to enjoy the memoir for what it was in the end; a gift to all of them, as a means to look back and recall fondly what at the time they seemed just as excited by as I was.
I’m used to people opting right out of my life without explanation. Happens a lot. But their lack of explanation remains one of the more perplexing of them all.
The short, lazy lesson to take from this would be, “my undiagnosed autism at the time made me think everyone was having a great time with each other, but really they were not.” I tell myself that sometimes, but it isn’t totally convincing.
I’ve also theorized it was the memoir, and not the experience that I got wrong. I guess I wasn’t supposed to write a memoir of my own experiences. I suppose that for some reason, certain parties within that once seemingly indivisible group felt embarrassed or threatened by my own account. Even though I said nothing in it I did not say in person, and made no jokes about anyone or anything I did not joke about during the production along with the rest of them, maybe seeing it in writing was the kicker. (Though I told all of them I was writing it ahead of time.)
Perspective, correct or incorrect is a powerful thing. It’s a scary thing. Taking someone else’s perspective of common events presents us with the possibility of less stable ground, potentially challenging our own reality to its core.
Immersing ourselves in someone else’s perspective is scary for a different reason too; it’s intimate. If one presents an honest perspective on an event, a reader must partake in a certain intimacy. Both parties are powerless to truly ruin anyone else’s interpretation of events, but only if the other person possesses fundamental security in who and what they are. Perhaps some of the people I was in the play with were too insecure, are too insecure to not only read my perspective on an event, but to connect with me again long after same.
Or maybe I just pissed them off somehow. I’ll probably never know. I do know that experiences such as what I thought were taking place that half-year are for various reasons cruxes in my adulthood, and it has been no small thing to accept, with the passage of time, that in fact the experience seems to have meant little to most of the others. It no longer haunts me that this is so, but it will always perplex me.
However, I take my own advice on the matter, and conclude ultimately that the surprising and once sad distance some of the others have constructed from those events need not destroy the totality of it all within my memory. For I’m secure in what I experienced. It is what I experienced as me, far more than what I experienced reflected off of any of them that has altered the trajectory of my spiritual life.
And if some of them don’t want to acknowledge that, (or me) anymore, well, I’m afraid they can adopt a new perspective on my ass and pucker up.
- Posted in: Days in the Life