Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Narrator

I almost scratched today's list item and replaced it with something more jovial, something easier to put into words, and I could have very easily done that considering that one, no one's seen my list but me, and two, who would even miss a reflection on a misguided school play from 1988? The answer, the one that kept me from moving on to something simpler, is no one and me. Because this one small, seemingly insignificant moment? This one might say more about me than the lot of these combined.

When I got engaged my grandmother sent me this handout she'd kept from the play, such a thoughtful token, and an instant reminder of the time just before everything was computerized and printed, the folded orange page could only have been more perfect if it was covered in purple, mimeographed ink. It wasn't until I turned to the back, with the list of students and roles (oh, I can still remember the moment years later when I learned that the story wasn't as clean and simple as this friendly portrayal of Pilgrims and Indians - I felt so cheated and lied to). I'm losing focus, and most likely on purpose, but back to what I saw: Brandy Kincaid, Narrator.

The narrator, the person in the story that tells the story, exists somehow simultaneously within the story and outside it - a reader of sorts (a title I would have adored) - the narrator is as much a part of the action as he/she is removed from it (a respite I would have welcomed). For a little girl that was a mess of extremely shy and yet incredibly outgoing, depending on the situation, the role of the narrator was the perfect fit for me in this play, and well, life.

My shyness, much of which still exists, did not and does not hinder me from public speaking, I absolutely thrive on that. Crowds and presentations, whether prepared or impromptu? Yes please, and thank you. However, as small party attended by people I don't know? Whew, that's going to be a tough one. It's easy to be alone in a crowd, a sensation that I must admit I rather love, all that quiet mental observation of one's self and others, but there's an element of control that's needed for this, and the expectations of socialization don't always lend themselves to such behavior.

My mom would classify it as an all-or-nothing kind of shyness, either being the center of attention or being left alone completely, and while I think this is absolutely accurate, I think it's taken me all of these almost thirty years to embrace it. The first half of those years were spent trying to change it, to be more outgoing and then failing and then of course, not trying again for quite some time, and then the second portion spent feeling guilty, having decided that I must be such a dreadful person to crave attention but not be able to give it back in a normal way - the kind with a circle of close friends alongside the ability to make new ones - new ones that you would spend time with outside of their initially prescribed setting (work, school, etc.), outside of a comfort zone. But now, in the last few years, I think I've finally started to get it, to love the parts of me that understand their preferences enough to stand behind them when necessary and bend them when needed.

What I've realized, what I've come to embrace about the narrator, is that sometimes it's a necessary role; sometimes a narrator is needed to make a story tick, to keep it going. At times unreliable or unsympathetic, withholding or demanding, introspective or annoyingly omniscient, the narrator can be a pain in the butt. On the flip side, the narrator can be dependable, thoughtful, insightful, open, and honest (depending on ho we define the parameters, I suppose). I'm not very good at quite a lot of things, including water sports and small group interactions outside of work, but all that time I spend in my head, and my fearlessness when it comes to speaking in front a crowd? I'm pretty proud of that - good stuff comes out of that.

It's tough to define shortcomings, even tougher to own them, but it's kind of amazing to see where what was once a bit of a downside lends itself to so much of what makes us who we are. I loved being the narrator that day and though it brings with it as many complications as it does explanations, I'm thankful for how much that moment has informed so many of the moments yet to come in this collection and in life in general. I'm going to keep trying to get outside of my head a little more, push myself outside my comfort zones, but not because it's a bad place to be, or a bad role to play, but because it isn't the only one.


  1. Some people are just born to be narrators.

  2. I was George Washington in our class play around that same time. It's one of the only things I remember about my early school days.