Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fail & Flume

I knew it would happen sooner rather than later. Here it is...the first Failure of Gutsiness.

Important Note: I'm fully aware that this post may not shed the most flattering light upon me and my thought processes. But I figure it's best to be honest, and in the spirit of this blog I feel that being gutsy also includes being able to admit when you're a coward. So there.

It all started in Poetry class.

Actually, that's false. It all started in Short Story Fiction class last quarter.

See, there's that one person in every class. That one that makes everyone shift uncomfortably when they open their mouth. That one that is quite eloquent in all the wrong ways, talks over the teacher, always has a comment, and is often irrelevent and/or oblivious to social cues. Normally, I try to be as understanding as possible of these people, though I will shamefully admit to being just as irritated as everyone else.

So, in my Short Story Fiction class, we had That One Kid. Obviously for the sake of being respectful his name need not be mentioned, but he was definitely That One Kid. He wasn't quite as intrusive as others I've run across, but he had a morbid sense of humor and used it to make everyone very uncomfortable, though I'm not sure he knew he was doing that. I don't know. I don't like to think ill of people, yet it's shocking how often I end up doing just that.

I'll confess to being a little glad when class with him ended.

And then I'll further confess to being a little agitated when I walked into my first day of Poetry class this quarter and...there he was. And he remembered me.

A month later, he's still very much the same as he was in Short Story Fiction. And I wasn't sure what to do about it, being one of those people who is easily embarassed FOR others and therefore sensitive (almost allergic) to his socially-awkward behavior.

But today I thought, no. Today will be different. Today my act of gutsiness will be to engage him in civilized conversation, and not shy away when he tries to talk to me, and not wince when he raises his hand in class. Today I will be a decent human being. Today I will be gutsy.

Today I failed. Miserably.

I took two unnecessary trips to the bathroom just to avoid his comments. When he came to be in my workshopping group, my heart sank. I couldn't meet his gaze, I couldn't even muster up a pleasant tone of voice when answering his questions.

Obviously, because I over-analyze everything, I thought about this at great lengths driving home from school. What the heck is wrong with me? Why can't I decide to be civil and then by-gum go ahead and do it? What is it about That One Kid that bothers me so much?

And then I realized: what bothers me about That One Kid is that I'm only one crucial step away from him, which I'll expound on in a moment.

Who hasn't said something awkward and gotten snickered at? Who hasn't missed a social cue and said something you shouldn't have? Who hasn't misjudged the senses of humor in the room and made a joke inappropriate to the moment? I know I have, and I've shrunk away in shame because of it, and I've squirreled those moments away into little boxes in my brain marked: TOTALLY EMBARASSING; DON'T OPEN.

That one crucial step that separates me from That One Kid is this: True and Genuine Gutsiness.

Think about it! Every That One Kid in this world says what they say because they don't give a fig whether you fidget in humiliation on their behalf or not. Whether they're aware of your discomfort makes no difference. In many ways, That One Kid is braver than I am, and makes me look rather petty in comparison. I've devoted this next year of my life to trying a new thing every day, and when I meet someone who lives their entire life like that I have no response but embarassment, shame, and even disgust.

Maybe I'm being hard on myself, but there's hope in this, too. Now that I recognize my discomfort, maybe I can turn it around. Maybe I can be the person that I want to be, even if it means making That One Kid-type comments every once and awhile by accident.

So, this post is less about MY gutsiness and more a monument to all of the That One Kids out there. Kudos to you guys for opening your mouths and putting the rest of us to shame with your astounding bravery...even if it's at the expense of our pride.

Will I manage to turn it around instantly and engage That One Kid in Poetry class in intense and deep conversation next time I see him? Realistically not. But I can always try, one step at a time, and maybe I'll get there sooner than I think.

On a mostly unrelated note, but speaking of someone ELSE'S gutsiness...Peter Gabriel is releasing an album of covers, one of which being a jarring rendition of Bon Iver's "Flume" that created a REALLY difficult moment for me, this afternoon. Thinking: okay, that's the MELODY of Flume, but that sure as heck isn't Justin Vernon...did someone rip someone else off? What is going on? (And then I imploded.)

My hat is off to Mr. Gabriel, however, and I hope the album is a success, even if it DID give me a momentary bout of crippling confusion.

Favorite song of the day? "Falling Down Blues" by Ramblin' Jack Elliot. If you like blues, you'll love this song. If you don't like blues but you like guitar, then you'll still love this song. If you don't like blues or probably isn't for you.

Thanks for reading, y'all. Say something stupid this week. It's therapeutic.

-The GLS

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