The past few weeks have been a little bit low for me, mentally. Not because of anything going on (though there have been some doozies), but because the mind does what the mind does. Once I realized what was happening, I tried to make some adjustments to compensate, and one of them included a social media vacation. It probably should have happened about three weeks earlier than it did, but… retrospect, right?
See, socia media is great. It helps you keep in touch with friends, it helps you store memories of your life… but it also puts you in the mindset that nothing in your life is important unless shared. This is especially dangerous if you’re not feeling your best, because then you look to the reactions of others for a self esteem boost or a reason to get through the day.
I hate that feeling. And I hated that I could see myself posting more and more on social media, like I was fishing for a sense of worth. When something happened in my life, I would think, I should take a picture to post to Instagram. Or, that’s a funny quote, I should post it to Twitter (Twitter: the one social media that I literally just use to throw things out into the ether, and not actually keep up with friends. It’s like a weird, open, snippet-journal, while everyone else just talks shit about politics on it). I haven’t taken a photo of something because I liked the image (and didn’t just want to share it with someone else) in years. That sunset? Real pretty, I want others to see it. That weird sign? That made me laugh, I bet it would make other people laugh. It was always partially about saving the memory, but it was mostly about making that memory public. I was no longer making memories for myself.
So I wanted to distance myself from that, and spend a week trying to break apart from that idea. It clearly would take more than a week to actually retrain my mind, but it was a start. I removed all the apps from my phone so as to remove temptation, and I went about my business.
And then a million things happened this week, things that I wanted to share. But I didn’t.
So now I’ll share my week with you all, like the needy little storyteller that I am.
This week, I went to Philly for a conference for Art House Convergence. I’ve gone to the bigger-scale version of this conference for the past two years in January, but this was just regional. Still every bit as terrifying when it comes to networking, however — if not more so, because of the place that I am at right now. At the end of the first day, there was a cocktail hour in which all of the attendees stood in what I’m sure was considered to be a large room but felt, to me, more increasingly like a closet as the minutes ticked by. As Adam, the God of Networking, talked and laughed and shot the shit with person after person, I stood awkwardly at his shoulder and fought back tears. I tried to make small talk with a man who was waiting to talk to Adam (yes, a line formed at one point), but it’s hard to talk about normal things when there’s a lump in your throat and your chest is constricted, so I mostly smiled and nodded. The man was awkward too, so in retrospect I don’t feel quite so awful about that interaction.
I think I’ve made a reputation for myself at these conferences for not being able to talk properly. There are two other art house cinemas in neighboring towns to Harrisburg, and the core staff gets together every few months or so to hang out (and by core staff, I mean Adam hangs out with them). I have interacted with them a handful of times, but, because I only see them every once in a while, my interactions are usually just (again) standing next to Adam and smiling and listening to the conversation that is happening.
I have played Adam’s shadow many a time, and I think (no — I know) that it drives him nuts. A perfectly iconic moment presented itself this week to really symbolize that awkwardness: after one of the sessions, I walked out of the theater and found Adam and Nate, one of the staff from the neighboring cinemas, talking, and I joined them. After maybe about thirty seconds, Adam excused himself to go to the bathroom, and in the split second that I realized this was my time to shine and make small talk, Nate turned, said, “See you later,” and walked away. I have trained people to avoid being in a one-on-one conversation with me.
That’s my own fault, really. My shyness is the reason that everyone used to call me an introvert. It’s hard for my personality to come forth without feeling one hundred percent comfortable, something that has been to my discredit many a time when people have assumed I haven’t been having fun but I just haven’t adapted to the company yet. And especially if I don’t see the person that often, I may feel that I’m beginning to connect, but they may feel the complete opposite because my body doesn’t relay that connection properly. How should they know? They only ever see that one side of me.
I guess I envision myself to be this exuberant, social person, but I can definitely be quiet when even I don’t expect it. But I can also be loud (BOY, can I be loud). It really depends on my comfortability level.
Which leads me to another event, which happened today (I’m skipping over my experience at Del Close Marathon — but I’ll backtrack briefly at the end of this post).
Today began the five-day Young Filmmakers Camp at Messiah College, for which I am working as a faculty member. It’s the second year that the camp has existed, and this year the returning faculty needed an extra hand, so there I was. The first day consisted of getting 17 high school students through registration and teaching them about story and filmography principles.
Now, as some of you know, I am not great with kids. But high school was where I became obsessed with film production, and it excited me that I could be a part of someone’s journey into filmmaking, just as my high school teacher was for me. Also, what are high schoolers, if not really small adults?
What I didn’t realize was that these students were not just interested in film. These students could not shut up about film. Instead of asking questions about the subject we were covering, they raised their hands and offered examples: “I know what an extreme wide shot is called when it’s at the beginning of a scene!” “Kubrick used symmetry in the hallway shot in THE SHINING!” “You can see the characterization of stability Chiron finds in Juan’s character in the way they shot the cinematography in MOONLIGHT!”
I’m so excited to see these kids make short films, guys.
But I’m digressing. What I really wanted to point out was that I didn’t feel any sense of panic today (except for that brief moment when I was supposed to be reformatting a camera and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and why my camera’s screen looked different from the one on the other faculty member’s camera, and then realized I had actually been trying to reformat the wrong camera. Seriously, guys, no one ever trust me with technology).
I’ve been trying to figure out what the difference was between today and the conference, and I don’t think it was just the amount of passion I had for the subject — I honestly do have a lot of passion for the work I do at Midtown Cinema, and genuinely adore the mission of the art house cinemas that meet at those conferences. I don’t know what it is that makes me stress out so much, but I will blame part of it on the intimidating aura that networking has around it. There’s always this lingering fear that I will say something dumb and lose my credibility.
I’ve never been very good at showing vulnerability to strangers (at least apart from this blog — apparently sharing these posts to the world is not unnerving at all?). That’s in part why it takes me so long to come out of my shell — I don’t trust a person to not completely shut me down as a human being. I realize the absurdity in thinking that someone would actually reject you for being vulnerable, but there have been enough past experiences with enough gray area that my brain can take the data and skew it to match its greatest fears. Maybe that’s what makes posting on social media so appealing — it’s a way to be “open” without really sharing anything too personal. It gives the impression of divulging, so that I can say, “Yes! I can be an open, sharing individual. See all these examples? Twenty-eight people liked this post, so twenty-eight people have become more informed about my life. Vulnerability!”
When I really think about it, I don’t want to be vulnerable with every person I meet. Actually sharing my entire life story on Facebook would probably break me. But I do want to take the time to appreciate those who I can be open with, and who I am able to get to know well enough to be vulnerable with.
Let’s backtrack to the Del Close Marathon now.
On Friday night, I sat in an audience of close to 100 people, and watched about 20 people on stage, sitting and discussing really deep subjects for 45 minutes. It was interlaced with comedic scenes, and the contrast between serious and comedic was so astoundingly beautiful. I was wiping my eyes at the end of the show. It made me want to just stay up all night, digging deep with my friends; it made me want to talk about really personal issues, things that people don’t normally talk about because it’s embarrassing, or hard, or uncomfortable.
I didn’t, of course. I went back to the hotel room, talked about improv with my team before going to bed, and then in the morning, I went to breakfast and stared at a ridiculously delicious eggs benedict before going to the bathroom to cry. And then I distracted myself with more improv for the rest of the day.
Maybe it’s not about the people I’m with. Maybe I’m just unable to open up and be myself because it’s me. And that’s something I’m working on.