I received an email a few days ago from an old friend who was writing to remind me of something I did many years ago. It was 1976-77, and I was in the fourth grade. My teacher (whose name I have embarrassingly forgotten but I think it was Mrs. Coleman) was wonderful in that she allowed her students a great deal of self-expression. One way she did this was to allow me to perform sketches in front of the class.
When I say sketches, well, nothing could be further from the truth. My dad had left us a few years before and one of the few things he’d left behind was a Don Adams comedy record. It wasn’t stand-up but, rather, a crude series of audio sketches. One in particular was about an interview with a bank robber, mid-robbery. So, I took that record and corralled up a bunch of my friends and drilled them until they had their parts memorized and directed them and, before you knew it, had us all up in front of the rest of the class performing it for them. This went on for some time. Different sketches brought different casts, with me always casting myself in the lead role (of course). I took these sketches to other classes and won talent shows with it. Then, I started writing my own comedy sketches and things started to take off until – 6th grade and a new school filled with strangers. It would be four years before I performed again.
Anyway, as I say, I received this email from my old friend on a particularly awful day. My unemployment benefits are running out. My writing was getting me nothing but rejections. Things were pretty bleak. I wasn’t feeling particularly upbeat about anything. When I thought of my sketches in elementary school, I thought back on the nerd in glasses I was back then, the hyper kid who couldn’t sit still, and how much I wished someone had stopped me then and prevented me from even thinking about pursuing any kind of art.
And this just goes to show how important perspective is. My old friend wrote to tell me how he still remembers those old days in elementary school with warmth and how grateful he was that I pulled him into doing those sketches. He was very complimentary about the gift I have towards writing and how much he admires me for sticking with it.
I felt like writing back and saying, “You don’t understand. It’s not a blessing, you idiot. It’s a curse.” Then, I realized it was all a matter of perspective.
As Vicky told me, not everyone gets to pursue their passion or has the tenacity/stubbornness/gall/whatever to stick with it. What I think of as exhausting, they may see as something admirable. I don’t know. But it was nice to hear that someone saw me/sees me as more than just some loser who doesn’t know when he should quit.