Disapproval Flashback

Ran into an old acquaintance today at the gym. She was the producer (I think) on a job where I was a P.A. over a decade ago. She has a kind of merry gleam to her eye that I remembered right away when I saw her, even though I didn’t recall her name. Seeing her I felt a kind of down-to-earth vibe I didn’t notice when we met before. Because of this vibe, in the present, it was cool to see her, but at the same time, our chance meeting had another effect on me.

It made me recall a job that I have always felt vaguely ashamed of. I’m not sure “ashamed” is the right word, and I don’t know if I can even articulate exactly why.
I was in awe of the director, who was a “big name,” at least to me. He was the kind of guy who might say anything he was thinking about, and I was not that kind of person, at least with him. I remember myself as being mostly nervous and tongue-tied around him and the other “higher-ups” on the job. They shared this kind of relaxed, boisterous camaraderie that I couldn’t pull off, and I guess, as a P.A. didn’t feel it was my place to.

The job involved a lot of driving and fetching. I had then, as I have now, a terrible sense of direction. Looking back I can’t believe I didn’t cop to this immediately, but I must have really wanted the job. When I drove him places, he could immediately tell I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but he didn’t have me fired. I don’t recall any specific mistakes in setting up equipment or fetching things, but I recall feeling like I disappointed the folks who hired me, maybe because the real job was just to get along with this guy.

So the net result of all of this is, that after thirteen years, after having produced my own shows, lived in the outback, battled cancer, there is this little—maybe not even little—part of me that still wants to redeem myself for being a crappy P.A. one summer, to explain…what? That I wouldn’t be a crappy P.A. now? I think I might be worse. That I’m a different person? I’d like to believe that in some ways, I am. I’m a little braver, I throw more of myself on the table. And yet, a happenstance interaction like seeing someone at a yoga class brings home the fact maybe I haven’t changed as much as I would like to think. I still wrestle with a lot of the same demons. I’m scared of being a failure, I’m scared of writing or doing or saying something and having people who seem to know more than me think that it’s bad. I’m afraid of disapproval.

And I know deep inside myself that my fear is the thing most likely to make something I write or do bad. Sometimes I think I should try to build up my tolerance to disapproval. I should go to parties and pick my nose. I should fart loudly in elevators. If you see me in a restaurant, and I’m brushing my dandruff into someone’s soup—you’ll know what I’m up to. Of course I’m telling you now in the hope that if you know why, you won’t disapprove so much, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

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