The most terrifying moments are the ones where I see the future. Not because those who look into the Untempered Schism may be doomed to drift on the currents of mad truth evermore, but because it’s such a shock to be looking at a friend or a relative or a famed writer and performer of one-person plays and to suddenly realise that they are showing me what I could be. Whether what I see is something more appropriate to the visions in Mirror of Erised or the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come or that one magic cave near Yoda’s house – that varies. On the plus side, always in motion is the future.
To start with: TJ Dawe TJ Dawe TJ Dawe. I’m hoping that the next time TJ Dawe googles himself this blog will come up and TJ Dawe can have the pleasure of reading someone gush about TJ Dawe in an unusual way. Because: this man has done wonderful things for me and has no idea. We spoke once for about ten seconds – I told him that The Slip-Knot was the funniest play I had ever seen, which really does not sum up the depth of my love for these works. They’re best seen live, of course, but whether one is fortunate enough to see such a performance or not, the books are worth reading. He had another show, called Totem Figures, about the people we would put on the stack if every single person made a totem pole to represent the course of their life. He would be on my totem. How can I put this most simply?
TJ Dawe showed me that someone like me could be amazing. Celebrated. Powerful. I will continue to gush about him in future posts about other stuff, because that is what happens to you when you are unknowingly mentoring me, but the thing here is: the one thing that everyone I have ever known can probably agree on is that I am an oddity, and because TJ Dawe is odd in a huge number of the same ways, his tendency to catalogue his journey of self-evolution over the years has basically been feeding me spoilers about my own future. And having the chance to see one possible version of me can help me understand a whole lot about where I am here in the present, too.
To take a more universal example, there’s a great moment in The Slip-Knot where the protagonist gushes briefly about his new girlfriend. It ends with him stating breathlessly that she is without question The One. “And my first one, too!” He smiles obliviously. “Just lucky, I guess.” Everyone laughs at that one. I laughed, the first time I saw it: ha, yeah, everyone does think that, don’t they? And I laughed the second time, when I was with my The (First) One: ha, yeah, too bad only a few of us REALLY ARE that lucky. And I laugh now when I read it, so many years after our break-up: ha, yeah, I (and the rest of the world) probably should have thought harder about that. Everyone laughed. And then it hits me that the first time I heard that line, most of the people in the room were probably already thinking italicised thought #3. I may be odd, but I’m more like everyone else than I might think.
Thinking that I’m not odd can be a scary thing, too. Everyone’s got their favourite type of personality sorter: Myers-Briggs, aura colours, the Enneagram, and of course the favourite system of certain people I’ve met (often psychologists) which recognises only two types: People Who Use Personality Sorters, and People Who Laugh Smugly At People Who Use Personality Sorters. My feeling is that they’re just tools, and tools are neither good nor bad – they can only be put to good or bad uses. As long as they’re used descriptively rather than prescriptively, I don’t see the harm. I do see the benefit. Because I’ve always liked TJ Dawe, but it wasn’t until his latest show (“Lucky 9”) that it became obvious why. He had learned about the Enneagram recently, and summarised the nine types for the audience. I tried to pick out myself as he went, like y’do, thinking ‘Maybe, nope, nope, definitely could be, maybe, nope, nope, maybe’… but he skipped four and saved it for last, because that’s his type, the Individualist. Boom. The need for a unique identity, the disdain for fitting into a group, the melancholy, the excessive focus on unrequited love – it was surreal. (To quote TJ himself, “What’s next?! Types Fours are tall and lanky with dark curly hair?!” Well, mine’s not exactly curly and it hasn’t been dark since I discovered the joys of dye, but close enough.)
And once you know yourself, you know your weaknesses, and once your know your weaknesses, you can start to outsmart yourself. And it’s true – like him, my first thought when someone suggests being part of a group is get it off, get it off, salt it and burn it, but that instinct isn’t necessarily good just because it’s an instinct. And listening to TJ Dawe at perhaps the most raw and personal I had ever seen him, being part of a community started to sound good. Really good. Like rain in the desert.
So that’s been my goal since the summer, and then last week I rediscovered NaNoWriMo, and the next day I discovered they have regional forums, and the day after that I was at a café surrounded by people with laptops and preparing to try to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I had never met any of them before and if I had taken too long to think about it there is no way I would ever have found myself in a group like that, but I managed to get there. And it was good. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t smooth, but we all knew we had at least two things in common (a desire to write and a certain level of geekery – I wore my obscure Doctor Who reference t-shirt, “TEXTBOOK ENIGMATIC”) and – I felt like a person again. A whole person instead of a hovering point of view that occasionally types something. That may not be an especially coherent sentence, but it’s okay, because it will get its own blog post to explain the phenomenon later.
So I’ll see how that goes, the whole community thing. It’s got to be better than the track like I felt I was on, slowly withering and unable to understand why or how to escape. So thanks again to TJ Dawe for being my scout into the future. And if you ever get the chance to see him, do so, and then go again with everyone you know, and, if you can, buy all of his plays, because they will enrich you as a person. I don’t mean one copy of each play. I mean all of the plays. Give away the extra copies and enrich others. Community is (spoilers) important.