At ten, as I imagined my late twenties and early adulthood, I always imagined I’d be… larger, maybe? More impressive, certainly.
I never had a conception of what this impressiveness might entail, per se, but the adults in my life just seemed to be so adult. So tall – surely taller than 6 feet, surely closer to 10 or 12 feet – and commanding and certain and, yeah, sure. That surety was what I envied most of all. Feeling unequivocally like you knew exactly what your place in life was: where you were going, what you were doing, and Who You Were as a real-life Accomplished Person who knew and did Things.
These feelings never truly went away. In fact, they’ve begun to return, descending around me like a haze of childhood confusion and insecurity. You see, it’s not the ‘getting older’ part that’s tripping me up – the older I’ve gotten, the more secure I’ve become, and maybe (probably) this is what it means to be An Adult – but instead the whole ‘passing of time’ thing. That whole jazz. My relationship with myself is one that’s constantly changing as I continue to grow – big whoop, right? I think that if your relationship with yourself isn’t evolving, maybe you’re not evolving, or else you’re the most together person I’ve (n)ever met, in which case I hate you.
Young and idealistic, with very little understanding of how the world actually worked, I was fuelled by visions of my inevitable and glorious successes. It’s not the success part that was wrong, I suppose, but instead the part where I thought I’d put together a slap-dash work of art, it’d be universally lauded, and I’d shoot to stardom pretty much instantaneously and make a whole bunch of money.
A little older and a whole lot drunker, I was fuelled by the unfulfilled promise of my own talent, and recognition: I’d had a taste of it, some things had gone right, and I thought that, well, recognition would breed recognition. It turns out, of course, this belief gives way to a lot of anxiety and broken expectations, all of this gives way to alcohol, and we all know how that ended up.
And now… I don’t quite know what I’m fuelled by. I’m just working, and trying my hardest not to be at odds with myself, my work, or those around me. And failing. Sometimes, failing. And sometimes, succeeding. And trying really hard not to be fuelled by anything except what’s in front of me at any given moment; to do each thing to the best of my ability and then to move on to the next thing. It’s hard to see yourself when you are yourself, though, and sometimes I need someone else to tell me how something I’ve done looks to the outside world. That should be a job, right? A Life Outside Eye. Someone to let you know how you’re going and what you’re doing, both good and bad. Outside Eye for the Queer Guy.
My relationship with my physical self has been much more straightforward as I’ve simply come to accept myself for my self; embraced myself and come to terms with my looks and my physicality – not in a negative way, at all, just in a way where looking into a mirror no longer seems surprising; as if I’m looking at the face and body of a stranger.
I think that this struggle with self-image is something eternal, something I’ll probably take to the grave, but I’m getting better at it: at lining up what I see in the mirror and lining up what I see inside my head.
For my practice-based Ph.D., I’m reading a lot of material about the (in)famous 1968 text by Peter Weiss, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of Charenton Asylum Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. Aside from this academic project, I’ve also been in it (2005) and directed it (2010), so I know it fairly well.
Reading it for the first time, it seemed untenable: this free-verse monstrosity of a play within a play printed on withered yellow pages, simultaneously readable and indecipherable and angry. So, so angry.
I’m writing a modern adaptation of Marat… for my practice, and I think that’s what strikes me the most: how angry it is, how angry I am, how angry the world seems and is.
The inmates of Charenton Asylum are angry because the man is getting them down and society systematically oppresses and ignores them at every step. The leader of the asylum cuts them off at every pass, patronidingly wearing them down and insisting he knows better while using physical violence to get his way.
The inmates of Charenton Asylum are angry because the Revolution they were promised – one that would level the playing field, cut the injustice and bring everyone together once more – just left them to suffer, out in the cold.
The inmates of Charenton Asylum are angry in 1795, in 1808, and in 1964, when the play was written. But not 2017.
It feels like the time is right for truly angry art once again.
I think being an adult is just being a relatively mature person who’s able to function on a monetary level, at least. The money isn’t the hard part, it’s the maturity that trips us up, of course.
Last year I was the course coordinator for the third year-level Script Development class at Monash University, and this was part of me gaining the skills to actually step outside of myself. Distinctly, I remember this: finishing a class at the designated time, and expecting… I’m not sure what. A room full of faces, then, staring back at me, expectant and mildly impatient, and the realisation: you’ve got to tell them they can go, dickhead. You’re running the class. They’re being polite. Teaching them taught me; like that old family movie cliché. It taught me if not how to be an adult, then how to wholeheartedly accept my adulthood.
As my relationship with myself has changed, so has my relationship with the world around me. As I’ve become more at peace within myself, I’ve become more angry with the world; more determined for change and more unsure how to incite that change. My rage at myself has been extricated and turned against the world around me, and I’m not sure yet how to wield it, but I know that it’s there to be wielded.
Sometimes it just feels like there’s a cavalcade of information pouring down, each little bit just screaming THE WORLD IS BURNING, over and over and over, and all we can do is roll over and go back to sleep. Hit the refresh button and hope that something’s gonna change.
Maybe that’s what being grown is all about. Trying to incite that change.
Maybe fucking not.
Sometimes I get so caught up in how horrific the world seems that I don’t know where to start. I want change – we all want change, not all for the better – but I don’t know where to start.
So I go to a bunch of rallies, I get angry, I try and educate and yell only when absolutely necessary.
So, I choose to adapt, modernize and localize an infamously didactic and angry script set in an insane asylum, and find that what it has to say about our modern world is this: IT’S ALL FUCKED.
So, I write a blog. I pour my feelings out into the cyber-void.