Sunday, January 20, 2013

Speaking myself

I remember when I saw my first Atom Egoyan movie, The Adjuster, back in 1991, that one of the most striking things about it was the way his characters presented themselves to others.  The lead character, an insurance adjuster, has to deal with people in post-crisis situations, and he introduces different himself to clients using more or less exactly the same words and intonations.  And most of Egoyan's other characters do the same, looking backwards at his earlier movies.  He's made a lot more films now, can't keep track of it any more. But the main thing that we glean from is that the characters are performing themselves, of professional and personal necessity (you can't make up a new self several times a day), out of habit, and in an attempt to control others' perception of them.

And one of the things about being out in the world as a consultant, a social person, a person sometimes looking for next career moves, is that I have to tell my story a lot. And I know that I do it all too often in the same way as Egoyan's characters do.  I hear myself describing the arc of my life (being a geek, PhD in humanities, jump to consulting, raising a family, getting interested in finance) as an out of body experience, almost. When I'm getting more personal I add in a layer about parents getting divorced, substance abuse, recovery, marriage, kids, Mary's family, a special needs kid, etc., and that is less rehearsed and more organic, but still a little bit.  Certainly I try not to drone on too much and engage with whomever I'm talking to, almost to escape this rote self-enunciation. And certainly I'm grateful when someone asks questions that push me out of the zone of myself.

In any, case, it would be nice to move beyond this stage, to the point I discover new facets in myself.  The problem is, one of the only feasible ways of getting there is by talking to others and hearing their stories (rote though they may be), and you rarely get much of that by being quiet about yourself. Share and share alike.

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