I love talking to writers, talking about writing, and creating things in general. So the fact that Tim and I get to cover the Toronto Screenwriting Conference each year is kind of amazing. It seems to get even more incredible every year, too. Today, my brain was full by lunch!
During one session, we were challenged to come up with a pilot sequence of events for our own lives. This process included the need for a trigger event, also known as an inciting incident, for our protagonist. For ourselves.
One jumped immediately to mind, probably because it’s recently come to the forefront in another post. I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a slightly closer look at it.
Back in, like, 2002 or so, I acquired a strange kind of confidence somehow. I wasn’t happy, exactly, but I felt in control of my life, I guess. I believed I could choose my own path. I got off the phone at work one day after etting a client know his order was in stock and would be shipping out to him shortly. He was a teacher, and was so thrilled at the thought of how excited the kids in his class would be once they product arrived.
When I hung up the phone, I marvelled at how incredible it would be to be that passionate about your job. I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be excited about work.
That was the day I decided to go to teacher’s college.
I didn’t think in terms of trying to get into teacher’s college. I simply believed I would.
I started doing research – which programs I would apply to, which area of focus, what kind of criteria I needed on my application, etc. I planned it all out, completely confident in my abilities. I knew what kind of teacher I would be, and was certain that my years of life experience contributed to my future success in ways that wouldn’t have worked out the same way if I’d applied when I was younger and in school the first time around.
When I met Tane, I told her I was planning to go to teacher’s college. I was even pretty sure we’d start dating. I felt like I could have my pick, and I chose her. As our relationship grew, that factored into our plans the whole time. It was never a question or in any way uncertain. I planned it as though it was a foregone conclusion. I got my application together, I went to the interview. I took all the required steps, and worked with my partner to prepare for all the big changes that were coming our way.
As predicted, I got into school. I’d only applied to one, so confident was I. I quit smoking, which I was also certain I could do. I worked out a scenario with my employer to keep me on part time, but in a different position. A new one, which I would help create and define.
I was the shit, everything was coming up Sue, and I was on top of the world.
Then the cheating started, and the lying, and everything I thought I knew was turned upsidedown. Self-doubt came roaring in, and suddenly everything I had been certain of began crumbling down around me. I moved out of the home I’d made, I started drinking more in lieu of smoking, I started school but couldn’t focus. Forgot to even take a pen it’s me the first day. I froze up inside and couldn’t find my footing. Everything was uncertain. I didn’t know who I was anymore. All I knew was that I had been wrong.
I was not the shit.
And if I could be wrong about some basic qualities of my perceived self, then it seemed possible that I could be wrong about all of it. My sense of value and self-worth was destroyed; my confidence irreparably shattered. I became a different person, and the only thing I was certain of was that I’d been so wrong, about everything. I was not a good partner, I was not a good friend, I would not make a good teacher, and the fact that I barely graduated only seemed further proof of that fact.
Wherever that odd sense of confidence had come from, it was gone. Even now, I can’t remember what it felt like. My sense of certainty and self-assurance feels like I watched it happen to someone else, yet the sense of worthlessness exists in some form or another to this day. That loss of believing in myself changed everything. Changed me. I’m hidden away now, not to protect myself from the world, but to protect the world from me – from my arrogance, from my misplaced confidence, from my complete presence. I walk upon the earth much more softly now, as though I carry an apology I can never truly make.
I’m sorry. I was wrong.