I’m sitting in the living room. The carpet is brown. It’s old. The walls are white because it’s a rental. We have a tiny little twelve inch TV. And I’m watching it. I’m sitting on my couch watching this tiny little television. My mom comes in and I feel my weakness hanging in the room. I prefer the isolation of watching television to going outside. I prefer this distraction.
I remember riding my bike behind his bike. I remember feeling the wind in my hair as I rode faster and faster. I remember singing Madonna softly under my breath as he rode next to me, “Uh oh uh oh Ahhhhh… Trying hard to control myself…” He got it. That afternoon, I fell in the grass and heard him whisper, “I love you!” behind me. We were 8.
I like being outside in the Utah summer nights.
But I also liked watching TV alone.
I remember my brothers and I would fight over whether we were going to watch The Cosby Show or The Simpsons. It’s funny because we didn’t even own a television before that first 12 inch set. And today, we all control our own smart phones and electronical tv watching devicy thingies that give each of us isolated control.
My first choice is always to isolate. But I know I can have a good time when I spend time with people too. It’s just not the easy choice to make. It’s easy to curl up and watch the story unfold. It is exciting to do your hair and think about making memories. But then, time passes, and you do your hair and your make up, and nothing happens. You wanna dance—but the music just isn’t right. No one else wants to dance. You’re in this huge crowd of people, and you feel alone.
I remember standing at a Broken Social Scene concert in New York City. I pushed my way towards the front so I could feel the crowd and the music. Three drum kits, at least 5 bass players, guitars galore, and a horn section to rival Glenn Miller. The house was packed with people there to share in the music. I was there to share with them. I tried. I loved the music. I sailed away in it. But I was isolated. I watched lovers cling to one another during “Lover’s Spit”. And I took pictures and videos and sent them to my lover who lived far away. I was in love, but isolated. In a crowd, but cut off.
That night on the drive from New York City to Virginia, I made the decision to put off the move to New York City and move to Utah to be closer to him and closer to my family.
Fast forward. He hurt me. I retracted. I am cut off. I have cut myself off. I’m in the middle of huge crowds of people—people who want to love me. But I am hidden behind an apathetic, colorless face. I isolate and withdraw for as many hours of the day as I can stand and come out to play and mingle during rehearsals and occasional meetups. The rest of the time, I watch TV, play games, and peer from a safe distance.
I’ve had relationships since then, but without certain assurances, I worry that I will humiliate myself in love again. At our age, everyone needs these upfront assurances. And so we distance ourselves—standing behind these bold demands. And because of our age, we have little to offer one another by way of assurances. I’m too old to not be fat. He’s too old to not be broken. We’re both too old to not be jaded. And so we pretend not to care in between moments where we cling to one another and I awe at the sound of another person’s heart beat.
Because socialization is difficult, I create obligations.
I’ve been playing the piano since I was 5. The piano allows me to isolate, while creating music that invites others to participate in my isolation. When I was younger, I would play and play—expressing stories and feelings through the keys. When I turned 13, I started doing plays. It was an opportunity to express the same stories in a different way-but with the same dynamics I had discovered as a piano player. Just as my fingers learned to create tension, wonder, peace, pain, joy, anger, solace—I discovered how to reveal the dynamics of a character. Only in the theatre, I was required to rely on other artists to tell the story. I was no longer isolated. I spent hours in rehearsal with my best friends. We were united in a purpose, and because I was obligated to come to rehearsal, I wasn’t allowed to choose the easier path of isolation.
People wonder why the theatre is filled with introverted actors. I can only explain my own story. Isolation is easier. Theatre forces me to interact. It reminds me to enjoy and respect what friends can bring to a work, as well as the joy I find in the company of like minded friends.
The idea of going to a party or a reception simply because is out of the question. I find no joy in it. If I’m responsible for something—even if it’s just ensuring that someone shy won’t be alone—I am thrilled to be able to serve. But I go for the joy of friendship, not for the joy of mere socialization. And yet some obligations won’t arise until you arrive. When faced with the choice of a large party or the comforts of my isolation, I choose comfort.
Am I comfortable alone because I don’t know the joy of responsibility in love? Have I created a life so comfortable that I don’t even know what I’d prefer?
I think I would like to get a dog.