I finished reading Simon Pegg’s autobiography earlier this week, and it brought out my stylish melancholy with a sidecar of thoughtful baggage.
The book traces Pegg’s nerdly influences growing up, and how they’ve cycled back in his adult life to making things which are themselves a tribute to those inspirations, and then even to working with those heroes who had an impact on his life and imagination.
I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between his childhood and mine. Sure, he’s a few years older than me, and a boy, and from Gloucestershire, but, there’s a cozy familiarity in the geekly media that was influence to the young geek in training.
Like the young comedian/writer/actor, I had a number of early brushes with theater. My first press clipping came from the Winter Park Manifest when I was all of five years old. (I still have a copy, if you’d like to see my cute little five year old self declaiming said dialog.) I was the only kindergartner with a speaking part. Never mind the fact that I earned the part solely on the basis that my teacher figured I was the only girl who’d be able to remember the lines.
In the small communities I grew up in we didn’t really have a community theater. Well, unless you count the one that started up a few months before we moved. We all were encouraged by the organizers to go to auditions, which included a round of improv. I got cast in the musical with a speaking part, but, wasn’t allowed to take the part because we wouldn’t be there for the performances. I’ve clearly been stewing on that one for a few decades.
We moved to Pueblo, which was a parade of huge shifts in my world, and I didn’t have a clue how to fit into this place. It was there that I spent some time being “That Kid.”
I, too, have vivid memories of those Gen-X geek rites of passage , seeing Star Wars, and its sequels, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., and Star Trek, and Dr. Who. I remember the first time I auditioned for a part in a Shakespeare play (The Tempest), and the thrill of getting to speak those glorious words with some pretty accomplished adults, who jumped at the chance to do the scene with me. So what if I didn’t get the part? The director complimented me on my understanding of the Bard, in front of everyone, and no one else got such praise. Of course, I also didn’t get the part, so, I took what I could get.
What my lovely, neurotic brain also noticed while reading this book, was there were similar points in my life to Pegg’s life, and the ones in my life came out very differently. Things that kept him on the path that would take him to making geeky love letters in film-form to his childhood inspirations didn’t end up taking me down that same path.
Not that I’m saying I had any real ambition to be a professional performer. I can’t say that I was in the same league as Mr Pegg, nor do I begrudge him his success.
I could be bitter, but, I’m not.
Instead, I’m just more confused than anything. Is it simply hindsight that allows us to interpret our choices in life as all culminating in a a clear singular direction? Is that just the way people decide to interpret things to support the choices they make?
The familiarity of the experience in Pegg’s life made me think about all of these things in a different light, and I wondered how it was that I had ended up where I am.
There were opportunities that I didn’t take, for reasons that seem perfectly reasonable at the time, like the unpaid screenwriting internship I turned down the summer before my senior year in college. Did I screw up my true fate? Should I have taken it? It was not fear of the job that held me back, but, fear of not having money, transportation or a place to live. Seems like such a minuscule problem in retrospect. Though, I do like food, and not being homeless.
I had decided to read the book because I thought it would be funny, and I like Simon Pegg, and I wanted something light to read. Instead, I’m onto my latest existential crisis, and trying to again figure out if I’m putting my efforts into the things that somehow matter or are going to make the world a better place. Is that so much to ask?
There are still things I’m processing from this book I mistook for a light-hearted romp. Oh sure, for some people it probably was. It has funny moments. And, if it had not felt so much like my own biography, well, it might’ve been a hoot. Instead, well, it’s made my brain ponder serious thoughts, and it never needs any encouragement to do that.