This is for the large number of people who know my name and maybe know me for a facet or time in life, not the relatively small percentage of those people who "get" me. If you know me and don't get me, but care enough to take 5 minutes to read a note, maybe this will help. If you already know me well, maybe this will clarify some things.
Hi. My name is Wayne Self. Yes, that's my real name. I didn't make it up. Here are some things you should know:
- I'm from Louisiana. By "from", I mean that my ancestors settled the small town where I was born and raised in the 1750's, and they still live there today. It's in my blood, bones, and sinew, my music, my food, my soul. I love it. It's my home. If you misunderstand it, you misunderstand me. If you insult it, you insult me. I consider myself a refugee from Louisiana. Or maybe a battered spouse. I love it, but I can't live with it, because of all the, you know, crazy.
- So I live in California, which is just as crazy, but far more medicated. I like California a lot, because it's still a place for people who want to invent or re-invent themselves. Aside from the language issue, I consider myself just as much an immigrant here as anyone else. This is a foreign country to me, but I love the opportunities that come from being here.
- I work on Sundays at two progressive churches. One of them is Peninsula MCC, a church of by and for LGBT people (though straight people are welcomed and affirmed). My feelings about Christianity, religion, church, and working on Sundays continue to evolve, but my affection and regard for the people at these churches is unchanging.
- I have a family in my house. It consists of my beloved partner, my elderly mother-in-law, and my ridiculous dog. This makes my life perhaps a little different from the lives of other gay men that you may know--maybe even other coupled gay men. Because of the mother-in-law and our suburban locale, my house is not a place for parties, or a central meeting place for my fabulous friends. I'm mostly not off having amazing weekends doing amazing things (See "I work on Sundays"). When I'm not working, my first priority is to be with my partner, who is a little more of a loner and homebody than I.
Now that the basics are out of the way, here's the meat of the matter and the real reason for this note:
I'm a creator.
I know that sounds pretentious, but settle down. It has taken me years to be able to even say that out loud. Being "creative" was not something valued in my world, and calling yourself a creative person is "getting above your raising," rather than keeping your head down and getting your job done.
Saying I'm a "creator" is not saying anything about the quality or value of what I create. I don't even mean it as a compliment to myself. It's like saying "I'm a Capricorn".
I only mean to say that I spend the majority of my time writing new stuff: Mostly songs that fit together to tell a story suitable for the stage.
Or, if you insist, Musicals.
I've always done it. I can't really not do it. I do it in my sleep. I do it when it looks like I'm doing something else. I had a career in the tech field and I have a partner who has a good job. Between those things, and my church jobs, we're blessed to able to live okay while I do this work.
Whether I do it well, or will be be financially able to do it forever is another matter. I only know that the times when I haven't done it have been the most miserable times of my life.
I'm driven to do it, even when I'm sick of doing it. Does that make sense?
Because I'm a creator, and more than a little OCD about it, there are things that come up about the way I work and the way I conduct human relationships. I'm not trying to excuse things that you may be unable to excuse, or asking for dispensation from you, but I'm asking you to not be surprised, and to maybe understand, even if you can't tolerate. If you understand, and really value whatever friendship we have, maybe you'll meet me halfway on some of these things.
- I make friends through collaboration. If you want to get closer to me, the best way is through working together on a project. If I approach you for collaboration, I'm approaching you for friendship. If you refuse collaboration, it feels to me like you're refusing friendship, though I am able to get over it. If we start a project and you disappear, it will feel to me like you have stepped on our friendship.
- To know me is to know my work. My work is intensely personal--even the things that don't seem so. It's hard to write. It comes from vulnerable places. If you get a chance to see one of my plays and decide not to, it feels like you're deciding not to know me as well as you might. If I pour my soul out and you decide to watch TV that night, it feels to me like you simply don't want to be that close. Which brings me to:
- It's okay not to know my work. I don't come to your job and watch, in order to know you, no matter how much of yourself you pour into it. You don't have to see my plays to be my friend. I will encourage it, to the point of annoyance, and I will of course feel gratitude and a deeper connection to those that do, but it's not a requisite for basic friendship.
- I value people who encourage and support my work, even if they can't or don't see it, and I mistrust people who go out of their way not to. I do occasionally get the feeling that some of my FB "friends" are actually rooting against me, when people go out of their way not to see something I've done, or withhold even basic courtesies of encouragement, or actually attempt to discourage or berate me. If you're one of those people, you probably haven't gotten this far into this post, but if you have, please say your goodbyes, because I'll be culling you from my friends list soon.
- I'm not impressed by your tastes, or how discerning you are in your consumption of food or music or movies or culture or computers or automobiles. Your consumption does not impress me. Your creation does. I like people who follow through in making things, because I know how hard that is. Your film, your completed marathon, your six-pack abs, your MFA, your evening classes... Those things make me proud to know you, and I am rooting for you 100%.
- I am "absent-minded". I always have been. I'm involved with this thing that's going on in my head. My concentration is split 100% of the time. I lose things. Car keys. Wallets. Sunglasses. I forget to take the right exit. No amount of consternation on your part will change this. Nothing will. Believe me, I don't like it either.
- I get obsessed with what I'm doing. I spend a fair amount of time waiting for the songs to come. If they're coming, and I can, I will let them. Sometimes, in so doing, I'll forget what time it is and miss appointments. I'm sorry. I truly am. I don't mean to. I know it's frustrating and I understand. But I'd rather you didn't take it personally.
- If you txt or email me and don't hear back, it's not because I don't like you. It's because you happened to catch me during one of these times. A few of you seem to have a knack for that. If I forget to return your call, please call me again. I really don't mind being pestered.
- I may vanish for a bit. Please don't take it personally. I know that part of friendship is being there, day in, day out, and I know I'm missing out on that crucial element. But don't take my absence as uncaring or lack of loyalty. I'm extremely loyal to those who have taken the time to understand me. I'll never run you down behind your back. I'll cheer for you. I'll forgive most anything. If you really need me, I'm there. Just call. I may not be there for your birthday party or your weekly poetry slam, but I will be there to help you sort through a problem or bail you out of jail. When I'm through being vanished, I appreciate being able to pick up where we left off.
I'm so fortunate to have a partner who does "get" me and finds whatever I bring to our relationship valuable enough that he's willing to put up with some of my foibles.
I'm also fortunate to have friends new and old, colleagues, and supervisors who value my contributions enough that they've taken the time to understand how to best work with, befriend, supervise, or teach me.
But I do feel a bit hamstrung by a few professors, acquaintances, friends of friends, etc. who ought to know me by now and don't, or whom I feel don't sincerely have my best interests at heart, or value my contributions enough to alter their approach.
Many of us are on a journey of self-acceptance in this life, accepting the good and bad things about ourselves that we can't change. Part of self-acceptance is accepting that not everyone will really appreciate the "self" you're bringing into being. For my part, in those cases, I'd prefer to come to that understanding with you individuals sooner rather than later, so we can stop wasting one another's time.
And I hope that this note explains me a little bit to those people who don't know me well and want to know me better. I know this was a whole lot of talking about myself, but maybe it was helpful. I don't know. I know I wouldn't mind reading such a "care and feeding guide" from some of you.