Honestly, I don’t remember winning. I went from seeing the last nominee’s name on the screen to hugging Jean as I got offstage. I can’t recall a single moment in between. If I tripped and fell on my way up the stairs, it’s news to me. If it weren’t for the pictures that gingerirish sent me this morning (THANK YOU!!!), I wouldn’t have seen my name up on the screen under the “Best Actor” title. And I wouldn’t have noticed the assorted people who were standing and applauding as I (apparently) made my way on stage. That 30 seconds of my life is a complete and total blur. Thankfully, I remember everything that happened after that, and more than anything else, those moments are the one’s I will cherish.
* * * * *
Driving home last night was a bizarre experience. I kept wanting to cry. Not out of joy or sadness, but out of relief. The relief that comes from knowing that I don’t have to question myself anymore. I no longer have to feel like a fraud.
You see, I have a hard time trusting my friends when it comes to them complimenting my work. The rationale has always been, “they’re my friends, of course they’re gonna say they liked it”. While this may or not may be true, the fact is that I can’t recall anyone I know ever telling me I out-and-out sucked, which makes it easy to think they’re pulling their punches in the name of friendship. And for some reason, the random compliments from strangers, however appreciated they were at the time, never really sank in. My goal has always been to entertain people, so when I do that, and they say something to me about it, I’ve always viewed it as a confirmation that I accomplished my mission rather than an affirmation of any particular talent I may have.
But this? This is something different. And ironically, it’s not the actual winning of an award that makes it so. Truth be told, the opinions of the three people who were paid to decide such things carry next-to-no weight with me, primarily because two of the three proved to be completely clueless about theater over the course of the last four days. I certainly don’t need a stamp of approval from three random people to feel validated.
And it’s not the heartfelt “congrats” and hugs that followed from those who are, and have been for some time, close to me. I expect nothing less from my friends. It’s why they ARE my friends. And by “friends”, I mean the 10 or so people in my life who I’ve come to count on. I know a lot of people. I’m *friendly* with a lot of people. But only a handful of them do I count as my true friends, those that feel like an extension of my family. I love them and they love me back and it’s an unconditional thing.
No. What brought it all home for me last night, the thing that inspired this vague feeling of validation to all the work I’ve done, was the response from those who I only casually know. The people who I’ve worked with on occasion, and hung out with in passing at various events or whatnot. Friends to some varying degree, yes, but not in a way that would ever lead me to believe they were necessarily pulling for me. So to find myself last night constantly fighting through a sea of people, watching so many of them forcing their way though the crowd with a big smile on their face in order to get to me and offer me a big hug or a handshake, well… that was something I hadn’t quite expected. I mean, they were going *out of their way* to congratulate me. It wasn’t like I happened to pass by so they offered a cursory handshake out of politeness. One of the biggest hugs I got was from a guy who, up till now, I thought viewed me as somewhat of a joke. There was something sincere in it all that I couldn’t have anticipated. Maybe I was just numb from the experience of winning, but it certainly *felt* like there was something special about my getting that recognition that the guy who won Best Lighting wasn’t privy to.
I didn’t take part in my High School graduation. When I finished college, the only person in the audience who really knew me was my best friend, defcon_1. I’ve never been married, or been publicly recognized for any particular achievement. The closest I’ve come to having a moment where I felt like I could make my parents proud were as a teenager back in DeMolay. So to have people who’s paths I occasionally cross, to have those people pull me close, squeeze me tight, and whisper into my ear how immensely proud they were of me, and how happy they were for me…
I dunno. The only word I can think of is “humbling”. I’ve missed out on so many moments like that in my life, and yet, last night it was as if they were all rolled into one. Not because somebody gave me a little glass statue that said I was necessarily better than anyone else, but because so many people whose lives I’ve apparently touched went out of their way to touch mine.
Winning was nice. Realizing that so many people were happy to see me win was overwhelming.
Perhaps I need to expand my list of “friends” to more than 10.