Fame, fun, Adele, and the agility dream
My version of “fun” often involves discomfort, frustration, and grabbing on to things and shaking them, it turns out. “Soft fun” was not a type of “having fun” that I really knew how to do. Even me calling that happy, carefree type of having fun “soft fun” indicates my feelings on the subject, for most of the past decade or so. My version of fun, particularly in the earlier years, but also occasionally recently, has involved scowling, screaming, stomping of feet. It has involved disappointment, anger, frustration, and tears. But that’s my version of fun, and I don’t try to sell it on you. There are certainly easier ways to have fun.
So, people start watching me. And early on, they got quite a show. Some good performances, sure. But also a lot of energy. Yelling, screaming, a lot of adrenaline, showy, fancy. Not always nice. A lot of flailing and bad behavior. And then at some point, I realized that people were watching, and that I could use that to my advantage. That I could turn myself into a sort of brand, so that I could get the attention of the masses, attract them to seminars, workshops, my website, etc. Combine my desire to be an educator, to be what a student needs me to be, a chameleon of sorts, with my passion for the sport, and you have a situation where it can either be bliss, or disaster.
As a school teacher, I always assumed that not all of my students would like me, and frankly, that was never a concern of mine – to be liked. I had a job, and that job was to teach kids chemistry. To instill in them a sense of scientific inquiry, a curiosity about the world around them, that they could take with them out of the classroom, even if they never did a lick of chemistry ever again. I knew that some students would complain about me, that they wouldn’t connect with me, but my purpose was clear, and the nature of my interaction with students was pretty clear.
This knowledge did not prepare me for all the trappings of notoriety, FAME, if you will, in dog agility. In the classroom, the nature of my relationship with others was a clear teacher/student relationship. But in agility, it was far more complicated. People could be students. They could be peers. They could be clients. They could be friends, critics, naysayers, competitors, coaches. And, often, one person was more than one of those things AT THE SAME TIME. And, I’m being watched. My motivations for doing things, my actions, my behaviors, suddenly are cause for discussion. Cause for criticism. Cause for interpretation not only for the purposes of criticism but for the purposes of following my lead. I’m not saying these things are bad, or that they are good. They just ARE.
I’m not alone in this, either. Many of us in dog agility have never been in a position where our behaviors, our performances, are observed and judged by others. A situation where we are used as measuring sticks. And, the greater the success enjoyed by a handler, the more notice they are bound to get, and the more they become “famous”. Whether it’s on a local, regional, national, or international scale, many of us have experienced “fame”, in the sense that we are watched, known, and talked about. And, like me, many are ill equipped to deal with this phenomenon, when we spent most of our lives in the crowd, rather than in FRONT of the crowd. OR, we spent our time “doing our own thing”, following our own bliss, unobserved by the crowd.
At some point, as my successes continued, and as I picked up steam as an instructor, I started placing more importance on what the CROWD thought, letting the crowd to some extent dictate my behavior. I like writing, and I’ve long kept a blog, THIS blog, where I’ve been somewhat candid (or thought I was being candid) about my thoughts and feelings. But to some extent, I was writing what I thought the crowd wanted to hear. What would be beneficial for the crowd to hear. For various reasons: to help others improve their own experience in the sport, to connect with others for business and personal reasons. To be more well-liked, etc. etc. A few times I would post something that would get a vehement response from a slice of the population that was interested enough to read what I’d written. Increasingly, I’d have a friend proof my posts prior to posting, to make sure I wouldn’t offend anybody, or piss anybody off, or come off the wrong way. Worried that people would think poorly of me, even ONE PERSON out there – that was a lot to bear. In the classroom? That’s fine. Our role is well defined. But here? Much more complex, and I felt I couldn’t afford even one person thinking poorly of me.
I still struggle with feeling that way.
SIDE NOTE: I am in therapy for this, along with some other reasons. It’s good to talk to a professional about these things. It’s something I looked down my nose at for years, therapy. But what do you know? It’s helpful. Millions of people can’t be wrong. Well, they CAN be (Trump?). But not with respect to this. As a result of my realization that I needed some guidance, I was put on to Brene Brown’s books, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong, and then was put on to her online classes at Courage Works by a friend. I signed up for the course back in January, and it’s been pretty incredible.