Living on the Edge

There are quiet people in this world. Shy, retiring, afraid to let you know what they feel.

And then there’s Missy.

As in the Missy that charges the edge of the stage at a Face Vocal Band concert, witnessing the whole show a shoelace away from the singers.

Or the Missy whose face lights up at the sight of a dog (“Doggie!”), a small child (“Baby!”), or a friendly-looking face in the downtown (“Hi, you!”). Who shouts back at passing motorcycles for being too loud, and then cranks the car stereo to 35 when she thinks no one’s looking.

She’s my age by the calendar.  But she’s miles younger when it comes to enthusiasm and sincerity. For Missy, life is something to be embraced – maybe literally in the case of Face, from whom she collects hugs and hellos after every show.

It’s fun to watch. And a little intimidating to match.

You see, I am one of the quiet people by nature.

OK, you can stop laughing.

Yes, I’m also an actor, a former reporter, a PR guy, and a columnist who shares pieces of his life on a regular basis. This is not necessarily a contradiction. While all of those are social, they’re also situations where the conversation usually has rules. An actor has a script. A reporter has questions, a PR guy a specific field to expound on. A columnist has space to think and a copious supply of caffeine.

Granted, all of these allow for some level of improvisation, or demand it, even, at times. But that foundation is always there, a safe outlet.

When you’re a quiet kid, you learn those outlets early.

In grade school, I sometimes hid behind library bookcases to avoid talking to people. In junior high, I was regularly dodging bullies. High school was a lot better, but there was always the awareness of being a little out of the mainstream – the jokes we’d tell each other about being “theatre geeks,” “choir nerds” or heaven help us, one of those weirdos who liked roleplaying.

It’s a different world now than it was, then. The geeks conquered the cultural universe. Now, things like The Lord of the Rings or Marvel superheroes aren’t nerdy obsessions, they’re coffeepot conversations. The niche has become the mainstream.

But habits don’t change quickly. Inner natures even less so. I think a lot of us – whatever our backgrounds, whatever our interests – still weigh situations carefully. To see if it’s acceptable, or even safe, to show what we feel. To keep that careful distance from the edge, lest we fall.

And to marvel, just a little bit, at those willing to dance there without fear.

That is Missy.

And it’s why we make such a curious team.

The sitcoms would love it – the near-silent extrovert paired with the social introvert. (Even more so when you add my wife Heather, an introvert by nature who loves steering both of us to new experiences and situations.) And, as with any good sitcom, everyone learns a lot from each other by the end of the episode.

A little more listening and restraint on one side. A little more fearlessness and willingness to let go, on the other. A world to explore for both.

If we fall, we fall together. But I’m a lot less worried about falling than I used to be.

It’s a great way to face the world. Or even to be whirled toward Face.

It’s certainly music to our ears.