Recognized, but not that way

The Daily Prompt asks, “As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?”

Famous. I wanted to be famous. I blame the acting classes, and the modicum of success I experienced in the grade nine musical theatre production. Oh and I’m sure all those piano lessons were a contributing factor. To be honest, I wasn’t very specific about what I wanted to be famous at. So long as I was famous.

At some point in my early 20s I do recall pausing to reflect on how I would know when I had achieved fame, and I came up with an elegantly simple measure. For me, being famous meant that people I didn’t know personally would recognize me  and know who I was.

So thirty years later how am I doing?

To begin with, having spent so much of my career teaching in one form or another, I have amassed three decades worth of former students. One thing about being a teacher is that there is generally one of me with a whole roomful of students, multiplied by class after class, year after year. And, to be brutally honest, unless you were really exceptional (either for good or ill), the odds of me remembering your name fifteen or twenty years later are a little iffy. But you remember me, because I was the one performing at the front of the room. So when you rush up to me in the mall to say hi, I must admit that I experience that moment as if someone I don’t know has recognized me. It’s flattering, but a little disconcerting, especially when I really don’t remember any details of our time together.

Secondly, because of a series of management roles I have held, both in the independent high school where I taught, and more recently in the public service, my name has, for years, appeared publicly. I have, for at least two-thirds of my working life, been the person who is named as being officially in charge of something. Consequently, over the years there have been particular contexts in which I could introduce myself and anticipate a response of “Oh, I know who you are!”

Andy Warhol said everyone is famous for fifteen minutes, and I have managed to pull off a few fifteen minute stints of fame for my writing. Not Margaret Atwood  or Ernest Hemingway fame. Just the kind of modest fame that lets you go to bed grinning with self-satisfaction, but leaves you still needing to haul yourself off to the day job in the morning. I’ve read my work on the radio and been published in academic journals. I’ve written study guides for a local theatre and actually been paid to do it. And twice now, in the eight months I’ve been blogging here, the lovely editors at WordPress have seen fit to Freshly Press my work. I’m still riding the wave of the most recent Fresh Press, and I have to confess that it brings out in me that same impulse that long ago made me dream of fame. It’s thrilling to watch my stats spike, to count the likes (thank you!) and tally the new follows (Welcome!) Comments mean a great deal, especially the ones where the commenter has added their own thoughts,  and the biggest reward of all is when someone re-posts what I have written.

Because the truth is, I’m no longer looking for my old vision of fame. I no longer care if, when I meet you on the street, you recognize my face or know my name. What matters to me at this stage of my life is that something I did made a difference to you. When you re-post my blog, you are telling me that you thought I said something worth reading– that it mattered to you in some way, and therefore might matter to the people who read your blog.  And that matters a great deal to me.





19 thoughts on “Recognized, but not that way

  1. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Futures Past | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

  2. At one point when I was very young I thought it would nice to be famous. But now I kind of like being anonymous and being able to go anywhere and do anything without worrying about being recognized. But I do recognize and appreciate your skills as a blogger and I enjoy reading your posts. So that’s something, right?

  3. speakinginvolume

    I always had the same idea about fame too. I l appreciate your outlook on the word ‘fame’, it’s refreshing. It sounds like you have achieved a lot in your life ( and a lot of ‘fame’) and I only hope to achieve that same kind of fame and job satisfaction in my life. I would love to be able to enrich peoples lives by helping them in any way possible. I try to do what I can now as a college student, but I feel as though my time to shine will come after graduation. Thank you for sharing you thoughts they have given me a new outlook on the word ‘fame’ and what job satisfaction really is!

    1. I’m glad my words have given you an opportunity to reflect — that’s exactly what I’m talking about. I still remember that feeling of being a student and waiting for life to start, but when I look back now I can see that the choices I made and the things I did even in my early 20s laid the foundation for the life I have led. It’s never too early to make a difference. The challenge is that you don’t always know where you’ve made a difference until much later.

  4. Thank you for sharing your relationship with fame, past and present. I like your writing, it’s honest and touching. Perhaps, if we want to be famous, it’s really just the search for universal love?:) I’m wondering.

    1. You expressed yourself just fine 🙂 It is a very long time since I have seen Paris– incredible city. Someday I mean to write a post about getting stuck in the Eiffel tower elevator.

  5. alienorajt

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed, Anna – quite right too! I know exactly what you mean about the feelings which come when an ex-pupil comes up and greets you in the street/pub/cinema. I still get a warm feeling inside when a grown-up calls out, ‘Miss Browning! You taught me back in 1983!’ xxx

  6. I still want to be famous. I seek out every opportunity I can find to be in front of people. Blogging is a good, current example, but there are many other venues. When I was younger, I even thought about leaving everything I had, including a wife and child, and pursue a career on the Broadway Stage. I am a shameless seeker of recognition.

  7. Thanks for revealing the vanity of your dreams. It is refreshingly honest to admit one has aspired to unattainable heights and, instead of fame, found wisdom and peace of mind. That comfort with your “self” along with the clarity of your prose prompted me to subscribe to your blog!

  8. Interesting.

    I was recently in a library in a small Ontario town and asked if they had my latest book. They didn’t, but the librarian recognized my name from my journalism — even though I left Canada in 1988. That was both lovely and odd. Recognition is also acknowledgement of your talent, hard work, energy, compassion. Fame, to me, is a bit of an empty vessel. My measure, in midlife, of the value of being known and admired by others is more personal, whether someone will come to my side in times of trouble, not simply admire me or my work from a safe distance.

    1. I also consider it a very real (and appreciated) form of recognition to wake up to the discovery that a professional writer has been spending her morning reading and commenting on my blog! 🙂

  9. Pingback: Flash Fiction / Short Story – “A Family of Marionettes” | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

  10. Pingback: Older, and dafter too! | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me

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