Am I Enough? The Words of Scott Fried

Scott Fried is a #brave #storyteller.

Last night, thanks to one of my favorite students, I attended a… talk? presentation? seminar? class? event? I still can’t find the right word to describe it, because it was all of that and yet none of it. It was fascinating, visceral, emotional, enlightening, uplifting, heartbreaking, affirming… and probably more words that will come to me as I put together this blog post. Teddy (who has a heart sixteen million sizes bigger than anyone I’ve met) brought Scott to our campus after seeing him speak at a conference a few years ago. When he told me about Scott, I called and researched… come to think of it, I remember calling Scott to talk about details and costs and funding (I just remembered this when I was typing that sentence)… and I followed him on Twitter.

I love to follow people who are unafraid and courageous, and not at the cost of others. Scott is one of those people, and although he doesn’t tweet NEARLY as much as I do, he does use it as a positive tool to communicate and encourages others to use it as a positive tool to help communicate his message. Now, I didn’t tweet during his talk, because I didn’t want to be distracted. Instead, I took notes. LOTS of notes.

Scott spoke in a way that reminded me of preachers and slam poets. There was a rhythm and cadence to it that had me thinking of how Lin-Manuel Miranda delivers some of Usnavi’s lines from In The Heights; it was a lyrical cascade of words and emotions that painted a picture where the colors bleed to the edges and seep into your soul. He’s a storyteller in a full-body sense, where he moves and conducts the words that connect with the audience. He uses eye contact in a very effective way; his eyes are that warm, rich, and honest shade of brown, that make you think of solid earth.

Scott spoke about the idea of being ‘enough,’ that we are enough of ourselves as we are, and that we all carry words in our pockets (front jeans pockets, in particular) that we may use to question our self-worth and doubt whether or not we’re enough. He presented the idea that we fear the contradiction between who we present to the outside world and who we are when we are truly alone.

That right there, it hit home for me. Sitting in that room with my dean on the other side of the aisle, I realized that was one of my biggest fears as well as thrills. Me? I simultaneously fear and revel in that contradiction between those two sides. The person that Scott followed on Twitter (and let me tell you, I just about fell over when he said that he thought I was fascinating because of what I put in my feed day after day) is probably NOT the same person that my dean sees or thinks he knows.

Straddling the line between creativity and academia means that I fear being punished for that contradiction, because I don’t know if being sincere and multifaceted is truly valued in this academic microcosm where I pull a paycheck. (And I’m not going to backspace that last line, no matter how much I want to at the moment.)

Another thing that Scott said hit home. The notion of ‘coming out’ with regard to declaring oneself of a non-heterosexual persuasion (see V. use clumsy phrasing in an attempt to not insult people) usually happens with the closet metaphor. Coming out of a closet, staying in the closet, being stuck in the closet behind the shoe rack, etc. And my first thought? I record IN A CLOSET. You know what’s in there? A Coca-Cola polar bear that my friends from high school got me for my 16th birthday, a handmade doll from my AP Calc teacher, a small stuffed Twilight Sparkle, and a still-boxed Zecora. A box of College Players t-shirts that I will never throw out.

… I think I left my coffee mug in there this morning. It’s my RENT one. Ironic. ANYWAY. Recording in a closet. Fearing the contradiction, the crossing of the streams (in Ghostbusters terms), and it’s just one other thing that hits home.

I completely understood the burned fingers example.

Scott talked about it was important to find the “c’mere” people, those individuals who give others permission to be exactly who they are. One of my goals in my academic/professional life (and let’s face it, personal as well) is to be one of those people. Sometimes, people find me and the chair in my office for that, sometimes people find my classes, and sometimes, other people help them find me. I claim that I’d make a lousy counselor because it’s hard not to empathize with people, and I want them to take the time that they need to sit and talk and be themselves. But… I dunno. In this environment, some find it hard to believe that those “c’mere” people exist and have no hidden agenda.

His last “slide” was of Grover, with the words ‘I am enough’ superimposed on the colored drawing. I had to giggle… mostly because of the notion of Grover and “The Monster at the End of This Book,” and how Grover spends ALL this time going through the book, putting up walls and nailing down pages, because he doesn’t want the reader to discover the monster at the end of the book. Of course… the monster at the end of the book is Grover himself. It was SUCH an appropriate ending, whether or not others in the room realized it.

Scott’s talk used the idea of being enough and self-value in the context of safe sex, the idea that we should value ourselves to the extent that we have the courage to protect ourselves. That approach in of itself is beautiful, positive, and encompasses a wide variety of belief systems, and it gets to the core of so many other fears and challenges that we face. It’s an approach that is a bit radical, but it doesn’t shut anyone down, and that is the most important piece of this communication puzzle. Not shutting someone down helps us to leave the door open (it’s not a dichotomy, mind you) to engage in dialogue, even if that dialogue explores perspectives rather than finds solutions.

I was in tears by the end; as I drove home, I felt like someone had scraped out the insides of my soul with a teeny-tiny melon baller and left the pieces out for me to piece back together. It wasn’t a bad feeling, just very raw and uncontrolled, and it took a while to put things back in the right compartments before I could manage dinner and some quality TV time with my husband. He was upset that I was upset (also, that I was an hour past when I’d said I’d be home) and it took a good half hour to get things verbalized and emotionally managed. But… worth it. As Scott had said, you don’t leave a conversation until love walks in the room.

From the academic perspective, Scott is worth his weight in gold for any high school or college campus. Hands down. Bring him to your school. Have high schoolers in your home? Bring Scott to their school. Few have the combination of courage and compassion that he brings in his work, and he is a rare find.

From my personal perspective, those two hours were priceless. One of my three words for 2013 is ‘brave‘ and attending this event was certainly building toward that goal of being brave. I loved it. It’s one of those forever-changing events, and I’m grateful to have been able to experience it firsthand.

Also: Scott gives awesome hugs.

EDIT: These are my notes from the talk. I used my itty black Moleskin book, so I can’t ever throw them out. :) Some of my notes are my questions in response to his stories or anecdotes (the bit about not talking about condom use was my scribble in response to his saying that some people who bring him as a speaker tell him to not talk about condoms, so he approaches the subject matter in a different vein), so they may not make a lot of sense.








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