Agency

I saw someone wearing this t-shirt the other day —

unknown pleasures

— and it reminded me of the last time I saw this shirt. It was a long time ago when I freelanced at a place  … let’s call it … The Complex. While I was there I worked on … oh, let’s call it … The Product. The Product was taken away from “my” department and handed over to another department that day years ago when I saw a woman wearing the t-shirt. The shirt then reminded me of something I wrote in a commercial screenplay.

Unknown Pleasures

This is not usually a detail a screenwriter would include in a script s/he wished to sell; “directing on paper” is a big no-no. But I kept it in there because I thought it said a lot about the character. So it was a small act of defiance on my part. I had agency. At that moment. On that page.

As I continued my ride home from The Complex, I thought of the many people involved in making The Product, and how they all seemed to answer to someone higher up the ladder. No one, it seemed, had agency. Personally, I didn’t care all that much, because I was a freelancer and was not heavily invested in The Product. It definitely wasn’t my baby and most certainly not my life’s work. I admit I was frustrated — no one likes to spend a lot of time on something and then have it taken away —  but I was able to let it wash off me in the time it took me to get  to the bike path. Other people cared a great deal, though, and were upset for a long time, and resented the decisions made by people further up that ladder. It was ugly.

I biked the rest of the way home and I remember looking forward to playing guitar and thinking about A Life’s Work and reading over a short story I was revising. This short story was being considered by a journal, if I delivered it with some changes. I believed the suggestions made by the editor were good and would improve the story, so I didn’t feel like I was compromising or that my agency was being taken away from me. I felt like I was collaborating with the journal’s editor.

And I thought how nice it was to have these little worlds in my life that allowed me to do what I want, how I want, when I want (most of the time). This is a big reason why I became an artist, I think. These worlds, they are small and may amount to nothing, but they are mine.

Thank you for wearing that t-shirt, person I passed the other day, and reminding of my little worlds.

And if you, dear reader, left a comment telling me about your little worlds, that would be grand.

[cross-posted on Extracriticum.com]