People interest me. The choices people make, the paths they take, the way they move and talk and interact, have always fascinated me. I watch people like other people watch TV shows or movies. I can become fully immersed.
When I was younger, and far more confrontational, I used to say that I wished I could keep people in small cages like rats. So I could study them and learn all about them. Because to be honest other people’s behavior has always seemed, to me,to be completely unpredictable. Random and non-nonsensical, in fact. Sometimes even my own actions were unfathomable. Ultimately, the desire to understand people (and myself) led me to study psychology which didn’t help. Neither did sociology. Although those subjects can help you to learn quite a lot about yourself, how packs of people behave, and some of the problems that occur when human development doesn’t move forward in a nice, peaceful, typical manner.
While the concept of people being caged like rats tends to make people upset – the theory behind my juvenile jest was sound. If you have been objectively observing a creature since that creature’s birth, you know every single event in their lives, every encounter they have ever had, you have scientific proof of the creature’s motivations, and you are completely cognizant of their current emotional state you have a good chance of predicting it’s future behavior. Otherwise, it is a crap shoot.
I recently left a job where I worked with children who had behavioral problems and/or mental health issues. I worked for the same company, and in the same capacity, for almost 10 years. With knowledge of the children’s past experiences, knowing where they were developmentally, by direct observation of them and by constantly monitoring their emotional states direct care staff could sometimes predict which situations were going to be challenging for a child and what outcomes were likely given different variables. But there were always variables that could not be factored into the ever-changing mental math equations. The state-issued case worker got held up with another client and was 2 hours late to the meeting or the therapist’s dad was taken to the hospital and she was preoccupied and anxious in the therapy session or dad, who had been M.I.A. for 6 months, showed up last night. The list of possibilities was endless. The cast of characters infinite. But, as an artist who was interested in people anyway, it was an eye-opening experience in the nuances of projection, perception and human expression.
Looking at my life experiences with a broad view I can say that from any angle I’ve picked, the mental or the physical, objectively or subjectively, psychologically or artistically, I’ve always focused on the same subject – people. I find them fascinating. It makes me think about how you never really know where your choices will take you and what seems like traveling down the “wrong” path, or getting lost on your journey, can serve a purpose in your life. People focus on school, or work, or their family or on all those things in quick succession and after a few years, or decades, they look up and don’t recognize the landscape. At that point it’s easy to imagine the path you wanted too far away and it’s effortless to just plod along fantasizing about the paths that you didn’t take. I propose that your path, the one you started out on is neither lost nor miles behind you. I think it’s just over there, so turn around and look at it from another angle.