Augustine’s First SCAB – By @augustine_cerf
By Augustine Cerf
SCA has hauled me determinedly out of my comfort zone and term hasn’t even started yet. Having lived in England my entire life, I have naturalised a British guardedness and awkwardness; with it came a (mostly) mild social anxiety. The French, incidentally, having no word for awkwardness cannot access the particular experience that the word captures, but that is beside the point. Despite my being shy and self-conscious, historically terrified of making doctor’s appointments because that involved a phone call to an unfamiliar person, reluctant generally to speak to strangers and nursing a particular distaste for public speaking or exposure, SCA has pushed me to shower half naked whilst singing in front of a room full of people and subsequently to go out on the streets dressed as a wizard asking hundreds of people if they wanted to time travel for free. The scholarship competition did nothing but throw me into the deep end, forcing me to do things I didn’t know how to do as I strived to build a time machine – I upholstered a chair, I handled a glue gun, I made a spinning wheel out of a pizza dish – but most pertinently, it encouraged me to be ridiculous, to go out with my absurd time machine wearing my dad’s pyjamas, a wizard hat and a fake beard as I stood getting rejected over and over again for days. And I loved it – it was invigorating. I wasn’t afraid of people anymore and I wasn’t afraid of failing or looking like an idiot, nor was I afraid of rejection; I didn’t feel hurt by the people who ignored me or told me to fuck off.
And every time somebody sat on my chair and tried but failed to travel back in time, something spectacular happened. Each person brought his or her particular value to the chair. In asking people where in their lifetimes they would like to travel back in time and what they would change, I shared a moment them as they shared a moment with themselves, one which they let me turn into something I could then share with more people. And even the moments that happened off camera, many of which were actually the most powerful, allowed me to share with complete strangers certain intensities, their admissions and painful memories, their anger and resentment or simply their fond memories, their silly misadventures. When a homeless man screamed at me that my chair couldn’t revive the prison guard he had accidentally killed, telling me repeatedly to fuck off whilst breaking down, reprocessing the experience through a mix of dejection and an aggression directed cathartically at me, I wasn’t afraid. My chair couldn’t help him (although I would rather hopefully like to believe that it did allow many people to self-scrutinize, to reprocess experiences and to reconnect with themselves and with others) but people were no longer intimidating to me; they were full of stories and regrets, they were beautiful and funny and multifarious, accumulations of past narratives, of failures, wounds and rejections that my guardedness had previously clouded. By pushing myself to stop them to talk and to in turn push them to open themselves up, I found a newly vitalized love for the mass of strangers that I used to find threatening.