Ice, Water, Steam: “Take on the theme of H2O. What does it mean to be the same thing, in different forms?”
Taking on monologues for our acting class, I recklessly picked Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and the character of Jim O’Connor, the play’s nice guy whose real struggle is maintaining self-improvement. I was originally going to pick songs from musicals I’m familiar with (Role of a Lifetime and Run Away With Me) but my professor subtly told me that Jim’s monologue may best work for me. It took me moments until the text hit me: inferiority complex.
The gist of the monologue goes like this: he meets with a high school acquaintance who dropped out of college because of a clump. He then identifies her as someone with a strong inferiority complex. He tells her that he had it too before going through the process of constant self-improvement.
I was part of the top ten when I finished high school. My favorite subjects were Math and Science. I was part of the school paper and to be really honest, I was your typical introverted (but outgoing) math dude except maybe for the glasses. I was a regular high scorer for math exams and during my free times, I was busy reading books and/or playing Pet Society. Perhaps that’s what got me into engineering for college.
For two years, I was having fun. I was learning new math techniques; I was now making mistakes but I was still learning. Math and Science were my strengths and for a long time I thought it was really my calling. Flash forward to this writing moment, I’m still blaming myself for being so wrong. Picking something just because it was easy is not the best idea when making large scale life decisions, i.e., college degree and career in general.
Engineering was going to be my calling. It had my attention and my focal point. Until I discovered the freedom in creating something beyond theories and equations. I discovered the stage when I auditioned for the Ateneo Blue Repertory back in 2011 when I was in my second year in college. It was a musical theatre org and simply out of curiosity, I took on the biggest risk of my life. I sang I’ll Make a Man Out of You in front of a couple of strangers and in a few weeks’ time, I was performing as a lead for a musical.
Jim O’Connor constantly pushes for self-improvement. With his strong personality, he opens up on being inferior once upon a time because of his struggle to keep up with his personal demands to be more, to be a better reflection of himself.
But does it ever go away? Inferiority complex? In one way or another, people (and I for this matter), will surpass expectations and will become the person beyond their dreams. But so does the fear of not being better. It surpasses your progress and continues as a bigger fear.
The Evolution of Inferiority
There’s one thing in common between my high school math guy identifier and my college theatre persona: that constant drive to defeat my insecurities. When I finished high school, I thought the glory was all in the grades. My grades were really high and that became my cage. Excellence became a maintenance game for my grades and perhaps this was the reason why I got literally sick after failing my first math long test in college. It changed me and my strengths became my weaknesses.
To be really honest (as in deep down), in many ways that my personal calling in this world is changing, my inferiority complex is not lagging behind. As a performer, there’s this constant hunger for sincerity, for truthfulness. It pains me to not achieve my objectives on stage, more so my objectives in my now complex career choices.
Inferiority complex evolves with you. The fear reshapes into different forms but it’s always the same. One day you’re scared of not meeting the expectation of your math teachers, the next day you’re scared of not living up to the demands of your directors. Five years ago, I never would have gone performing on stage. Now I’m craving for it. But it’s still the same. There’s this perpetual thirst for excellence and although it has different faces, it has the same heart.
For the past few years, I’ve grown from that math dude to this multifaceted engineering slash theatre dude. But one thing remained constant in my case – my battle for self-improvement. I’ve been aiming to be better than yesterday since I don’t know when and although exhausting, it brought sense to me over time. And it’s a good thing since essentially it’s what pushed me to grow, to be more. Who knows, maybe in the next few years I’d be doing something out of my league. Like street dancing or maybe medicine. Nobody knows.