Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sorry I'm Not Sorry




A few years ago I was on a film set, shooting a short film that I was acting in.  This was long before "Sorry I'm not sorry" was a popular phrase thrown around to express how unapologetic one truly is. It was my very first time on set, and I was really nervous and really excited and kind of scared.  I didn't sleep much the night previous, due to these emotions, and also a tragedy that struck the day before.


I arrived at set on Saturday morning at 6am, costumes in tow, unsure of what to expect, having never been on a set before. It was October, and it was foggy, cold, and my stomach was in knots. I went over to our makeshift craft services section, and busied myself the only way I know how--munching, and making sure that refrigerated items weren't left out of the ice chests. I stuck yogurts and milk into the ice chest with a shaky hand, issuing quiet warnings of 'this stuff can't be left out.'

Overall, it was a great experience--surrounded by friends and fellow actors, it was nice to be on set, to see the cameras, schedule, run lines, and listen to music to get me prepared for my scenes. I felt like a real actress, and it was pretty fabulous.  Then, it was time to shoot my first scene--I stood in a tiny room getting mic'ed by the sound engineer for the project, a stern (but friendly) lady who had been in the industry for many years.

As she was putting the mic on me, my arm was in the way--"I'm sorry." I said, and she kind of looked at me.  A minute later, my very existence being an impediment to how the mic fit, I apologized again, "Oops, sorry." I said, and then she looked at me.

"Stop apologizing." She said, her tone was kind, but firm.
"Sorry." I said, again, by rote--not even kidding around.
"Stop saying you're sorry," She said again, "Are you really sorry?" She inquired.
I thought about it for a moment--"No." I said, simply, realizing I wasn't sorry.
She went on to explain to me that she had encountered this phenomenon for years, mostly from women, apologizing when they weren't really sorry.  Throughout the rest of the mic session, any time I felt like saying sorry, I would try to catch myself.  I failed a couple times, and she and I laughed together.  "It's hard, isn't it?" She asked, and it was.

After I did my scene (which I was really proud of, by the way), I thought more about what she said, about the apologies I offered, and how I wasn't really sorry--I just wanted people to like me, to think I was polite.  Which, I suppose, there is nothing inherently wrong with. But, then I stopped and thought about it more. I was apologizing, in this particular instance, for my body being present. For the appendages, which are of myself, being in the way of someone strapping a foreign object to my body--I was apologizing to them when I moved the wrong way, when I didn't move fast enough.  I thought back to my time in the makeup/hair chair, and noticed the same thing-- I was apologizing for blinking, for moving my head, or scratching my nose.

When I thought about it in those terms--it was ridiculous. I realized that I cared so much about what people thought of me, that I was essentially apologizing for my own existence.  Like, 'oh, sorry my very presence is an annoyance/impediment to your work, I apologize profusely and incessantly in the hopes that you don't think I'm rude or don't appreciate what you're doing for me.'

Kind of crazy, really, when I looked at it like that.  The rest of the time filming, I really concentrated on not apologizing for trivial things.  I tried really hard to not say sorry unless I meant it--If I accidentally hit someone when moving my arm, I am sorry; if someone hits me, I am not.  Before that weekend, I would apologize for either instance.

It was more difficult than I imagined--I learned for the first time how absolutely ingrained 'I'm sorry,' and 'Sorry' were in my every day vocabulary.  And the thing is: I never even noticed.  How many times had I apologized before this, hundreds?  Thousands?  More? 

Most of us--or at least some of us--were brought up to be polite. We were taught that we shouldn't be rude, we should be kind, we should treat others with respect.  I thought maybe that had something to do with why I apologized so much, but that wasn't it, not when I really sat down to think about it.  No, it was more than just manners--please, thank you, you're welcome--it was deeper than that.  When I looked at why I was apologizing, it wasn't because I was sorry, it was because I felt like an inconvenience, because I felt like I needed to make sure the person I was randomly apologizing to knew that I was a nice person, that he or she really liked me.  It was because I felt like an inconvenience--and what I learned that weekend, is that I wasn't--I'm not--an inconvenience. And if I am, well... that's not because of me.

After filming was over, I hugged the woman who taught me this, and told her thank you, and meant it.

For awhile, I kept it up--I wouldn't randomly drop an apology for something I wasn't truly sorry for, for inane things like taking too long to retrieve money from my wallet, to find a card, or enter my PIN number at the checkout line, or being in someone's way on a sidewalk.

Recently, however, when I was at a drive thru retrieving my Diet Coke (I still really need to cut back), I noticed myself apologizing for not speaking loudly enough.  "Oh, a large diet coke, sorry."  I wasn't sorry at all! And yet, there I was apologizing, as if to say pleasedonotbemadatme.

It was then that I realized I had begun walking on eggshells with the rest of the world again--I had forgotten the lesson I learned that weekend in October, which in the short run was: Don't apologize for things you aren't actually sorry for. And in the long run was: You are just as worthy as everyone else.  You deserve things just as much as everyone else.  Your existence is not an inconvenience, and if it is, it is not your problem, it is theirs.

So, you see, I realized that I need to get that back--I need to work on not apologizing at random, to strangers, for things I can't control or are not my fault.  When someone bumps into me on the street, I don't need to apologize, they should.  

It's a tough lesson to learn--it was then, and it certainly will be again. But, it's pretty important--on the surface it isn't a big deal, but at the heart of the issue, it's realizing that I am important. Sorry I'm not sorry.

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