Monday, June 30, 2014

Animated People: Erik Timmerman

Growing up, the consequences for missteps were pretty dire. My Dad rarely took the time to teach me anything, he just assumed that I knew how to do things and do them "his" way. And when I inevitably failed, I'd get punished. It actually lends itself to a sort of mental paralysis that I believe is rather common among those people who either grow up abused or are abused later in life by a spouse. The mindset being: if you're going to be punished regardless, then why even bother trying? A bit grim, I know, but it is what it is.

With my childhood filled with those experiences, it was hard not to fall into a pattern of behavior where I viewed other male authority figures through that particular lens, whether it was justified or not.

So there I was during my first quarter at R.I.T., sitting there in the Photography Core 1 class along with my fellow students, chatting away as we waited for Erik to show up and start teaching. Well, Erik arrived and said he had to do something real quick and then he'd be back. And then he asked me to go get the TV/VCR setup and bring it into the room. I did as he asked and parked the big portable TV stand at the front of the room, then sat back down with my friends.

Erik came back and he started giving his lecture to the class. When it came time to show the example video to the class, he paused, then unwound the cord from the TV/VCR stand, plugged it in, and showed his video.

I was mortified at my screw-up. I should've unwound the cord and plugged it in so he wouldn't have to do it himself. The rest of the class, I was sweating bullets, waiting for the inevitable dressing down for not finishing the job he had given me. When the class was over, I apologized to Erik for not plugging in the unit. He seemed surprised at my behavior and said it was no problem. When he asked why it bothered me, I said that overlooking something like that would've earned me a two-hour lecture from my dad.

He then gave me this quizzical look that telegraphed how "another piece of the puzzle was falling into place" then told me not to worry about the small stuff.

As the relief washed over me I started to see things in a different light. I didn't have to walk on eggshells around Erik. Be polite and respectful, of course, but I shouldn't see him as someone who was just waiting for me to make a mistake so he could drop the hammer.

Looking back at it with years of hindsight, that was one of those moments where I realized that I made the right decision coming to R.I.T. in the first place. That, at least for the moment, I was where I belonged.