I made a video blog on the train today.
I can assure that it was really embarrassing to be talking to myself (or to a camera, more exactly) at such a public place. Yet it was a challenge to myself, and something that I had to do, no matter what, to be able to get out of my comfort zone and be more confident. I’ve had the idea of filming on the train for a while now, mostly because I have to commute to school everyday and because it’s often a place full of people I don’t know or who don’t know each other. The train is therefore something symbolic: it is a public yet closed space, where individualism and boredom coexist and are at their highest.
By doing something as silly as filming myself talking on the train, I wanted to emphasize my relation with myself, then how people in public react to others. This challenge may sound easy at first, but would prove to be difficult once we begin to take many other elements into consideration, such as shyness, social stress, identity, shame, self-reflection,… It was of great importance for me that such a challenge would be taken on. Somehow I knew that if I were able to do this, I would be able to carry out any other plan or project I could think of. Guts are needed, especially in making art, writing or making photos. So I took the train to school this morning in order to take an exam later in the day, thinking that I was finally ready to rise up to the challenge. There were few people on the train, only about six to ten passengers per carriage, as the peak hour was already over. I chose a seat at one end of a carriage, near two smart-looking guys who were discussing about the solution for a sudoku game that they found on the local newspaper. Behind me was a student at around my age, who, judging from the huge stack of papers before him and the look on his face, must have been trying to review as much as he could for an upcoming exam. In front of me sat nobody, and further was the connection to the next carriage of the intercity train. Before getting on the train, I hadn’t known that I’d get that nervous at the thought of talking to my hand phone with the presence of others. My heart started beating fast. I became fidgety and felt unexpectedly unsecured. Never had I been so sensible of others’ movements and attention. Two minutes had passed by since the train departed, then three minutes, four minutes, till it reached its first stop ten minutes later. All I managed to do was taking my hand phone out of my pocket, pressing on the record button, and turning the camera towards me. Sitting still with my hands slightly trembling, I couldn’t speak at all. In my mind, words were racing, manifesting to come out, but my mouth remained shut. I won’t be able to do this! Come on, all you have to do is speaking the first word, then everything will come naturally after that. No, no, no, I’ve forgotten how to speak! Maybe I’ll speak too loudly. Maybe the guys solving sudoku over there will turn to look at me if I begin to talk. Maybe I’ll disturb the boy behind me while he’s studying. Maybe the train will stop while I’m speaking and there will come new passengers and they won’t get why the hell I’m talking to my hand phone. Maybe…, maybe…, maybe,…. Though I knew that it was a now-or-never chance, I let it slip away and got off the train with regret after 20 minutes had passed and the train has reached its destination. However, the experience and the desire to take on the challenge kept on haunting me the whole day, even when I met my friends in the library, during my exam and while biking back from school to the train station. Then I knew that my day wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t take action on the way back. I’d be feeling miserable, blaming myself for my own weaknesses, not being able to concentrate on anything for the rest of the week. The train back home in the afternoon was as deserted as the train to school, which was perfect for me to overcome my nervousness. I chose a place at the end of a carriage, where I would only be noticed if people cared about my weird doings and about what I said to the camera. A woman was chatting on the phone, a man sitting nearby was staring absentmindedly through the window. I took out my phone, repeated the whole process from the morning, then sat still before the camera again, but this time only for one or two minutes. I also raised my phone higher than in the morning (I had tried to hide the fact that I was filming then), took a deep breath, and spoke up. The first sentence coming out of my mouth was just like a magic spell. The nervousness disappeared surprisingly quickly, as if dispersed at the movement of a magic wand. For a moment, it seemed as if the woman had stopped talking and the man’s sight turned slightly from the window to my direction, but then everything came back to how it had been. I kept on talking to the phone, feeling relieved, like having gotten rid of a heavy burden. I was so proud and happy that I wanted to dance and to scream, but held myself back, thinking: ‘Being able to go this far was already enough for today.’ When the train arrived at its first stop, a young woman got on, being a little surprised at the sight of me still talking alone to the camera, then just walked farther into the carriage without any special remark or any further attention. After getting off the train, I continued filming while walking home and even while having to cross the street. The confidence that I was able to gain was the biggest reward. What I also learned from this experience is that no one would care as much as I often imagined. Even if they would, they’d forget it a few seconds later anyway, when I’ve gotten out of sight. Furthermore, the challenge made me aware of the importance of the context: Making videos is probably different from making videos featuring yourself. Then making videos featuring yourself in your own room is different from making videos of yourself at a public place. Making videos of yourself and keeping them secretly in a hard disk is once again different from uploading those on the internet (like on YouTube). Talking about details of your private life in your videos is without doubt also different from talking nonsense, making joke, or discussing social and political issues…. All these dissimilarities are caused by how conscious we are of our own or others’ presence. It is how we think about ourselves, how we think about others, how we would like to think about ourselves and people to think about us that define our actions or decisions to take, or not to take, actions in these circumstances. For the first time in my life, I’ve truly understood the fact that I’m responsible for most of my failures, and that external elements have always but very little effect on how I perform. For example, as a student, I’ve been used to making excuses during all the past school years for not doing my homework. It has never seemed to be my own fault that my notebook was often blank: I was probably sick, or someone in my family was sick, or my cat was sick, or my neighbor was sick and had to cough all night, or I didn’t have time, or the exercises were simply to difficult to bother anyway,… Words turn into lies, and lies gradually turn into the truth. Finally, I am still the one having the most responsibility for my decisions, actions and perception of the world around me. So yeah, it was wonderful being able to accomplish such a silly thing and to face myself instead of running away from it all the time. Finally, I would like to thank this guy and his inspiring speech for being the encouragement. I wonder how long it would have taken me to take on this challenge if I hadn’t seen the video.