How do you perceive time? Apparently, depending on your personality, you might perceive time in such a way as to be chronically early… or late.
For as long as I can recall, my perception of time has been wonky. I feel it pass significantly slower than it really does for the first hour or two after I wake up, regardless of how well I slept. The more tired I am the slower I perceive it–unless I rocket past general fatigue to being ultra tired, which makes it so there’s no time buffer at all for me. Annoyingly, that’s when I’m at my cleverest.
I should say that I’m very likely ADD as fuck, or possibly on the spectrum (undiagnosed, but I’ve all the symptoms and then some). Whatever I have, I’m definitely not neurotypical. I’ve had conversations with friends who are for sure neurodivergent about how I feel like I speak a different kind of English and the consensus is Me too. It’s an English that many people understand but, also, not really. A kind of Pidgin. I’ve had so many conversations with neurotypical people where even though I think I’m being very clear it occurs to me mid-conversation that the other person is hearing me say something else entirely. Their understanding of what I say is unintended. Or they perhaps stop listening part-way and extrapolate the rest (often incorrectly (oh, the importance of listening!)). They misinterpret what I say, think less of me or my intelligence as a result, and I stand there staring at them like, Are you kidding me? Again? I should also say that more often than not when that happens the other person is a dude, but I digress.
Earlier in the pandemic, a very good friend of mine and I were having a conversation with two other very good friends. She said something seemingly unrelated to the topic and our other two friends sort of sat back, clearly flummoxed, and said, “What are you talking about??” But I smiled at her. “I get it. A, therefore B, therefore C, therefore D, ergo E. Lightning quick,” I said, drawing a jagged line of lightning in the air as I went.
She smiled at me, like, Yes, exactly. “See?” she said. “She gets it!”
That friend has ADD.
This lightning thing is something that happens to me too. I was recently in a VO accountability meeting where someone else asked a question about a possible avenue we had considered as a group. I remember, at the time, thinking about it, seeing if someone was going to say something, but realizing no one was responding, so I piped up.
That meeting was recorded. I watched it the next day to review and it turns out there was maybe a second between the question being posited and my response. I was surprised. I could have sworn at least a couple of seconds had passed, but that wasn’t the case. I was reminded of another time when I was in a class for pcap (that’s “performance capture" for you non-VO nerds) taught by Tom Keegan as I played opposite Ian Russel. Tom asked Ian to think about his character’s motive and what would be the opposite of it and to play it that way as an exercise. I asked if Tom wanted to know mine too and he said “Why not” but I blanked because I hadn’t actually thought of what my opposite would be. The character, as I was playing her, wanted her father to come with her off of a sinking ship. “I’m approaching this as ‘Come with me, I don’t want you to die, I love you’,” I said. I thought about it for a long moment. “Well, I suppose the opposite of that would be ‘Fuck you, go ahead and die, I knew you never loved me.’” Tom stared at me, said that wasn’t the direction he was thinking but it was a profound one and to go that way instead. I joked at the end of class how it took me a long time to come up with that. “A long time?” he repeated with a smile. “It took you fifteen seconds to figure that out. I think your perception of time is wrong.”
This isn’t to brag, by the way, it’s merely an observation. How much more of my life is like that? Or for other neurodivergent folks? How many of us are walking around with wonky brain clocks, processing at super-speed to the point that we’re basically time-traveling without realizing? I think that makes it all the more important for actors to be comfortable with watching or listening to themselves. To get an idea of how they're really coming off, in real-time.
When I worked in the restaurant, I got very good at timing things by instinct. I haven’t been in an industrial kitchen in years but that’s still a quirk in my brain. If I set a timer I’ll almost always return to it seconds before it’s about to go off. A useful skill in VO! Except for that weird time stretch in my brain thing, which makes it challenging to slow down.
I think I am slowing down! But I’m not.
It’s not nerves, it’s not stage fright, or a lack of confidence. It’s the way my brain processes things. So it kills me a little inside when people tell me I just need to be more confident. It took me a long time to become confidence incarnate. If you know me in person, or even in passing, you know what I’m talking about. I don’t let my fear rule me. I don’t lack confidence. I take confidence in my morning coffee with about a gallon of milk. My brain is wired differently, is all.
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Va the Vo
Actor, Vocal Pro, and Writer Extraordinaire!