Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Your Reputation Precedes You

Imagine you're just a regular Delta Quadrant alien guy. You work in an office and you meet your alien spouse for lunch every Wednesday and Friday. You have alien kids and an alien pet. You're just going about your regular, alien life when you hear these rumors about a dangerous, mysterious threat that's ripping across your sector of space. The Starship Voyager.

You've heard from one of the other Delta Quadrant alien guys at work that the ship is helmed by a ruthless captain who probably has an eyepatch. The ship is full of dangerous aliens and someone from your quadrant onboard. You've heard he's a Talaxian--the traitor. The Delta Quadrant alien lady on the news recently raised the threat level to aquamarine because a planet in a nearby system (think they) spotted Voyager checking out the moon of a gas giant (and probably killing everyone who lived there) and now they're headed for you.
Just imagine that these people are, like, purple or something.

There's a really interesting thing going on in Voyager that I haven't yet commented on but I think it's worth mentioning. Everywhere Voyager goes, they find that their (basically false) reputation precedes them. The Kazon have been running around the Delta Quadrant spreading nasty rumors about how relentless and evil Voyager is and the crew's (I'm lookin' at you B'Elanna) inability to keep out of trouble doesn't help matters. People are freaking terrified of them. As a consequence, no one really wants to help them out.

As I kid (as I've mentioned many, many times here) I moved around a lot. I'm actually getting ready to move for what I'm pretty sure is my 36th time. I'm essentially a moving machine now. But, when I was a kid, I was still pretty freaked out by the prospect of relocation. I've thought about what it would've been like if my reputation had preceded me. Would I show up at my third sixth grade of the year and be faced with, "Oh geez. You're that weirdo who talks about TV all the time, aren't you? We've heard of you."

No, my fellow twelve-year-olds had to figure out, all on their own, what kind of weirdo I was. This meant that I had a clean slate every single time I started at a new school. I could have (and considered) showing up with a posh accent. I thought, for a time, about pretending to suffer from a form of mutism wherein I only communicated by way of a sign language that only I knew. I thought about pretending to be more like any one of the hundreds of other girls I'd come in contact with over the years. But, in the end, I couldn't be anyone but me and didn't want to. I had my own prime directive and my own goals: Be Who You Are. Be The Best Version Of Yourself.

As a kid, just like early on in Voyager, this set of edicts didn't win me a lot of friends. Of course, also like Voyager, it didn't really matter too much because I was always moving on to the next classroom, the next school, the next town. Wipe the slate clean. Be who you are. Get out of the Delta Quadrant.

I made a ton of fresh starts over the years. I've probably forgotten more people than many ever know. But over time, in the midst of all that wandering, I made the relationships that would stick. And now, when I go back to the places I've become attached to, I hear that, for the first time, my reputation does precede me. "You're that chick who runs the Shakespeare camp, right? That's cool." or "You're the one who gave that reading about the carnival guy, right? That's cool."

And, I have to say, it's pretty awesome.

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