Advice to my 22-Year-Old Self: Stuart Hoar

Stuart Hoar. Photo supplied.
Ahead of the ATC premier of Rendered, Playwright Stuart Hoar engages himself in a trans-dimensional dance off, and - surprise! - he wins.

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If I could, Terminator-like, travel back in time to face my 22-year-old I would suggest three things:

One: learn Te Reo Māori.

Two: learn a couple dance.

I dance tango now, which I’m not sure my 22-year-old self could cope with but whatever dance you choose make sure it’s one that engages with another person: dancing with someone else is a fundamental but usefully ritualistic way of connecting with your fellow humans. Ballroom, Salsa, Folk Dance (in fact the more uncool the dance the better – see note 3 below), whatever, sign up now and never give it up.

If Morrissey as a young man had had a go at something like the Boombahl or the Square Dance or the Cha Cha Cha then I think pop music history would have changed - I don’t say for the better - but he at least would have been a much happier chappie.

Three: don’t try to be cool.

In fact I was never cool but I wasted a great deal of time and psychic energy distorting who I was by suppressing my natural youthful naivety, romanticism and enthusiasm in order to be thought cool. When you get older one of the great freedoms you learn is to revel in your uncoolness. Hence my current passion for zumba, for example.

No doubt the young folk zumbaring beside me wonder who the old fool is but I’m so happy I just don’t care.

As individuals they range from self doubting extroverts to incredibly secure introverts.

From my vantage point all this advice is easy to give and I was thinking of adding one more suggestion to my younger self: Don’t be shy. But even as I write this in particular I’m struck by the thought that my younger self would be sceptical about all this advice for the very reason that without him being exactly who he was then I wouldn’t be able to be so sure, facile he might say, in my advice to him now.

Which makes me reconsider my advice.

I teach creative writing part time at Massey University and part of the pleasure of that job is the people I teach, young women and men mostly in their late teens or early twenties, representative of the people I am supposedly advising via this piece.

They are collectively delightful to teach, I so enjoy their energy and their interest in the world, and their undemonstrative confidence in their future – that’s them as a group; as individuals they range from self doubting extroverts to incredibly secure introverts, or any sort of variation in between, and sometimes varying from one to the other from day to day or week to week, as we all did when that age and as we all to some extent still do.

And I see my 22-year-old self nodding very slightly in agreement to this while also thinking to himself  “what a pompous boring old fart you are.”

Their mutability reminds me that I’m making a general judgment on my younger self by offering the advice about not trying to be cool and not being shy and in the process I’m judging my younger self, not harshly but in a broad and not totally sympathetic way.

Rather like telling a depressed person that all they have to do is not take their feelings so seriously.

So now I’ve turned full circle on myself. While I still think my advice about learning Te Reo and Couple Dancing is solid because it’s impersonal, I think - after consulting a little more carefully with my younger self - that I must now revise Number Three, and change it to: Don’t judge yourself.

Look back at yourself and try to understand yourself but try not to make judgments.

And I see my 22-year-old self nodding very slightly in agreement to this while also thinking to himself  “what a pompous boring old fart you are.”

“And you’re an immature priggish idiot”, I think to myself.

But at least we’re not judging each other. Not too much anyway.

Stuart Hoar's new play Rendered opens at Auckland Theatre Company on Tuesday, 18 September. 

Stuart's play - Bright Star - on at the Herald Theatre this month too.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

6 Sep 2018

The Big Idea Editor

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