This post has been a long time coming but it’s one that I felt truly compelled to get spot on, so I’ve waited for the right mood to strike, the most opportune moment and the most creative inspiration to come to me. I realise in the early hours of this morning as I sit writing this introductory paragraph that I’ll be waiting forever if I languish about just waiting for the right words to appear to me – I’m not Shakespeare, after all. What I am going to write about today will involve my godbrother, my old school, regret, the desire to create something in this world and passion. I will just say that while you are perusing this article, I would press play on the clip above and listen to my godbrother speak as you read. It will make the article come alive much more than just breathing in my two-dimensional words. Anyway, I’ll stop procrastinating and let you get on reading – I’d probably better get on writing this article too – and I really hope you’ll appreciate this article for the labour of love that I feel it is not only for my godbrother and his family, including the best godparents a problem person like me could wish for, but also for the school that helped us be the people we are.
Before I get down to the knitty-gritty, I just ought to give an incredibly brief bio of my godbrother, the speaker, Michael Pruss. He attended Chigwell School in Essex before going to university at Royal Holloway, London where he attained a 1st class degree. That achievement led him to cross the pond and study for a Masters at Chapman University. He has worked for numerous production companies and directors, including Spielberg and Indian Paintbrush, but he is currently employed by Sir Ridley Scott in his production company, Scott Free, living in Pasadena with his wife and their two precious daughters.
Sitting in the church and the marquee at Chigwell School Speech Day is always a hugely moving experience for me as I truly miss being a pupil there and being immersed in the fast-paced life of the school that became my home almost instantly. Each time I have taken my place in the pews at the front of St. Mary’s Church, Chigwell since I left school in 2011 and watch as the choir forms up and the brass group tunes up, I have to work hard to staunch the tears that beg to be let free. I feel in those moments that I am still sitting on the wrong side of the church and that where I used to be entrenched on the inside looking outwards, now I am merely an observer and a has-been in every sense of the word witnessing sadly as others leave behind what I had and the staff (some of whom I consider family) who taught us all. It is my hope that one day I will teach at Chigwell School and be home again but even though people mock me for being unable to fly the Chigwell coop and disparage my need to persistently return to the school and see my true home and family again, I will never apologise for wanting to end my story where it truly began.
“Recognition of a shared history…the reverberations of a past that had – I think – led to two different presents.” –
Mike talks about living with curiosity and passion for your career or a particular hobby that might be ‘your thing’ and how a friend of his from Chigwell School gave up his vocation. In his speech, I recall that this was the first moment when tears came to my eyes. It wasn’t the concept of meeting an old friend again after a long separation or realising that one iota of difference in a person’s upbringing can make or break their dreams that brought me to tears. Instead, it was how suddenly it dawned on me that I am that other person, the person who is serendipitously met by O.C.’s and pitied for not having the naus to succeed in life or be loyal to your passions and live life curiously. Due to my depression, I often feel too sad to venture out and infect the rest of the unexpecting populace with my affliction. On account of the mythomania, I alienate people through lying that I cannot control. Thirdly, thanks to the overwhelming social anxiety, not only do I find it nigh on impossible to connect with people and appeal to them, but I have also discerned that this makes others find me tiresome and unapproachable. I am not particularly led by my family’s wishes in anything if I am quite honest but ‘my thing’ is nonexistent. I am not sure that I have one thing or a series of things that I am sufficiently passionate about or excel at to be considered successful in life. I suppose that’s why a lot of people who suffer from depression, myself included, kill themselves or at the very least attempt to – because they believe themselves incapable and undeserving of a good future and the passion of a curious life.
Maybe as a depressed person who missed out on the excitements and usual hype of childhood, all I really covet is familiarity and the stable sense of love that has eluded me my whole life and that is precisely what I found in Mike’s speech that caused me to cry. The Clan Pruss as a unit has always been that for me: a family that loves each other through thick and thin and has such stability in the love of Mary and Tony that the love in the subsequent two generations is strong and unwavering and something that more than anything else I wish I was part of. Despite losing an integral and irreplaceable member far too early on, the bond that keeps them close across a vast ocean is still adamantium-strong. In fact, I’ll share a brief anecdote with you all, since Speech Day at Chigwell, I have been to stay with my godparents and during the sojourn, Mike and his family video called his parents. It was great seeing them again but all too soon, I found myself overcome by tears again and I couldn’t bear to be in the room to witness anymore of the unwaning love that is shared around the Pruss family. I will never stop hoping – a pipe dream though it indubitably is – that my own group of relatives (for I’ll never feel that we can share the same noun as the Prusses) will get to experience that kind of beautiful love before it’s too late.
I will finish by asking the first question I asked: O Godbrother, Where Art Thou? The answer that I give to that question is: in Los Angeles, with an amazing family and a luminous career, living my dream. The last part in particular is the best answer to the question I can imagine. If I could live my dream and be so lucky as to get even a small portion of what I want from life, I would never let it go. Initially, I thought I was green with jealousy but upon reflection, I’m not. I am staunchly proud that someone I know can have that kind of future because as a sufferer from mental health issues and a few physical ailments, not to mention constantly feeling hopeless and utterly overwrought, it brightens my most miserable moments to think that somewhere across the pond (or for that matter wherever he is!) Mike is succeeding in life. It is that that provides the hope for the future, not pipe dreams or wishful thinking, but a real person doing real things and getting real achievements. That is how you reinvigorate someone like me: you get on with your life and show us – even though we don’t want to admit or see it most of the time – that the world can be lived in and great things can happen to people in it. So, thank you, Mike for being my friend, my godbrother, for receiving and replying to my emails at God knows when (time differences baffle me!) and for talking with me about films and TV and art. Thank you for making my story more interesting by starring in it!