"You might say they are going through fame puberty—the awkward stage." Nick PaumgartenFor the past year, I have been going to Quaker events and hiding. I wrote about this a little after the FGC Gathering last year (where I actually started carrying around a disguise). I said then that I was having a hard time with my rising level of "Quaker celebrity." It is something that is still a struggle for me.
Few things will throw me off center at a Quaker event faster than when someone knows who I am and I have no idea who they are. A Friend will introduce me in conversation and the other person's face will light up. I feel dread because I know they have read something I have written, or heard me speak, or heard about me some other way. I never know what to do, and any response on my part feels awkward and ungracious.
I read the quote above in the New Yorker a few days ago and it spoke to my condition. I feel like I have been going through an extended fame puberty. Fortunately, I have been able to speak about this with some trusted elders over the past few months, and they have given me some good advice:
1. I need to find ways to acknowledge that God is working through me when I do ministry. It is especially awkward for me when people compliment me on a message I have given, because I feel strongly that those messages come from God. At heart, my ministry is to help people experience the presence of God. When they experience God through me, it can be a powerful and attractive experience. It is important for me to be clear that I am the conduit, not the source.
2. If I keep doing this work, this will keep happening. I think part of the reason that I respond so poorly is because I act like every time I am recognized, it is the first time or totally unexpected. I need to stop acting that way and start putting together a toolkit for how to respond when this happens.
3. I need to find a Quaker space that is restorative for me. A couple people have encouraged me to find somewhere that I can go not as a minister, but to worship and rest. This may involve sending a message to the organizers in advance about my needs and how I want to participate.
All of this is complicated by the fact that Friends pretend like we don't have celebrities. It is very hard to claim a level of fame when Quakers want to believe that we are all equal in every way. But I think it is important to do so for me to be able to grow out of this "fame puberty," and I am going to claim this:
I am a minor celebrity in a small denomination.
How did it make you feel to read that? Was it funny? Did it seem like not a big deal? Or did it make you want to reassure me that, really, I'm not that famous?