Way Out of My Depth

black and white still image of Flight Lieutenant Kerr in 1960
Sep 30, 2016

Way Out of My Depth

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Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world

Question #42
Rite of Passage Sixteen –A Little Larger Than Life–
1960 I am twenty-six years old

Q. Have you attempted something that was way beyond your experience? How did it feel at the time?

Let me assume, just for a moment, that you know who I am…sort of? That I used to have a popular international television show that went worldwide that eventually morphed into a total of 1,800 episodes over a forty-six year period.

If so…then you may be interested in the very first time I stepped on a television set?

Beginning on page 99-103* of my book “Flash of Silver” is the hilarious experience!

black and white still image of Flight Lieutenant Kerr in 1960

“Eggs with Flight Lieutenant Kerr” 1960

What I want to deal with here is how it felt to be so far out of my depth.

Imagine with me, please, that you are standing (with me) on the banks of a swiftly flowing ‘whitewater’ river. In front of us is a known crossing of what looks like secure stepping stones that have been used by others passing this way.

I decide to give it a go, largely because I want…strongly to get to the other side. You are less certain about the need, in fact you are quite happy on this bank.

By making the attempt I have to engage in the risk of a less secure footing and an unpleasant dunking in ice-cold water.

I also face the real possibility that you and I may, if I’m successful, be parting company.

That’s how it felt for me on that ‘first day’ on television.

I knew enough about what it could mean–both in risk and possible reward but beyond either, it would mean leaving others behind. Of all the downsides that come with a public persona I believe that loss is the most profound!

So, what about now?

To be a ‘privileged’ person means that one gets to do things that many people cannot do, or at least would find extremely difficult. It is a privilege to be ‘set apart’ on the public media especially over a forty-six year period.

The term Celebrity Chef was unknown when I started in 1960 and yet others had crossed the media torrent before me and gone on into that uncharted territory…so I knew it could be done by…me?

As you read on through my life you will find out how it was possible for me to have kept my balance on those early ‘slippery’ rocks. I needed so much help!

What remained for me to understand was the degree that the so-called ‘celebrity’ status can become such a distance between the banks; at times providing an impassable barrier between old friends and even loved ones and parents.

There is, at first, a compensation…of a kind, in the attention I received from the viewing audience. I became known for what I did…not for who I was.

Eventually that is a lonely place.

The far bank is a kind of emotional gated community of those who have also risked…and left so many behind.

A few years ago I made my way back over those same stones and I am becoming reunited with those I loved and left behind. It’s so good to be home again!

This week I read Treena’s poem Once Upon A Tree

*p.99-103 (p.116-21 eBook)

14 Comments

  1. Karl Says: October 1, 2016 6:37 am

    Celebrity status can mean many different things.To me I never reached the media celebrity but I stepped in many different roles that required me to be just that,a role.That can be a very lonely place to be in.In my early professional life I was a cook,then a Chef and then i stepped into the role of teacher without knowing anything about academics or pedagogy.It was scary,but then I moved to even more uncharted waters by becoming a Director,then a Dean and finally a University Dean,overseeing 6000 students and 4 campuses,along with International programs.
    Only by the Grace of God did I somewhat succeed.The lonely part was that as the roles became more prestigious,the role I played became more pronounced.I lost my identity of just being me,a kid from southern Bavaria with all my idiosyncrasies.
    Then people didn’t felt the Role I am in is no longer needed,that was not easy to accept.
    Now I am again in a different Role as I gave up the former role venturing into a new role of consultant with little idea of what that means.In the process of all my roles I did loose friends who just couldn’t be part of the roles I played.Not easy

  2. Pamela Gregson Says: October 2, 2016 1:37 am

    Yes l have experienced something l did not know l was going to achieve . I went on the London eye!! Even though l am scared of heights!!.but nice to hear from you again,

  3. Kathy Bartley Says: October 2, 2016 7:27 am

    20 years ago come November, my husband was elected to the position of mayor in our very small (42,000 residents) Florida town. I had never in my life imagined what would come if he won this election. Bear in mind that prior too this we were virtually invisible to even people in our church. I know this because I went to the gym everyday with many of them and never was acknowledged with as much as a smile let alone a “Hello” or “How’s it going”. The first day after the election changed that for a long time. People suddenly wanted the treadmill or elliptical next to me. Some went out of their way just to smile or say hello. Eventually, there were those who wanted us to hold there children while we drove the route of the local Christmas parade! One couple who had gone out of their way to separate themselves from our acquaintance were first in line for this perceived honor. Then it all went wrong as priorities went out of whack and after 7 years of it the Lord had to move us to the Pacific Northwest to save our marriage and my life. I can’t imagine being the wife of someone who really is well known outside the tiny bubble where we lived.

  4. Ian Says: October 2, 2016 2:28 pm

    Re: Karl’s Comment
    A role is played by an actor. And the best Actors are listening to their audiences as to how they perform.
    (Ignoring the mega-millionaires who really are just doing it for the money.)
    Many years ago I was amused to read that candidates fresh from University with their MBAs were ignored by many corporations because they were unable to adapt to an environment that wasn’t familiar to the teachings of the academic cloister.
    Unless physical illness should restrict your participation in a particular work environment, enjoy the challenge of proving that you are capable of doing the job.
    As the Canadian Children’s program “Tales from the Riverbank” would conclude: “But that’s another Story”.

  5. Lynn Severance Says: October 2, 2016 4:41 pm

    “Have you attempted something that was way beyond your experience? How did it feel at the time?”

    To respond, I skip back to the mid 70s. Your metaphor of the torrents of white water and being terrified triggered a memory. The man I was seriously dating at this time had rafted down the Colorado river and was excited to share a similar opportunity. We, and others, headed for the Rogue River in Oregon. Unlike his experience in Colorado with a whole group in one huge raft, each individual was in his own kayak. One guide led three (sheep to slaughter!) as he gave “on the job training” on how to traverse the rapids. About one-half day into the 3 day trip, we were told we were at a place where we could leave. After that spot – no way out. I had done okay to that point so continued.

    I discovered I was not prepared physically as the demands of traversing the rapids became harder as the level of their intensity increased. More than once I found myself flying out of the kayak mid rapids and then swirling underwater totally disoriented. Intuitively, I learned to relax and allow my body to come up to the surface. My “poor guide” had, by that time, paddled back UP the rapids and could literally throw me, with great force, back into my kayak where I was stabilized for a time – terrified of what would come next.

    Day #3 was when the most intense rapids would be met and conquered. I was shaking in my bed praying for another way out at the end of day #2. That came in the form of a guide who, on his day off, had come to visit at our accommodation site. I figured if he had gotten IN, there had to be a way OUT and there was. I rode with him and met up with my group at their ending point after they had conquered the big rapids. I remained grateful there was “rescue” for me when I got (literally) in over my head.

    I did not go on to become a “celebrity white water rapids’ rafter”. However, I learned it is important to secure as much information about a new venture to make the best informed decision before getting involved!!

  6. Graham Says: October 3, 2016 5:01 pm

    Lovely story Lynn…I was with you all the way! And really, the experience can be quite similar. The big benefit, as you rightly say…learn as much as you can before you take the ‘plunge’ and only then…go home!!?

  7. Lynn Severance Says: October 4, 2016 6:22 pm

    Graham, as you said in this vlog, a community is forming here weekly. I like coming back to read what others have shared from “who they are”.

    How nice to read your comment responding to my “rapids’ experience”. There was “more” but I did not want to go on for too long a posting. Since you now have posted “in between”, another entry from me may not “seem” so long! I’ve got more “real” to share. Actually, this is the deeper lesson I took from the experience once I was out of the river!

    The guide who came to my rescue, knew that #3 Day was a horrendous and challenging one for the rafters. He asked if I’d hike up to a high view point as he wanted to watch them journey through – well, almost through as the route took a sharp turn to avoid a huge rock wall and immediately dipped down into a cascading rapid where we could not see them!

    We got to the view point and here is what God quickened to me.

    From His vantage point where He knows the beginning to the end, I could see this example of a part of a journey from beginning to “almost” an end. What I saw was a group of rafters looking as if they were gliding smoothly on glass even though I knew the tremendous efforts they were expending.

    Is this not how God views us? He has infused us with his Spirit for the journey to guide us. We put forth our efforts and his strength gets us through as we co-labor together. If we allow this, it is a trusting view He sees of us gliding through our circumstances.

    Often we look back remembering the efforts which definitely were challenging. Once through them it is his presence and touch that is foremost.

  8. Graham Says: October 6, 2016 7:06 am

    Lynn, As usual you are using past experiences ( rites of passage) to gain insight and encouragement for the way ahead and I am so delighted to have you along for the ‘ride of our lives’. I thought about your insight and it got me thinking of how, when we look back, we see how we came through some really ugly ‘rapids’ and, because we made it…we can see that, knowing what we know, we shall come through whatever the future river of life has for us. This converts the future into an exciting challenge with less apprehension? It also removes the possibility of being bored? Upstreaming! Graham.

  9. Lynn Severance Says: October 6, 2016 10:54 am

    Yes, Graham. The challenges we come through with God’s guidance and our trust in him, greatly help when the next “rapids” roar up. And they do!! I know I can feel the apprehension which all unknowns have the potential to bring. At the same time, the apprehension is an alert, as we both are saying, to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. He is the one upstreaming with us and giving us the resilience we need. We make the choice to stay His course.

  10. Jean Says: October 7, 2016 4:41 am

    Marriage! My first job! Changing faiths – that was the really big one. This meant separation from friends and family – not from our choice but theirs. Yet – we, like the salmon, had a drive that we knew we had to go forward and live the life destined for us. It has been 25 years and we remain the same. Attitudes have mellowed over the years and we have no regrets – only prayers for others to know such joy. I imagine back in the 60’s it surely must have been surreal to be so admired for cooking or more for being an entertainer which you clearly did not fathom. Funny how God says “His ways are not our ways” – – but they are the best ways that we cannot imagine. For both of us, to find him in the midst of it all was surely a life ring – how He promises never to leave us nor forsake us. I remember how surprised – and thrilled – to learn that you and Treena had become a Christians. Yes, it made me want to get to know you both more – – and here we are – – ordinary people who made it to dry land – Amen!! I spent a few years with a hobby of entertainment. I also had a relative who became famous in her own right – thus cutting me off as we were not on the same trajectory. That did hurt allot. She is gone now and I will always miss her and what she used to be before fame soured our relationship. I am glad you have the opportunity, and are taking the second chance, to go back and regroup with those disconnected in the past. I hope you have many enjoyable meals together.

  11. Michael Boyce Says: October 8, 2016 1:18 pm

    My First Way Out Of My Boundaries experience was singing,Live,in front of the Pleasantville Cottage School! The song was Glen Campbell’s “By the Time I get to Phoenix” and the applause I’d gotten told Me I was on the Money! BTW,My favorite Singer is Susanna Hoffs Of the Bangles! How I’d Love to meet Her one day and chat Her up!

  12. Michael Boyce Says: October 8, 2016 5:37 pm

    I can understand how being a Celebrity can be a Lonely World,indeed! I mean,look at Elvis Presley,Syd Barrett,Jimi Hendrix,The Monkees,The Bangles,David Cassidy,the list goes on & on! Being isolated from Family and Loved ones is bad enough,but the constant aggravation of Fans Hounding You for Autographs while trying to Eat-It gets embarrassing! And Don’t get Me started on Pesky Paparazzi! So,I understand clearly what You must’ve had to go through!

  13. Michael Boyce Says: October 8, 2016 5:44 pm

    As Johnny Rivers sang “Look To Your Soul for the answer!”-Graham,You look towards Yours and Found it! Well Done!

  14. Kerryn Says: October 22, 2016 10:03 am

    Graham, I felt your fear as you crossed the whitewater river with a new public role & persona.
    Having been a teacher for only 2 & a half years I felt totally out of my depth when I was employed as the “Creative Arts Specialist” in my next school! Suddenly I was thrust into the role of teaching the teachers in the school about how to teach: music, art, drama & dance! Music & dance I was confident about. However drama & art were sooooo far out of my comfort zone that I started having nightmares! I was totally honest with my school principal about my inadequacies & fears, especially as the youngest teacher on staff. Specialist teachers in those fields were brought in to help me & I asked to change my role to walking alongside the teachers to help them with the same fears that I had! It was an amazing year that grew me & each teacher incredibly. We created a book together, which was used as a teaching resource for the local teachers college. The skills I gained there flowed into every area of my life, so I’m thankful that I didn’t shy away from that opportunity. Interestingly, when I have intense periods of stress in my life I can still have nightmares akin to the fears at the beginning of that job that was over 30 years ago!! Hmmmm….. I just noticed that I’ve been biting my nail thinking about it in between my typing! Interesting how I can fly back in time back into those fears & insecurities that were only brief in comparison to the wonderful highlights!

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