Supporting Role


While discussing with a friend the passing desire to start a band, I realized a number of interesting things about myself. Most notably, I don’t think I have the personality to be the frontman for a band. In high school, we tried to start a band and failed miserably. I tried to play bass guitar, but was never sufficiently motivated to actually gain any skill with the instrument. I knew I wouldn’t be a singer, and historically the bass player is very much one of a supporting role, and rarely front-and-center.

This got me thinking about a whole lot of other things. For example, almost all of the professional jobs I’ve had have been supporting roles, if not entirely behind-the-scenes roles. I’ve only rarely been the lead on any projects, and those were sufficiently small that the only people to whom the title mattered were my teammates, whom I was leading. The majority of my work has been infrastructure stuff, such that the better I do my job the less anyone really knows what it is I’m doing. On the whole, I’m okay with this: I like being a worker bee, and I like getting to work with a wide variety of products and technologies.

Socially, I’ve never been a ringleader. I’m rarely The Funny One when out with friends. I’m often The Quiet One (if not The Standoff-ish One), playing foil and supporting the bravado of my friends who are The Funny Ones. I have strong memories of my college years, walking down High Street with Tom, who at the time suffered from a nearly debilitating case of Short Man Syndrome: he would talk trash and be generally rude and confrontational to nearly everyone walking past us, and I quietly played the role of The Heavy, his backup and protection. We never had any trouble, though looking back now I wonder whether that was because people were intimidated by me, or whether they simply saw through Tom’s act and realized he was harmless.

I’m one of the founders of Habari, but I certainly don’t try to be the face of the project. I keep thinking about presenting Habari somewhere, but can’t decide what the proper venue would be. Similarly, I was one of the folks responsible for the successful creation of FreeGeek Columbus, but my efforts there were – and continue to be – largely behind-the-scenes. I’m not out advocating publicly for the organization very often. I’m the meeting coordinator for the Central Ohio Linux User Group, but rarely give presentations myself. In my nearly decade-long membership in COLUG, I think I’ve given only four or five presentations.

The closest I ever really got to being front-and-center was acting in various plays, both at the local recreation center in middle school and later at my high school. I had a number of lead roles at the rec center, and for the most part really enjoyed it. As a senior in high school, I got one of the lead roles in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, which was a wonderfully fun experience. Twice in college I was the announcer for the Human Chess Game at the OSU Renaissance Festival. Beyond these limited efforts, I haven’t been in the limelight too much.

On the whole, this doesn’t bother me; though it has developed in me some small sense of self-consciousness. It’s hard, for example, for me to muster up the courage to sing karaoke, because I don’t feel very comfortable on the stage in front of people. In part, I know this is due to my sense of introversion (remember, Meyers-Briggs says I’m INTJ!). It means I won’t be the front-man for any bands I might join in the future; and I’m okay with that.

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