Hi, my name's Val, and I'm worried I may be a narcissist. 

My study partner and I were getting together one night to run lines. I had an audition the following morning for a promising new cable pilot and I wanted to be nice and sharp. My study partner, who happens to live with me and is also my wife, was keeping me waiting. She had already put in a full day teaching elementary school students and was now helping one of our kids, Kid One, learn how to read. Next, she put Kid Two to bed. After that, she put Kid One to bed, which is something I was supposed to have done and would have done had Kid One let me, but Kid One insisted that Mommy do it. All this was clearly cutting into my prep time, but I remained professional.

My partner finally made it to our rehearsal room, which doubles as our bedroom, and we began running lines. Kid One was still awake and calling out to us with an urgent-sounding but not-at-all-urgent request, as she does every night. Meanwhile, my partner wasn't giving me much to work with. Her reading was tired and void of passion and her eyes kept gravitating to her phone. I made a choice to have my character suddenly get overly-emotional and break into a histrionic display. All I need is five goddamn minutes, was one of my better-delivered lines. Sorry, she said, now willing to match my intensity, I was answering a text message from your sister who's about to get slammed by a major hurricane, in case you haven't heard. She then called me the n-word, which was off script. I needed to take five. I couldn't look at her. I couldn't stand to be seen. 

Not that n-word, by the way.

I returned an hour later, no longer in the mood to act. I apologized and asked that she please not call me a narcissist again. It wasn't the first time she called me that. In fact, it seemed to be happening more often. 

It doesn't mean you're a bad person, she said. So you were paying me a compliment? I said. I'm looking up the definition right now, she said. Please don't do that, I said. Why? she said. I'm just asking, I said, please don't call me that anymore.

I'm too afraid to know the actual definition of a narcissist. I know what I need to know. I know how she meant it. I know how the word makes me feel. I know the story of the man seeing his own reflection in the water. I know people who I consider to be narcissists and although it's true that none of them are bad people, I don't want to be like them. I don't want her to be right about me. I want to be a good person. I want to like myself. I want her to like me.

So now what? 

I write. When I act, I'm telling someone else's story. When I write, I'm telling my own story. Always. So I write and I tell and in the telling I start to become aware of what I am and maybe being aware of what I am helps me get closer to what I want to become.
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