The Vancouver playwright and Fringe Festival favourite had spent too many years hearing his dad, a teacher, principal and coach, talk up track and field athletes as if they were Greek gods and goddesses to not want to become a star athlete himself.
Except he was awkward at best. Dawe's failure as a high school athlete — and a recent realization that he has been blindsided by the belief that he doesn't belong in social settings — has inspired his latest one-man show, Marathon.
Dawe says he saw in his high school experience parallels with his adult life, and he wanted to explore them on stage.
"I just believed that other people belonged in a way that didn't include me — not that anybody was actively excluding me, but there's a comradery they have that I don't have access to," he told North By Northwest's Sheryl MacKay.
"It's a belief, but it feels like the truth, and discovering that made me realize that has severely impacted my life."
Dawe said that in high school, he wanted badly to be accepted and to be part of something. Most importantly, he wanted to have "that radical improvement like (the way) somebody has in the movies." But it never happened.
"So I wasn't a star athlete, but I wanted to be," he said. "And then years later … I kind of disowned that part of myself."
Dawe will perform Marathon, as part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival, from Mar. 17 to 29 at Studio 1398 on Granville Island.
To hear the full interview with TJ Dawe, click on the audio labelled: TJ Dawe tells coming-of-age tale about self-discovery