what i learned from a year of improv classes.

So I like being good at things. I like it when I’m noticed for being good at things. This is partially why the idea of taking an improv class scared the poop out of me a few times over: I’ve always told myself I was no good at being in front of people. In our fifth grade Ellis Island play where everyone was given at least one line, mine was : “I am shy.” I’ve been called an introvert. I called myself an introvert for a while because giving a label to my fear stuck it outside of myself and made it something beyond my control. Something I was unable to work with so it wasn’t my problem. I had to take a public speaking class in college. Our speeches were videotaped and we were supposed to watch the tape and critique ourselves. I never watched the tapes. In 6th grade we did a story telling exercise where we were supposed to learn the gist of the story and then get up and tell the story. DON’T MEMORIZE our teacher told us. If you memorize then you might forget your lines. I was too afraid not to memorize. I forgot my lines.

I don’t just like to be good at things. I like to be perfect at things. I like to do a thing so hard that it passes out afterwards, a lit cigarette burning its way towards the fingertips of the thing.
But maybe not this thing. This thing, I’m just not good at. I’m not the type of person who can be up on stage, let alone up on stage without a plan and with the expectation that people will laugh at me. [Motherfuck I know saying I’m a type of person is limiting everyone is a person who has certain tendencies which can always be changed and tinkered and bettered.]
But what if I freeze if I forget all words if I show how little I know if I look awkward what do I do with my hands where does my body go crap I’m on stage and am not really needed in this scene I’m the kid who sat down at the wrong lunchtable nobody likes me I’ll take my lunch to the bathroom goddamn I think too much SHUT. UP.
I know who I am. I love me. My family loves me. My friends love me. I have faults. I am stupid. I am brilliant. I am an asshole. I’m the sweetest. I want to be the cool kid why would I do a thing to exclude anybody I’m just not nice sometimes I’m working on that. Whatever. FUCK. Whatever. All of this is in me. All of this can come out of me. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t matter if everyone sees these things. It’s actually helpful if everyone sees these things. REFUCKINGLAX.

Know what? I don’t have to do a thing ‘til it’s comatose. ‘Til I’m bleary eyed jumping from one thing to the next feeding off your laughter and praise. I’m going to do this thing because it feels good to do this thing. Because I can walk out in front of a big ole batch of people with no plan and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what happens. The more I worry and try to figure out where things are going and what everyone is thinking of the way I perfectly fucked that scene the more I’m going to fuck that scene. Perfectly.
The more I just walk out there and be myself with all my flaws and not worry and have a silly time with my friends, the more that scene will work fucking perfectly.

I’ve been doing this improv thing for over a year. And about two weeks ago something clicked. And I finally believed all of these things that I KNEW were true. These things that Mike has been telling me for the past nine months. And the fear melted. [A bunch of it anyway.] And I walked out on stage and was clear. I wasn’t a bundle of anxiety, confused at how words were even coming out of my mouth, afraid to really move my body lest I ruin the world. I was just Julie. Playing a silly game with friends. And people laughed. And nothing bad happened. Because nothing bad can happen. Ever. We can build these ideas up in our head that say this thing that happened was horrible and terrible and the world will never accept me for the terrible sins I’ve bestowed upon it. I did that. More than a few times. I convinced myself that what happened up on that stage had ruined everything forever. When the truth is, nobody gives a fuck. And why should I give a fuck even if they do. I don’t. At the core of it I don’t. Obviously I’m a human and want to be accepted by all these other humans and so I want to do good things for the humans. I’m still afraid to say things I think the smaller louder part of a person doesn’t want to hear. But that’s not really helpful. And they know that. Inside we’re all screaming Just talk to me please don’t try to stroke my cock though it would like to be stroked and is telling you that it would like to be stroked all of that is just so GODDAMN DISTRACTING.
I do plenty of cockstroking myself.  I’m trying to do less since all that bullshit feels more like being stroked by hard plastic hands that were formed in two separate molds so they’ve got that scratchy crease that runs down the center like the seam of a blowpop scrapes the roof of your mouth raw.

Anyway. That thing clicked a few weeks ago and everything was just ok. And then another thing clicked. This isn’t about me. This whole time I’ve been so concerned with my own bullshit. I’m playing on a team and wanting to help the team but at the root of it I just wanted to look good. I wanted people to like me.

Last week was our final showcase, the culmination of over a year of improv classes and I was hardly in it. If that had happened a month or so ago, I would have berated myself for the next 27 hours for being too much of a pussy to get my butt on stage. But this time it was just amazing. It was just clear to me where I was needed and with 13 people up there, I just wasn’t needed very much. And that was fine. Beautiful actually. I was just watching a show and being entertained and putting in my two bits here and there.

I started taking an improv class because I wanted people to like me. I graduated the program knowing that I don’t need anybody to like me. I just need to know where I fit in. That’s all.

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