Sunday, July 16, 2017

Why I Am Here

When I started grad school some dude asked me on a date, and I truthfully told him, "I didn't move here to date you. I moved here to write."

Those All-In educational years were necessary for me. I couldn't live another way. I moved to Chicago to do comedy. Bonus: I got to experiment with different avenues of teaching, loved deeper, interrogated the self, and experienced things from cool to moving to incredible.

But hobby must move to home and so few can make it happen. "Nobody owes you anything," I do know. Sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes it feels right. There is power in alone.

I have to pat myself on the back sometimes though. Like yesterday I did six hours of improv. I mean, hey, that's what I moved here to do, wasn't it? An audition, a callback, a musical, and a two-act show. It's not enough to live. The most I've ever made in a year in my entire life is 26K. But I am, for now, doing what I came here to do.

Today I head east for some strange artistic work, and I hope to come back with something new.

Friday, July 14, 2017


If you had asked me a year ago, or ten years ago, or twenty if I believed in predetermination, I would tell you no. I vividly remember learning about Calvinism in history class and wondering who would ever adhere to such a philosophy.

But this year I have come to realize I used to unconsciously believe in destiny. I only know now because I no longer do. I have felt blessed for much of my adult life. Things seemed to work out for me. I came against life-changing forks in the road every other year, and it seemed that not only did I feel peace after I made a choice, I was almost comically reassured by the universe later. I turned down tempting jobs and the company folded. I backed out of a delicious program and heard from peers they dropped because it was horrible. I went on tricky adventures and soared. If something did feel off, inevitably, some new thing would bloom and I would say, "Good thing I was here at this moment." A less romantic version of that Rascal Flatts song. I didn't realize it, but when I was making decisions, I was imagining there were already two completely written lives for me, and I just had to pick one. Of course, there were ways I could have wandered off the paths if I did something truly out of character (committed a crime, bailed), but those things were so unlikely that my fate was essentially sealed.

I didn't mind hard or poor times because I had a Golden Thing in my future. I couldn't say what it was, but since I had taken all the "right" steps so far at any given time, each challenge was meant to be. Two years ago a comedy teacher of mine said, "You have to keep working if you're going to become the artist you're meant to be--well, no one is meant to be anything--but if you're going to become the artist you can be." I was jarred. Of course he was right, but that wasn't what my secret mind thought.

Things feel random now. I see how I arbitrarily make a meeting and get an opportunity or don't. How I have a million dollar idea but can't write it. How selfish people get ahead, how true people don't. I've felt murdered by doors opening while I'm in the middle of other commitments I have made. I don't remember that ever happening before. I always understood what FOMO was but never dealt with it. I feel like a ladybug on a fall leaf. I was stuck to a branch, but now winter is coming, and I'm floating haphazardly down.

My friend expressed this same confusion the other night. It was strange to hear someone else in the exact same mental boat. She guessed it was the election. I think I agree. I know there were horrible things in the world, but it seemed like good was winning and everything was happening in some grand calculated way. November 8th felt insane and purposeless. The fight since has felt like chucking powdered sugar at a tank.

I wish I could go back to my old train of thought. Even if I was wrong.

Saturday, July 1, 2017


I have always been very good at planning ahead. I have had a savings account (that I borrow from, but still, it is there) since I was 17. I have iced people out who have hurt me more than once because I want to protect my future self. I always have two deodorants so I don't run out on left pit and can't make it to CVS for right pit. I never don't read restaurant menus online. Puhg pokes fun at how I plan if we will take a Lyft or the train home from the social event several hours before we go.

The positive to my preparedness is that I have always paid my bills, I have been open to receive many unique opportunities, I keep up with friends extremely well, I don't have bad meals, and my life has been exceptionally full. There are downsides though. For example, if I have a plan and it is derailed, I assume I am a bit more anxious than most.

If a month without a gig appears in my planner, I fill that space. I take a trip or I hustle for some sickly little paycheck. This summer I cobbled together six jobs to make my world function. I saw it coming from months away, so I emailed acquaintances like it was my job (it kind of is), sweat over flight calculators, and made visual charts--just to stay barely afloat. By the beginning of April it had all snapped into place. And then a month later there was a new opportunity. And then another. And then possibly one more. But I have already signed away my life. I can't think too much about which options would have been better or worse. It's not so clear in this line of work.

Yesterday the camp I was teaching ended at noon and then I had a dinner date at 4. Both in Evanston. 45 minutes back home. It seemed silly not to stay. I ate my leftovers lunch, went to a pet store to touch some bunnies, took care of a return...and it was only 1 PM. I still had three hours to kill and my phone battery was very low. I had a book. A very good book I love reading. But I did the math on the pages and decided I would finish before dinner. And then what? I had my journal. I wrote a bit. I sat in the library and read, and then would stop and wait. I looked at the clock. It moved so slowly. As if being in the library with nothing to read would have been the worst fate of all time. I got to the restaurant early. I had not finished the book, not by a lot.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Scumbags, Sweethearts

I did comedy with a bunch of scumbags in Arizona. Some were scumbags in the best of ways: dirty but kind little ragamuffins. They'd attend a cupcake party I threw, but they'd get super stoned first. Some were scumbags in the worst of ways. They'd drunkenly brag about how great their stand-up was, show up hungover for tournament shows, classically steal ideas. I hate these aspects of a thing I loved so dearly, but there's something rich about remembering it. A lawyer once told me all JDs leap at the chance to talk about how difficult passing the bar is.

Point: lots of scum, but also, a couple sweeties. One of these sweeties felt like my little brother. He was so genuine and had an adorable appreciation for almost all humans. Once at a party we were having a 1 AM intimate conversation. Not spilling all, but just sort of swapping little bits. He said, "You know what's kind of an interesting thing about me? I am kind of into bigger girls." I was like, "Oh. Okay." And then he said, "Yeah, not like huge, but" And then he named a girl on the sketch comedy team who had this amazing black curly hair and was hourglass curve with a tummy. My guess--a size 16.

I felt the sudden lurch of "I'd like to go home" but I couldn't put my finger on why. Now I know it's because he considered appreciating a normal body a fun-fact. Or maybe because he categorized women into bins of not big and big. Or maybe because all men/ all people do that but I don't like to be reminded. Or maybe because he named an object in the bin to me, like I was an accomplice. It was too late and the music was too loud to for me to do anything other than blink. He waited for a response. "Well?!" He shoved my shoulder, "Aren't you proud of me?"

I am lucky enough to mostly spend time with feminists. I work in liberal spaces, I write in liberal spaces. But even so, little prickles of dissent poke in, and I want to smack the world upside the head and explain how hard it is to be a woman, when it is a good man's medal of honor to not be disgusted by our average selves.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Solstice 2017

When I was seventeen the director of the summer camp I grew up at led us on a summer solstice night hike. It was a campy (literally) rite of passage full of life advice, but several of these little lessons have stayed relevant to me over the years. My favorite takeaway was the idea of living "solstice days.' The concept is on the longest day of the year we should wake-up bright and early, full of excitement and stay vibrant with the sun, squeezing every drop of joy from the day. And, you know, if you want to live a full life, repeat x 365. On any given day when I am ear to pillow I know my day has been incredible. Even when I am depressed or anxious, on paper I have lived a remarkable 18 hours.

When I was down last week Pearl told me to remember probably less than 500 people in the world have somehow made improv & teaching their employment, and we are two of them. Those numbers could easily be skewed depending on how you define "improv" "teaching" and "employment," but whatever. I know I do this exercise all the time--listing what my day entailed--but it's always a rainbow from my 10th grade journal. 6 out of 7 of my days are so classified as solstice, that that one needed break usually makes me feel sluggish or guilty. I live in June 21st.

On this year's solstice morning I woke up at 4 AM. I couldn't sleep, so I worked on my book for about an hour and did some lesson planning. I did a circuit at my gorgeous athletic club and took the early train north to teach musical theatre to 5th graders. They learned a kickline to "Singin' in the Rain." Puhg and I watched the finale of Better Call Saul, I scrapbooked in the living room with the windows open. I answered adult bill mail. At 8 I led an improv rehearsal for an indie team. I laughed, we got critical, we goofed to the Red Line. Pearl texted me a photo of Burger King's Lucky Charms shake. I said, "We should go now," because I was already out. I was surprised to hear she was down. She and Flip had just left the Cubs game.

I pushed through the hoards in Wrigleyville and we walked to the BK. It was locked. Google had said 24-hours, but that was the drive-thru and we were on foot. But we rallied. We were already there. Maybe we would ask a passing car to get us the ice cream. I committed and called a Lyft. We waited for it to come and saw a familiar body shape on the sidewalk. It was Dal! We called out and he walked over. What are the odds! He was hungry too.  Suddenly the night was magic and we were all going to get crowns. My Lyft driver cancelled. He said my request was "unacceptable.' Was it? I didn't think so. Flip hailed a cab. No dice, but the next cab said yes! We all squeezed in cheerily, we ordered novelty treats and Cheeto sticks! We waited at the window.

We waited a long time. Our driver revealed he had to go to the bathroom very badly and started knocking on the window. The women working would not let him in (understandably). It was funny and then he was in a lot of anxious pain. He pointed at the dash and said, "There's my license. Good luck." And then he ran across two lanes of traffic to a gas station. He came back jumping, he wasn't allowed to use the restroom. We were stuck. We offered to leave, a line of cars sat behind us. After 25-minutes the food came. We grabbed it and jumped out. The driver behind us revved like he would smash us. He screamed at Dal. Dal engaged. Pearl said, "Walk away." I was got very tiny inside my head wishing, "Oh god let there not be a fight in this Burger King parking lot." We walked away, feeling the steam of tense encounters. The milkshakes were actually really good.

I asked a cop to take our picture, and Dal gave her a Cheeto stick. Eventually we all parted ways. I walked the last half mile alone up Halsted.