I know, I’m double dipping today… but I’m currently sitting in bed, well aware of the 6am wakeup I have, unable to sleep because I keep on thinking about this post. So I’m getting it out.
A friend of mine in college used to tell us to do something each day that scared us. I thought it was solid advice. Did I ever follow it? Nahhhhh. I liked my safe life.
Then a little over a month ago, my improv teacher gave us similar advice, attributed to Del Close, when he told us to follow the fear. Cool. Good advice, man… I dig it. But at that point there really wasn’t anything that I feared.
Fast forward to tonight. I’m getting ready for my first show at a new theater with a new team that I’ve only rehearsed with a few times… and I’m scared shitless. Not because I don’t trust them – hell no… they are incredible… it was because I still didn’t trust myself. This whole process has been super nerve-racking to me… aside from my last class, I’m not used to short form improv, I’m the newest person to improv on my team and we only rehearsed a handful of times. Mind you, I’m coming from a world where I rehearsed with my team for six months before our first show. So yeah, I’m scared. These guys on my team are really good. I feel like I’m good too… but I have been in my head too much, conquering these demons of self doubt and trying to convince myself I belong here, which is basically wasted rehearsal time. I eventually got over myself and was confident being on the team but that didn’t keep me from being scared for our first show. It freaked me out even more because it was so unfamiliar… I have been performing on stage my entire life and never once got stage fright. What the fuck was happening to me?
I had some time before heading over to the show so I pulled out a note that my teacher gave me a few months back. When I was reading it, I came across a line where he described me as fearless. I read it ten times before it really sunk in. Here I am, scared to death, reading words that describe me as fearless… or rather, “absolutely fearless” with fearless underlined. I started to feel stupid… why am I able to step on stage, audition and rehearse “absolutely fearless” at one theater but I’m nervous to even show up at rehearsal with this team? How could I be such a leader in one place but feel like I’m barely staying afloat in another? I have been fighting this notion for weeks, making progress each and every week… but this time I really understood. It’s okay to be scared sometimes… that doesn’t mean I can’t still be fearless.
I took a deep breath and started heading to the theater. The entire time I kept on repeating the advice I’ve received about letting yourself be afraid… “do something everyday that scares you”… “follow the fear”… “you’re absolutely fearless”. I stepped into the theater and I was like, okay… I’m a fearless person… let’s do this.
Was I insanely great? Of course not… this was my first show on the team. However, I was insanely proud of myself. I got on stage and the entire time I was up there, I was having a blast. We had a great show for only knowing each other for a short period of time. While I didn’t play the bold and crazy characters I’m known for on my other teams (I made the ‘comfortable’ decision to do yet another scene holding a martini glass), I was able to support my scene partners by being the straight man to their dramatic characters. When the show ended, I was happy and felt like I was finally over this whole fear thing. I’m ready to move on, get out of my head and show my teammates the kind of improvisor I really am. I had a good chat with one of my teammates after the show and started to really feel like part of the group. I’m looking forward to the next several months we have ahead of us.
So, in the end… I finally did it. I did something that scared the shit out of me. I recognized my fear and followed it… I didn’t run away or make excuses. Instead, I grew as both a person and performer. I think that we’re so prone to look at something that scares us and think, oh… I could NEVER do that. Well, why can’t you? Conquering fear is one of the greatest feelings you can obtain… you’re able to come out of it proud of your progress and ready to move on without insecurity holding you back.
When I left the show tonight, I got a text message from my coworker that really brought this whole “conquering my fears” thing to an end. She said, quite simply, “Great job. You are brave.” I thought, well yeah… I’m absolutely fearless.