Here’s a fun fact about me (that you probably already know): 99% of what I read is nonfiction. Most of my bookcase is filled with autobiographies, instructional books and opinion pieces on the Middle East. Every now and again I sprinkle in a little Hunger Games or Narnia. Since my commute can be up to two hours every day, I read a lot. Right now I’m reading Sarah Silverman’s autobiography, The Bedwetter (thanks to a raving review by my mom). Yesterday I came upon this paragraph, which made me pat myself down to make sure she didn’t have a wire on me or a chip planted in my head:
A lot of comics think the real threat of mental blockage lies in becoming happy. They fear that happiness or even just dealing with their shit might make them not funny anymore. To me, that’s a bunch of romanticized bullshit. I don’t know. I guess if you write your best stuff when you’re miserable, maybe, but I don’t. I’m paralyzed when I’m miserable. I sleep. A lot. I will always try to be happy. I don’t think people really understand the value of happiness until they know what it’s like to be in that very, very dark place. It’s not romantic. Not even a little.
I have a very hypocritical stance on this whole “tortured artist” thing. So many people emphasize that comedians come with baggage, with a dark past. And I hate that shit. But at the same time, I feel like a hypocrite because I had a dark past myself. However, my place in comedy really has very little to do with my struggles in life. Here are the only three parallels I can draw:
- When I spent my two days at SNL, I was happy for the first time since my dad died and that made me realize I could do the same for others.
- By having anxiety issues and depression, I realized how valuable happiness is.
- By losing three people prematurely and unexpectedly, I realized that life is too short to not go after what you want.
But the reality is that I could have very well pursued comedy regardless of my dad’s death. I grew up in a family that valued humor and encouraged me to perform. Everyone was very loving and supportive. No one in my house really had any big problems… my childhood wasn’t dark and lonely. It’s not like I started doing bits to get attention because no one loved me… I did it because my parents encouraged us to be creative and silly. So it’s unfair for me to say that my hard times were the contributing factor to my pursuit of comedy.
I wanted to call up Miss Silverman, meet her for coffee and give her a high five when she mentioned that misery isn’t romantic. Thank you, Miss Silverman. Maybe I’m being a bit of a dick when I make this generalization but whatever… this is my blog, and I do what I want. But I really think that those people who romanticize hardship and write best when they’re miserable don’t know what being really depressed is like. When I was in my dark days, I couldn’t write anything. I couldn’t even get out of my fucking bed. Everything was a black hole and the thought of even getting up to go to the bathroom was exhausting. I slept and cried. That’s it. Didn’t even watch TV or read. On my more functional days, I would read or try to write… but my writing read more like a sad and dark diary entry than anything. When did I write my poetry? When I was happy. I could remember and reflect on my misery… therefore being able to write about it… but it was done with a clear head. I didn’t get shit done when I was depressed. I got shit done when I was happy.
So I think that anyone who romanticizes depression and hardship hasn’t gone through it. Maybe you think you did… because emotions are relative. When I was younger, I thought that I was depressed when my cheerleading coach quit. I didn’t think it was possible to get more upset than I was at that point. Then I learned what real depression was… a debilitating, dark and miserable sinkhole. So, kudos to anyone who can’t relate to this. Anyone who thinks I’m being an asshole because I don’t understand their feelings. I’m happy you’ve never experienced what others have. But I really believe that anyone who knows what it feels like to be in a very dark place would never wish to revisit it, especially when you know what happiness feels like. I strive every day to chase happiness. If that makes me normal, boring or naïve… great. There were many years of my life where I prayed that one day someone would use those adjectives to describe me.
I’ll sum it up with this point… I would trade everything I have in this world if it meant that my dad could come back. My time in Chicago, the people I met through losing him, my SNL experience, the wonderful college years I had, my wisdom, how close I became to my family, the experiences that I was able to enjoy because of losing him, my own happiness… I would give it all up. So I hate romanticizing hardship because the truth is that if given the chance, I would give up my gift of creativity if it meant that I didn’t have to experience my dark days. That’s not romantic.
Strive for happiness. Appreciate it if you’ve found it. If you’re still looking, have faith that it’ll come. There’s no nobility in holding onto your sadness in fear of losing your creativity.