Last night I was in Second City’s bathroom after watching the mainstage improv set when I heard the following conversation:
“Mom! I know what you’re going to say about this… but I don’t care. This is what I want to do! I don’t want to do anything else. I want to do this. I’ll finish college and get my degree to make you happy… but then I’m moving here and figuring out how make this happen. I want to perform for Second City.”
“If that’s your plan, you can move in with your dad so you can feel what it’s like to have nothing.”
I was speechless. I went outside to rejoin my friends and I was just in shock. On the L home, this really bothered me. I regretted not saying anything… I know I couldn’t change the mom’s mind, but what if I just pulled the girl aside and encouraged her to do it? It wasn’t until my walk home that I realized why this bothered me so much.
I had the same exact conversation with my mom… it just ended differently. When I was 16, my family friend took me to a Thursday afternoon rehearsal at Saturday Night Live where my brother & I were allow to run free and explore Studio 8H. After sitting in the audience for a live show just a few months before, he invited me back so he could take me backstage and teach me how it all happened. We got to meet the cast & crew, saw all of the rooms backstage and were allowed to spend hours in the studio watching the show come together. At the end of the day, he handed me his copy of that week’s show and asked me to promise not to show it to anyone until after Saturday. When I got home, I ran to my mom and had this conversation:
“Mom, I know you said that I have to go to a school within driving distance… but what about Chicago? You always said that you wanted to visit Chicago. I was so happy on set today watching them work. Everyone was so nice and encouraging and they told me that if I’m serious then I need to go to The Second City in Chicago. I promise I’ll still go to college. But what if I went to college in Chicago? I think I could be good at this.”
“If you figure out a way to make it work, we’ll talk.”
I can never thank my mom enough for letting me make my own decisions. It was always that way with her. If I wanted to do something, I had to figure out all of the details. If I presented a logical case where she could see that I was serious and understood all the work that would have to go into it, she’d support my decision. At 16, she trusted me to make a major life decision. At 17, we both cried as we stood in my dorm room and stared at my new (and impeccable) view of the Chicago skyline for way too long… prolonging our goodbye in the distraction of a September skyline.
My mom gave me the freedom to take major risks while staying practical. If I wanted to go to college in Chicago, I had to work two jobs the summer before college. That lesson in balance still helps me today. My 9-5 covers my student loans, rent and bills so if I want to take comedy classes, I have to babysit & volunteer for discounted tuition.
I wish I could go back in time and chat with that college student in Second City’s bathroom. I wish I could tell her all about how I’m making it work. That it’s possible to work full time while pursuing your passion. To show her mom what a group of people chasing their dream really look like. To show her that this thought that we have nothing is the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard. I was so angry… but as my friend Sophia put it, “You have to just hope that she wants it enough to do it regardless of what her mom says.”
I’m not immune to questioning other people’s life decisions. Like everyone else, I judge people whose desires I don’t understand. Lately it has been friends of mine who choose to have children at 23. I can’t wrap my mind around how or why I would raise a child at this age. However, I have to realize that it’s not my place to tell them what to do. It’s not going to affect me either way, so why do I care at all?
It’s like Babs sings, “Don’t tell me not to fly, I’ve simply got to. If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you.”
If someone takes a spill, it’s me and not you.
Trust others in their ability to make their own life decisions. If they’re thinking clearly and understand what’s at stake… why not just support them? What’s in it for you? If they screw up and fail, that’s their problem… not yours. Your life will remain unaffected. So please just support, support, support.
And don’t be an asshole.