Improv changed my life in many ways. I’m happier, kinder and just have such an improved state of mind.
About a month or so ago, I volunteered at Second City’s new student orientation. I was cutting through the mainstage theater where my previous teacher was molding fresh minds. He stopped me and asked me to share what my favorite part of being a student at SCTC was. I didn’t hesitate: the community.
I’ve given this answer so many times that it has become cliché. But it’s true. My favorite part of this whole comedy thing isn’t the actual thing itself, it’s the people associated with it. This is so hard to explain to someone on the outside – but it’s that feeling of walking into a building and knowing that you’re going to bump into people who actually want to make this world a little happier.
My friend Sophia went to The Improv Retreat and like me, she’s a huge nerd. She writes everything down. She came over last week and instead of gossiping and drinking wine, we went back and forth with our favorite quotes about improv that we gathered from the past few weeks. She gave me one that I can’t seem to get out of my head. During the retreat, Tara DeFrancisco hit this whole community thing right on the head.
“No one in this community should have to feel lonely … Theoretically we love the hardest. No one should have to feel that way for a second.”
That’s the best part of this community. I have felt defeated, depressed, anxious, terrified, exhausted, unsure… but I have never felt lonely. Not for one second. There are so many people who are so willing to give their love and care away. Whenever I’m having a rough day, these are the people I lean on. They understand people. They get it. They’ve been there. They know when to listen, when to leave you alone, when to cheer you up and when to distract you. Basic improv 101 is that it’s never about you – it’s about your teammates. The pre-show ritual is literally going around and saying “I got your back.”
This community is full of people who are pursuing an art form dedicated to making others happy. Comedy isn’t there to make you feel like shit.
I don’t take that for granted. Not for one second.
This week I’ve been a zombie. There’s so much going on in my mind that I feel like I’ve been going from place to place without enough time to process any information. This week has been stressful, difficult, terrifying and absolutely exhausting. There’s so much ambiguity. While I typically appreciate and welcome ambiguity, it’s a little difficult when there’s more at stake.
And I can’t believe how incredible my friends are right now. I’ve been fairly selfish this week… talking more than listening. Trying to make sense of my life through talking at someone instead of with them… caring less about advice and more about sorting out my problems in my head. I don’t love doing that… I like the give and take in a friendship. I enjoy two sided conversations instead of wasting someone’s time having a conversation with them that I could have with a mirror. But alas, that’s what I’ve been doing all week. My friends have been incredible.
My improv friends never make me feel lonely. Even when I’m alone, I know in the back of my mind that they care. I have that backbone to carry me through. It’s incredible and 100% not what I signed up for. I remember being like, “oh… people make friends through this? Good for them.”
Choose your friends wisely. While I think that everyone in the world should take an improv class, others tell me that they never could. So if you’re one of those who refuse to, then just choose your friends wisely. Find people who genuinely care about you. They’re not hard to find… but I think that sometimes we’re afraid to let other friends go to make way for these guys. I figured this out right after college. Which friends are actually building me up instead of making me feel shitty about myself? If friendship is completely voluntary, with no kind of contract, why am I wasting energy and time on ones who make me feel bad? I stopped hanging out with people who made me feel bad. Those people who root for your failure so that they feel better about where they are in life. Those who see friendship as an accessory. I was left with a core group of friends & room for those I found in the improv community.
For a while, I thought why me? What the hell did I do to deserve these people in my life? Do they know how wonderful they are? But then you realize that it’s totally a conscious decision. It’s up to you. Who do you want to associate yourself with?
I appreciate and love my friends on good days… but I learned that they were invaluable during these bad ones.