My Worst Moment in Improv.

Happiness, hardship, Life Lessons, Silly, Uncategorized

My friends Sam and Donald have an outstanding podcast, SDI, in which they interview novice to professional improvisors. Almost a year ago, I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by them and they asked me one of their signature questions – What was your worst moment in improv?

I dodged their question and opted for a moment that I learned the most from. Because the truth is… I was too scared to talk about my worst moment in improv.

Two years after my worst moment in improv, I still get really emotional thinking about what happened. I get angry, sad and frustrated. While I’m extremely open to talk about my successes and failures, I’ve only told a handful of people about my worst moment in improv because I just hate talking about it. But keeping it a secret doesn’t help anyone, so here it is.

About a year into taking improv classes, I was in a class where we were doing an onion peel. For those who don’t know what an onion peel is, it’s a game where a scene starts with one person, then a second person walks on and starts a new scene, then a third and so on and so on until everyone is onstage in a large group scene. Then you reverse the process – each person finds a reason to exit in the reverse order that they came in and you go back to the scenes that you did previously until you’re left with the original improvisor finishing up their original scene.

Still with me?

They can be very chaotic for beginner improvisors but are a great way to teach them how to listen and work with a group. In this particular scene, we were in the army and therefore I was crawling on the floor, because honestly when I started improvising, I had no control over my body and was almost always throwing myself across the stage. Someone walked onstage and started a new scene where we were all at a party. To justify being on the floor, I acted wasted (ok, not the smartest choice but I was very new to this so give me a break.)

That’s when my worst moment onstage happened.

A classmate of mine crawled over to me and put his arm around me. Another classmate pretended to roofie me while another stroked my face. It evolved into what I can only describe as a date rape gang bang scene that I couldn’t find a way out of because I was so in shock by the man who decided to start humping my leg. I tried to push everyone away for what seemed like an hour but was probably about thirty seconds.  I had never been so relieved for someone to walk onto a scene than I was that day.

No one spoke up to stop the scene.

In the moment, I wanted nothing more than for someone to stop the scene midpoint and yell at all of us for letting this happen. Even yell at me if you think it would help! Tell me I’m allowed to speak up for myself! Tell me to fight against sexism! Teach me how to take the power back in the scene in case it happens again! I felt powerless against these men and my instinct was to just roll up into a ball and wait for it to be over. The day, the class, the term. I just wanted to go home.

I didn’t talk to anyone about it because I felt like I couldn’t. I didn’t want to be a bad teammate. I didn’t want to be the one who tore the group apart. I thought I would just get over it, but the truth is that two years later I still don’t like talking about it.

In my entire improv career, which has been five years long, I’ve only had two female teachers and two female coaches. This is a huge problem. There’s no reason why that number should be so off. Having female teachers and coaches gives female improvisors a person to go to when they feel like they’ve been harassed, assaulted, or the victim of sexism. There are definitely male teachers who are feminists that fight for us but it’s hard to go to them because no matter how much they can sympathize, they don’t understand what it’s like.

It is so frustrating that we even have to think about this. But here’s a few examples of things I’ve had to deal with that I don’t think my male improv friends have ever had to think about.

I’ve had to leave multiple graduation shows of mine because my drunk male friend keeps on hitting on me.

I’ve had to yell at the same person multiple times because he keeps on grabbing my ass and can’t understand why I don’t think it’s funny.

I’ve been sold as a prostitute in a scene.

I’ve been in interviews where half of it was focused on why I hate being called a strong female comedian, and I’ve been asked more times than I can count whether or not women are funny (in which I now use the Katie Rich method of answering.)

I’ve been in auditions where I was called a bitch onstage and was told to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich. When I spoke out against this within my scene, I was left with silence and awkwardness then had to work through the rest of the audition just hoping it would be over soon.

I’ve been told to lose weight, change my voice, and to change my name from Annie, which I’ve always gone by, to Anna, which is only used legally, so that it sounds less like a little girl’s name.

I’ve been told, multiple times by strangers,  that the reason I got cast into a show was to fulfill a female quota. I’ve been told, by strangers, that the reason I got a job coaching was because I was a woman. I’ve been told, by strangers, that the reason I got a slot at a theater was because the owner and I “had a thing”. All by people who have no authority or clue as to how hard I worked or how talented I may be. (I’ve learned that people really love to use your gender to justify your success and their inability to achieve said success.)

Every time I look for a new director, I have to consider whether or not they’re safe enough to be vulnerable around.

My Twitter, published articles and blog posts are a feeding ground for trolls who call me fat, ugly, idiotic & untalented – and those are just the tame trolls.

The reason I haven’t spoken about this in five years is because I’m afraid of be labeled as “difficult to work with” or “oversensitive.”

Half a year ago, I made the shift from performing constantly to coaching and directing more than I perform. I made a vow that I would never cast a show that had less women than men, and that I would never cast an ensemble that didn’t have multiple POC (if you want to know what it’s like to be an improvisor of color, read this.) I promised myself, and continue to remind myself, to speak up when someone is being sexist and racist instead of letting it slide. Everyone who has worked with me knows that I lead with a lesson that I took from the book of Dana Quercioli… before we even warmup, I lay out the types of jokes I won’t tolerate because they’re crutches, and they’re offensive. Any jokes about gender, race, sexual orientation, weight or things that come out of your body won’t fly. Not only are they offensive, but they’re already used up- we can find something better.

So why the post? I’m frustrated and sick of not being spoken up for, but to be honest… I’m not doing a great job for sticking up for myself. I’m more concerned about being liked than being treated with respect. That’s not right. So I’m going to start speaking up. I hope you do too.

My guide to happiness, part one.

Happiness, Life Lessons

Understand your pitfalls.

Know yourself and understand where you struggle. Stop wishing to be normal… normal doesn’t exist. Instead, just be in tune with your pitfalls. By understanding and accepting your darker sides, you’ll be able to deal with them a little easier. When I was fourteen, I had my first panic attack. I literally thought I was dying, as the symptoms are very similar to a heart attack. I’d stay up all night, come to terms with my inevitable death, get tired, eventually fall asleep and wake up in the morning amazed that I was still alive. I was so sure that I had some awful terminal illness. When I finally found out that they were panic attacks caused by anxiety, they were easier to manage. Did they go away completely? No… but when one came, I knew exactly what it was. I went from staying up all night thinking that I would be dead in the morning to learning how to breathe deeply and isolate myself so I could ride out the attack. It didn’t happen overnight… but since I learned how to manage my anxiety, I’ve had significantly less panic attacks.

Once you understand something, it becomes less scary. When you know your struggles, when you can see where they come from, you can manage them easier. Pretending that they don’t exist won’t solve anything. You have to learn how to live with whatever crap you have on your shoulders. You have to learn how to ride out the waves.

Let people know how much they mean to you.

This was my biggest regret when my dad died. I felt as if I let him die without knowing how much I loved him. I was so caught up in my teenage angst and didn’t make the time to have those conversations with him. The truth is, most of us don’t. We’re so scared of being rejected that we hold back our feelings towards those we idolize, love or care for. There’s nothing wrong with you for wanting to guard yourself. It’s human. It actually took me three deaths to realize there’s no time to hold back how you feel. When I lost my dad and two of my friends unexpectedly, I realized that I need to let people know that I care for them while we still have time together.

So I write letters and tell people that I’m appreciative of them. I let people know that they made a difference in the way I look at the world. The truth is that everyone is human. Even if you think that someone is perfect and flawless, they have moments of self-doubt. Your kind words of gratitude may be what makes someone realize that they’re great. Don’t ever be afraid to let someone know they changed your life.

Be kind.

To everyone. I always say that it’s not hard to be kind… because it really isn’t. You have to practice patience and self-control but it can be done. I hate people who fight… grown adults who yell at each other. Nothing gets under my skin more than this. Being kind doesn’t mean that you always have to be happy with someone, but if you’re angry then treat them as a decent human being and have a conversation. Be levelheaded.

Don’t make fun of people. It’s so stupid… I hate this. I hate when one of my friends posts a picture, or video, of some homeless person on the street who is clearly has an intellectual disability. I love people who have intellectual disabilities and I know that they’re so damn lucky to be in a loving family. These people on the street weren’t as fortunate, that’s all. If you don’t want to help, just leave them alone.

Ah, and finally, the hardest of them all… being kind to those who are awful to you. This is where patience comes into play. When someone is yelling at you for no reason, all you want to do is scream back and tell them they’re shit. I know this. I dealt with it every day for two years. I do believe that there are bad people in the world. However, I also believe that if you treat these people like shit then you’re sacrificing your character for someone who honestly isn’t worth it. My mom taught me this lesson… some people just aren’t worth your time and energy. She always told me to consider the source… don’t let words from someone whose character you don’t believe in affect you. If you dislike them as a person, why are their words hurting you? They’re invalid words. They don’t mean anything. They hold no weight. Once you’re able to realize this, you’re also able to let their fighting words fly past you and speak with them levelheaded. Stick up for yourself, but do it in a professional manner. Let them know that their behavior is unacceptable… but do it in a kind way. Through an intelligent conversation. Your opinions hold more weight when they’re executed with a clear mind. If you yell at them, you’re just as bad as the person you’re yelling at.

Go for it.

What do you really want? Be honest with yourself. What do you want to do in life? Why aren’t you doing it?

You’re going to come up with a million different reasons. I came up with four years’ worth of reasons. I came out to Chicago to pursue comedy then avoided it for four years. Why? Because I was terrified of not making it. Before I even got started, I was scared. Here are just a few of my excuses: It’s stupid idea, it’s too much money, I don’t have time, what if I’m not good at it?, if I really love my family then I’ll move home after graduation instead of being selfish, that’s something that I should have done earlier… now it’s too late, what if I fail? There were a million more excuses.

Then want to know what happened? I almost had my comedy dreams stripped away from me. I was moving home without ever trying… I was leaving that dream behind. Then I got a job in Chicago and a week later I found myself on a train back to Chicago. It was a second chance. This time I’ll just go for it… because nothing felt worse than having to explain to my friends back home why I never got started.

So I signed up for one class. That’s it. Just one class. It changed my life. Let me say that again… it changed my life. My life changed forever. I became happier, a better person to be around. I met mentors who changed my life. I quit my awful job. I learned that I deserve more out of life. I learned that failure isn’t as scary as never getting started. When I was little, my dad used to tell us “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s don’t go on the scoreboard.” You may fail, you may succeed… but do something. Don’t live in regret. One class just over a year ago evolved into 15 classes, 26 shows, 33 original sketches, a blog, an internship, a new job and an incredible community that I couldn’t imagine my life without.

That kind of stuff happens when you go after what you want. You find that you wanted it because it fits you like a glove.

Don’t expect the world to hand you anything, especially happiness.

No one is going to do it for you. Work hard, maintain a good character and strive for happiness. No one is going to bring you happiness. No one. No person, doctor, object, amount of money or success will do this for you. You have to work really hard at it.

I know because I spent a long time wondering if I was ever going to be happy again. When I finally went for help and was diagnosed with PTSD, I learned that I was never going to just be happy naturally. No one is ever happy naturally. We’re all fucked up in some way. When that illusion faded, I realized that I can teach myself how to be happy. I literally wrote one thing down every single day that I’m grateful for. One thing a day to extract happiness from. Sometimes it was hard… sometimes it was as simple as “I’m happy I’m alive”… and when I couldn’t find anything in my life to be happy about, I looked around me… “I’m happy my mom is healthy,” “I’m happy that my nephew was born,” “I’m happy that I have a bed to sleep in.”

This taught me to extract happiness from the world around me. That no one was going to come up to me and tell me that I’m cured, or that it’s time to be happy. I learned that shit happens… all the time. Bad things will always happen. However, when you learn how to extract happiness from the world around you, the bad things won’t seem as scary. You’ll feel like you can deal with that one awful thing because you have lists of incredible things to be happy about.

I kept my list for 42 days, exactly. I know this because I still have it. After 42 days, I no longer needed a list. I had trained myself to extract happiness naturally. I worked really hard for those 42 days – I was sober, I stayed away from most people, I avoided anything tied to a bad memory… I just focused on myself. After 42 days, I felt like I could start being the young, vibrant person that I wanted to be again.

Happiness didn’t just appear after 42 days, but I knew that it was coming. I felt like I was in recovery – knowing that better days were to come. And they did. They came about two years ago. I realized one day that I was purely happy. I was no longer self-conscious, paranoid, selfish, ruled by anxiety, depressed… I was better. I was happy all the time. Bad things have happened since then, I’ve cried a lot, but I didn’t let those things rule my life anymore. This is my new life. I am in control.

This formula won’t work for everybody. Everyone has a different way to heal. This is just what worked for me.  But what I’m getting at is that you have to work for the things you want in life. They’re not just going to come. That never happens.

I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor

Grief, Happiness, hardship, Life Lessons

I started this blog two months ago. I was sick of hearing Millennials talk about how much life “sucks” in your twenties. I was afraid that my friends weren’t even considering that happiness is always an option… even when everything seems bad. So I published 20 ways to be happy and since then I strive to make every other post I write bring happiness. I want to remind people that life is so good if you let it be.

It was recently brought to my attention that happiness isn’t so easy. I realized that I keep on pushing this concept that you can make a conscious decision to be happy, however, people who suffer from various illnesses don’t consciously choose to be upset. It’s a chemical imbalance. That’s when I realized that everyone who reads my blog couldn’t possibly know my own story and history.

Baby I’ve been here before / I’ve seen this room and I’ve and I’ve walked this floor / You know I used to be alone before I knew you

I know that depression is a rough battle to fight. I understand that you can’t just wake up one day and be happy. I’ve been there. 

For a solid 8 years, I battled all kinds of demons. In high school, about two years after my dad passed away, I became so paranoid that I wasn’t able to go to bed until sunrise. I spent the entire night pacing around, scared to death something would happen to someone. After two of my friends passed away in college, I was so depressed that I spent days crying in bed… I didn’t go to class, talk to anyone or eat. Each traumatic event took it’s toll on me – I was miserable. Friendships were ruined because I refused help, my dignity was lost and I seriously thought that happiness was impossible. I didn’t tell a soul how I really felt. I was too embarrassed. Ever since my dad died, everyone told me how strong I was. I didn’t want to let everyone down by admitting that I needed help.

After about two years of serious mood swings and battles against depression, I hit rock bottom. One of my best friends dropped me from her life because I was too much work. I’m not sure if she thought that I was acting this way for attention or just sick of me refusing help… but she was gone. I had no more options – I conquered my fear and went to a psychologist.

Ever since my dad died, everyone tried to get me help. It was overwhelming to me. School psychologists, child psychologists, school counselors, art therapists… it was too much. I was sick of telling my story over and over again. With each new person, I had to start from the beginning. I felt so guilty about my dad’s death and it was too painful for me to relive. So I ran. I ran away from every single professional looking to give me one-on-one help. I would go for one session then disappear – I wouldn’t show up to the second. I spent many classes ducking into the bathroom because I knew that they would look for me. I preferred being in a group and  thought that I would be fine with group therapy… but it only allowed me to hide behind other people’s emotions instead of working on my own.

So here I was… twenty years old and finally getting the help I needed. Within the first session, my psychologist diagnosed me with PTSD. While it was terrifying for me to have a name for this extreme paranoia, insomnia and overall depression, it was the first step to my recovery. From there, we could fix it.

Here’s where my idea of making a daily conscious decision to be happy comes in. When I was going through therapy, I had to relive a lot of shit I would rather avoid. Reliving everything only meant that I became more paranoid and upset. I knew I couldn’t last in this mindset so I taught myself to count a blessing everyday. I made a conscious decision to take at least one minute a day and devote it to reliving happy memories. It was tough… some days I really had to think to find something worth being happy about… but I always found something. There was always something worth living for. From there, I took other small steps towards happiness. I admitted to my family that I never got over my dad’s death and needed help. I realized that I broke key relationships and I apologized… to my friends, my sorority sisters and most of all… to myself. I forgave myself for all of the shit I did in the past. When I finally got over my past, I restructured my life to allow for happiness in the present. I ditched friends who didn’t have good intentions, found roommates that I loved and surrounded myself with a group of good people eager to contribute to my happiness. I lost my fear of being emotional and told people how much they meant to me. I allowed myself time to be selfish and took up dance and improv. I was finally happy. 

It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took a solid two years after seeing my psychologist before I considered myself stable. But everyday I made the decision to take one more step in the right direction. I trained myself to think this way. As I write this, I promise you that I’m 100% happy in life. My dark days are far behind me… and I have therapy to thank for that. You guys, it’s possible to be happy.

So I know that sometimes I can generalize and make it seem like happiness is right next door… but I also understand it takes work. My intention is not to be unsympathetic to anyone’s circumstance. I  just want everyone to know that you have one shot at a beautiful life and you deserve every bit of happiness. Get yourself the help you need to allow yourself the ability to live a happy life.

You deserve it. I promise you… you really deserve it.

If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire


Last night when I was trying to avoid going to bed (I’m basically a child… I always feel like I’m going to miss something), I started rereading parts of books that I love. I came across one of my favorite quotes about one of my favorite people. Steve Martin, when talking about Gilda Radner’s death, said, “Gilda was so lovable in person as a person. And so it was easy to get sentimental about her, because in looking back over her life, I know she had trials and tribulations, but knowing her, it was never expressed. It was just joy and happiness and funniness and comedy.”

That got me thinking. How lovable are you in person as a person? Times get hard… believe me, I know it. But are you letting this define the type of person you are?

While I love Gilda and want to give her all the props in the world, I don’t think she was able to be “joy and happiness and funniness and comedy” by herself. I firmly believe that we are products of who we surround ourselves with. 

I’ve had high times and low times. There were periods in my life where I was fun to be around and other times when I was toxic to other people. However, when I look at all the factors that contribute to my happiness, I realize that so much of it has to do with the company I keep. When I was at my low point, I was surrounded by fake friends who weren’t doing anything to inspire me or make me feel comfortable in my own skin. How am I supposed to grow as a person if I don’t surround myself with others who are like me?

And when I say “like me”, I use that term loosely. I love having a diverse group of friends. I have friends of all different ages, occupations, passions, backgrounds, walks of life… but we all have this commonality that roots us. We have a deep desire to be happy, to dream and to just be there for each other. The crowd I surround myself with gets me. They’re fierce students of life. They understand that sometimes I just want to break out and dance and other times I really need to cry. They understand the silly side just as much as the sentimental one. They get that I have fears, dreams and quirky habits… and they’re really incredible people who make me happier every single day.

Last Thursday I was at my improv class. My proudest moment of that class was that I didn’t manage to piss my pants during it. Was it because everyone was hilarious? Actually, quite the opposite. All of us couldn’t stop laughing at absolutely nothing. We were all just so happy and giddy… to have our friends who weren’t in class last term back with us, to have negativity weeded out, to just be present in the moment. To be alive and together.

There are so many areas of life that you can’t control. Shit happens, bad people come and go… so much of our life speeds past us as we desperately try to hang onto some morsel of control. But you can control this. You have a say in who you spend your time with. So reflect on your life… who are you spending the majority of your week with? You can’t control it all – your boss is your boss, your teacher is your teacher and the grumpy bus driver is your grumpy bus driver. They’re not leaving anytime soon. But look at everyone else… who are you getting coffee with? Who are you Facebook chatting with? Who are you making the conscious decision to keep in your life?  Are they there with you – raising you up, lending you their ear when you need to talk, not judging you when you admit that “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus is one of your favorite songs?

Last Saturday my friend had us over for a bonfire and it was wonderful. I was surrounded by a few of my favorite people, as well as some new and glorious strangers. Everyone was just there, in the moment, enjoying life. It made me think of one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems:

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

Find these people. Please do yourself this favor. They’re out there and they’re so excited to meet you.

Thanks guys.


Today was one of those days. They only happen maybe 3 times a year for me. It’s when everything that has happened to me throughout my life piles up and I feel like there’s no way I’m going to make it through the day. This time of the year is really rough for my family and I found myself unable to sleep then waking up every hour last night because I kept on thinking about my dad. Waking up this morning was hard but I somehow managed to get myself to work… then shit hit the fan

Without getting into details of my day, just trust me that it was bad… really bad and I either needed to cheer up or run out of the building, grab the first flight to CT and give up. I hate to waste a day that could be spent happy… so when I realized that this day was turning sour, I asked my friends to post stuff to make me happy on Facebook & they definitely delivered… I had 27 different posts with something in them that made me smile – the day was not wasted. 

I just feel so fucking blessed. How did I get so lucky? What did I do in my life to possibly deserve these friends? Not sure… but one thing I do know is that everyone should have people like my friends in their life. Someone who will send you a video of a monkey riding a pig backwards, pictures of a baby posing with a dog and spit their best (worst) pickup line. My coworkers definitely delivered too… practically rolling up their sleeves, taking out their hoop earrings and getting ready for a fight.

You have to find the people like this in life. The people who will have your back no matter what you may find yourself up against. Ones who can vouch for your character when your reputation is being trashed before your eyes. Those friends who will distract you, if even for a moment, from the hellhole you’ve found yourself in. I felt like I was assembling a dream team… I had my friends posting funny things, ones posting inspirational tidbits & others giving me some music to chill out to… then coworkers who got mad for me, others who talked me through the next rational step with a clear mindset & others who made me realize that I wasn’t the problem in this situation. 

I felt like Maria in the Sound of Music “Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good”. I don’t know what good I did to get these people on my team, but I’m fucking honored and blessed that they are.

Seriously, I love you all… and I’m so happy to have you in my life. Thank you for today.



So today is the first day of my 23rd year of life… and I feel pretty damn good. Last night when I was blowing out my candle, surrounded by friends that I love, I realized I don’t really want anything more than what I already have. I feel so fortunate to be able to live this life I’ve been living… how could I possibly ask for more?

But this wasn’t all my doing. It didn’t just take a village to raise me… it took a whole damn city. I wouldn’t be this happy if it wasn’t for those people who pulled me through the tough times and showed me that happiness is always an option. Year number 22 was the best year of my life… and I’m sure year 23 will only get better. So for my birthday post, after being treated so well this weekend… I’m going to give a couple shout outs to those who contribute to my happiness…

Lets start with my family… My mom, dad, sister, brother, aunts, uncles and cousins for fostering the wacky and creative side of me & never once telling me I couldn’t do it. To those ‘stand out’  teachers… Bevin Krack Ginty, Laura Mead, Beth DaSilva Roos, Pam O’Neill and Khalil Marrar, for showing me unconditional love and going above and beyond what is required of them as teachers. To the coaches I’ve had through life… Pudgie Delohery, Mr. Harris & Mr. Farmer for teaching me that you won’t get anywhere in life if you’re not a team player. To my creative coaches… Rebekkah Hilgraves, Michael Burnett, Niz and Jay Sukow, for never once doubting my ability, teaching me that I’m my toughest critic and helping me grow both on and off stage. To The Simpsons, Foshays, Neumullers, Mooneys and O’Neills for being my “family”. To Spice Rack for showing me that some of the best people in life are still out there to meet. To Phil Hymes for bringing me onto the set of SNL and forever changing my life. My friends, sorority sisters, coworkers, roommates, improv crew, Demonthoners and Fieldstone Farm family for being the fun in my life. 

My life is nothing but a series of hangouts, wine nights and long chats – all of which contribute to my happiness. I would be nothing without these people… and for that, I thank you with all of my heart. Thank you for raising me into the person I am today. 

I wanted to learn how to be funny. I got a life lesson instead.

Happiness, Life Lessons, Silly

We all knew this post was coming. Wasn’t sure when, but then I had this “moment” last night. During my Second City class, I ducked out to use the bathroom at a time where most classes, including mine, weren’t on break. On the way to the bathroom, I just heard so much joy coming from so many different rooms – laughter, applause, compliments… just ringing through the hall. I thought, damn… I’m lucky to be here. So it’s time to write a list of the many life lessons I have learned through improvisation.

Absorb every single moment life gives you

There is always the potential to learn if you pay attention to the lessons being handed to you. Absorb them like a sponge. I have learned so much about myself, the world I live in and the person I want to be through improv. I enjoy watching my teammates just as much as playing. There’s so much potential in everyone and it’s incredible to watch their growth. Lessons can be found anywhere. In fact, one of my favorite things to do is to audition… regardless of whether or not I get cast. In an audition, you’re able to see people in their best light and learn from those who are killing it. There are very few places that I’m able to learn from peers as much as in an audition.

Absorb moments too. There’s this moment every now and again when I’m on the L headed to class when I realize that I’m exactly where I need to be and doing exactly what I need to do. Notice that. Give yourself time to reflect on where you are and the hard work you put in to get there.

It’s okay to be scared shitless

I’ve never been more terrified in my [performance] life than a couple weeks ago. I was cast onto a team at a different theater where I knew no one… which is usually okay for me. While I was proud of this accomplishment, I soon realized that not only did I not know anyone, but everyone had much more experience than I did… and they were good. Really good. I never struggled much with confidence but I found myself desperately searching for an inch of ego to pull me through. It was an unfamiliar feeling and it scared me shitless. I realized that the only way to get through would be to open up about my insecurity and ask for help. One of my improv teachers sent me this:, which really spoke to me. I’m definitely still working on my confidence, but I realized that it’s okay to be scared shitless. It’s healthy. The only way you can grow as a person is to be challenged. To have someone see something in yourself that you aren’t sure existed… and to not have the option to quit.

Be your own biggest fan

Along the lines of “It’s okay to be scared shitless”, be your own biggest fan. Believe in yourself more than anyone else. I struggle with this. It’s not that I don’t think I’m good… it’s that I was raised to be really humble, to be a team player. It’s hard to balance believing in yourself and your dreams while trying to make your teammates shine. When I was in high school, my choreographer/guru read Marianne Williamson’s quote before every show. It goes:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. Yeah.

Take a break

I found the magic world of improv at 16 and dove in headfirst. I did everything I could to learn, perform and even teach this wonderful art form. I was dead set on moving to Chicago to study improv so I found the only way possible to convince my mom to let me go – enrolled at DePaul University. I was finally living in Chicago & ready to pursue my dream. Then what did I do? I forgot all about comedy. I double majored, worked retail, was the treasurer of my sorority and helped start a 24-hr dance marathon. I even made fun of myself for moving here for comedy because I was so far removed from it. I took a 5 year break and lived. Then what happened? I found myself unhappy with my 9-5 life and thought a comedy class would cheer me up. Fast forward 7 months and I’m now on three teams and loving every second of it. If you really love something, it’ll eventually come back. It’s not going anywhere. Let yourself sit back and enjoy the seasons of your life. When I came back to improv, I was ready and willing to learn in a way that I wasn’t before. Let things go – they will naturally come back when you’re ready for them.

Connect with others

Pay attention to everyone around you. Check in with them – how are they feeling? What’s their story? Did something happen that made them upset today? My current teacher is big on looking at your scene partner and making a connection at the beginning of each scene. Bring that into life. Connect with everyone around you. My favorite moments came out of midnight chats just standing in Second City’s lobby finding out about my new friends. Just talking. It’s an incredible experience to connect.

A bad day doesn’t mean you have a bad life

I had one of those days last week where I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t sleep much the night before and had a really busy day. By the time I got to my rehearsal at 10:30pm, I was done. I had no energy and it showed. When I got home around midnight, I was tired, embarrassed, cranky and disappointed in myself. Then I had this realization… it has been seven months since I started studying improv and this was the first time I had a bad rehearsal or class. I was knocked off my pedestal and realized that I’m not perfect and it made me uncomfortable. But as we learn in improv – there are no failures. I’ll have my days… hell, I’ll have plenty of them. It’s okay. It’s human. There is absolutely nothing I can do to change what happened in that moment. Just let it go.

Be the party that people want to go to

This idea comes from the podcast I posted before. Be that person in the world that others want to be around. Be kind, fun, considerate, thoughtful, interesting, genuine, unique and intelligent. Shit, just be you. Think of the people in life you enjoy being around. Why do you like them? What makes them fun? Try to take on some of those traits. People will want to be a part of it.

Be yourself, not a replica of someone else

It’s great to have idols, mentors and role models. They will help you become the best version of yourself possible… let them do that. However, don’t wish to be them… strive to be you. The best mentors will see traits in your personality that are unique and work to nourish them. In the above podcast, they mentioned that “there comes a time where you can say, wait… I don’t have to be Bill Murray, I can be me.” Be you.

Some of the greatest people you’ll ever know you haven’t met yet

I’ve met some pretty great people in life. Hell, I was fortunate to be born into an incredible family. I didn’t sign up for class to make friends because I honestly didn’t need to. I have plenty of great friends. Little did I know, I was about to meet life changing people. My Thursday night class is filled with beautifully unique individuals. People who have goals and struggles. Individuals who want the best for you. Teammates who believe in you more than you believe in yourself and root for your success as much as their root for their own. They’re not jealous, they’re not vindictive and they’re sure as hell not selfish. Most of all, we love each other. The person I am today is not the person I was when I first stepped foot in Second City, and I thank them for that. You see it in the hallway before and after class. People who only went days without seeing each other are reuniting like it has been years. There are hugs, fist pumps, hallway chats and therapy sessions. Last night my class bumped into our old teacher on the escalator and started giving out high fives. He missed one person’s hand and literally ran down the upward escalator to make sure he didn’t leave him hanging. How often do you get that excited to see someone?

“Be great. Be memorable”

If I had to choose my favorite piece of advice, it’s this: “Be great. Be memorable.” My improv teacher gave us this advice on the night of our first show and I resort back to it all the time. It’s so simple, yet so true. Life is short and your ability to make a difference is fleeting. Don’t waste your time being ordinary. Every day there’s a chance to do something incredible, every day there’s a chance to change a life and every day you have no excuse to be anything less than great.

My first improv teacher told us that if everyone in the world were forced to take an improv class, it would be a better place. I couldn’t agree more.

Now go out in the world and be nice to each other.

20 ways to be happy

Happiness, Life Lessons
Ok Millennials, listen up. I’m sick and tired of my newsfeed being polluted with articles talking about how hard it is to be in your twenties. You hate your job, you’re poor and you were just released into this big bad world where you have absolutely no direction & nothing is turning out the way you expected. I get it. Oh trust me, I get it.

We all have those days where all we want to do is be a diva, crawl in bed and cry. Hell, I had one just last night. But newsflash – being a kid was hard, being a teen was hell and I have a ton of people in my life who make me realize that the generations to come aren’t all fun and games. It’s called life, and it’s not always rainbows and butterflies… no matter how old you are.

Recently, I came across a “self-help” article about being in your twenties. After reading the first three bullet points, “You’ll be Lonely”, “You’ll be Poor”, and “You’ll be Confused as F*ck”, I immediately closed my browser just in time to avoid reading number four, “You’ll Have Your Heart Broken”. In an attempt to counteract even a smidgen of the self-loathing Millennial articles online, I present to you 20 ways to be happy in your 20s (or any age, for that matter):

1. Life exists outside of 9-5

Don’t like your job? It’s an easy fix. Find something to do that you’re going to look forward to at least once a week – whether it’s a new hobby or an hour long conversation with your mom. If you’re not happy with your job, don’t let it define you. Live life outside of 9-5.

2. Brunch

Betches love brunch. Once a month, catch up with your friends by going to a long Sunday brunch. My personal fave? Beermosas at Southport Grocery.

3. Read at least two biographies a year

I’ve always been obsessed with biographies. I find other people’s lives so fascinating. However, they took on a new meaning in my #PostGradProblemz life. I realized that everyone struggles in their 20s… whether it’s Steve Jobs or Chris Farley – at some point they had to really work hard and persevere.

4. Laugh. A lot.

Laugh whenever you can, as often as you can and as loud as you can.

5. Be healthy

A year ago, a 30lb heavier version of me reluctantly stepped into a hip-hop dance class. I couldn’t do most of the moves because I was so out of shape. I attribute at least half of my happiness to the fact I decided to make a change. When you feel good, you’re going to allow yourself to experience life more.

6. Learn to deal with difficult people

Personally, I hate to hate people. It makes me really uncomfortable to admit that I really don’t like someone. Alas, in the past year I met that one person I’m never going to see eye to eye with. Instead of being hard on yourself for not being able to like the person, start to learn from them. Understand the traits that make them unlikable and vow to never pick them up. See them as a lesson on how to be a better person, all while treating them with respect. Just because someone doesn’t earn your respect doesn’t mean that you have to sink down to their level and deny them human decency.

7. Take a personal day

Because everyone needs one of those days every now and again where your biggest accomplishment is getting out of bed to microwave dinner.

8. Move to the city

Ok, maybe this is a bit extreme for most people. But the fact that I can get everything accomplished without walking more than 5 blocks definitely makes me a happy person.

9. Call home

Your family misses you, and you have to admit you miss them too. Nothing will brighten your day more than your brother telling you he’s a “Gigglesaurus” over the phone.

10. “Shoulda’s, woulda’s, coulda’s don’t go on the scoreboard”

Growing up, my dad always said that phrase. Live a life free of regrets. Dream big then attempt to make your dreams happen. What do you have to lose? That 9-5 job you hate? Yeah.

11.  Go on, or, or

Because they make lunch at your desk that much better.

12. Pick up a pen and write a letter

There are so many people in your life who deserve to know the good they have done for you. Give them that opportunity.

13. Pick up a hobby. Join a team.

I’ve always been one of those kids who had ten different sports going at once, on top of Girl Scouts and school. Was I busy? Yes. But I was never lonely. No matter what shit goes on during the week, I know that on Thursdays from 7-10 I’ll be with my fabulous improv group. Or that on Wednesdays from 8-9 I’ll be dancing my ass off with my gym friends. No matter what, I’ll always have a group of people behind me every single week.

14. Shop at Old Navy

You guys. They have some seriously trendy stuff these days. Shop there and save your money for things that actually matter – like a trip to the West Coast or a Showtime/HBO subscription.

15. Take a compliment

I’ll admit that this is something I really need to work on. It’s good to be humble but realize that most people in your life aren’t handing out empty compliments to make you feel good. Listen to them and shut your mouth.

16. Count your blessings

No matter what is going on in life, you’re always blessed. It can be as big as landing a new job or as small as getting the last Diet Pepsi from Jewel when you’re hung over. Whatever the case, don’t let life’s little blessings go unnoticed.

17. Reflect

Give yourself time to reflect on who you are and where you’re going. Let your mind wander when you’re on the train. Realize your shortcomings and appreciate the good days. Be nostalgic. Plan your next big idea.

18. Find mentors in life

Look for those people who will bring you to the next level. Those who won’t only praise and love you but will challenge you and unlock potential you didn’t know you had. Listen to the experience they have and the inspiration they bring. Life is a continuous learning process. Be a good student.

19. Forgive

Forgive your old college roommate for her passive aggressive notes. Forgive the circumstances that led you to graduate in a shitty economy. Most of all, forgive yourself for not being perfect. You’re GOING to fuck up! Life is a series of failures and lessons. That’s perfectly fine. When you learn to shake it off and move on, you’re going to learn how to love yourself and the world around you. You know that one person who always gets everything right? Who had the world handed to them? Yeah, me neither.

20. Just. Fucking. Be. You.

Don’t try to be anyone else – it doesn’t work. Be you. Be happy, silly, depressed, upset, nostalgic, determined, needy, independent, naïve, sassy, frustrated, weird, lazy, sad… whatever the hell you are today. You change. Accept that. And please – don’t ever apologize for who you are or where you’re going in life. Have a dream of being a donkey ranch owner? GREAT! The world needs more of them. The ONLY way to be happy with yourself is to be yourself.

So… there we go. That’s my advice. Now stop reading self-loathing articles and watch this instead: