Losing My Stand-Up Virginity

I attended my first ever stand-up comedy show with my boyfriend last week. As a self-proclaimed empath, the probability that I’d have to sit through watching at least one or a handful of comedians bomb made me uncomfortable to the say the least. The same kind of uncomfortable that overcame me during a middle school talent show when one of the performers clearly farted during her dance routine and the sound echoed around the auditorium. The second-hand embarrassment and nausea followed me all the way home.

With that being said, I have an endless amount of respect for comedians. I grew up on stage, dancing and failing many times myself. However, I usually played a character or felt that the dancing itself was a barrier that kept the real me hidden inside. I never had my raw personality scrutinized by others. I never had a crowd of people stare blankly at me while I failed to make them laugh. This specific kind of person and the specific kind of courage it takes to be this vulnerable is magnetic to me.

Not only are comedians brave, but the best of the best are also acutely aware of their surroundings like they have a sixth sense. I’d like to think comedians are sort of like boggarts from Harry Potter, those creatures that can shape-shift and contort themselves into our greatest fears, only instead they shape-shift into the dark, light, strange, true, and connect it all together through story-telling, ultimately revealing something universal and distinctly human about life – and they juggle the ability to do so while being charming and making us laugh. That’s a lot!

The open-mic comedy night was no exception. I was stunned by the respect I felt for all of these up-and-comers, even the ones who “bombed”. Not all of the jokes were my cup of tea, but the sheer confidence the people delivering them carried up to the stage was enough to be impressive in its own right. I was stunned by their lack of fear, or at least by the way they made it seem like they were indestructible. When a joke flopped, most of them would just shake it off with transitions like “guess that one didn’t take” or “probably not the right crowd to be talkin’ about eatin’ ass with”, which was one of my personal favorites. The whole thing was messy, funny, a perfect homage to how beautiful chaos can be.

By the end of the night, the host bought my boyfriend and I a couple of drinks just for sticking around to support the performers. I held my third glass of wine in one hand as I shook the hands of the comedians we were introduced to in the other. Off the stage, chatting with them, it was impossible to detect any discernible difference between us – but it was clear to me that we weren’t the same. Not at all. As I left the bar, I looked back at the stage and thought about how important it is to introduce fear and vulnerability into our lives, to take chances on the things that scare us the most even if it means you could end up farting in front of an audience, even if all you hear is crickets when you tell a joke.

Anyway, if you live in the Boston area, definitely go check out comedy night at The Burren in Somerville to support some cool local comedians. It’s definitely worth it, chaos and all.

 

Still A Work in Progress

Last night I picked at the dry skin on my bottom lip and stared at the ceiling for hours until eventually, around four in the morning, my eyelids felt heavy. My mind was frantically planning an emergency escape from the absolute dry spell of inspiration and adventure that my current life had become.

Oftentimes, when I’ve reached the deep end of a low point in my life, I experience  random bursts of inspiration. They seem to come to me from an outside source, usually before bed, and they beg to be the fuel for something productive. Sadly, they often go unused and unfulfilled. During last night’s episode in particular, I found myself watching a TEDx Talk by Caroline McHugh called “The art of being yourself”. It was through this that a couple of things became clear to me.

To start, I’ve wasted too much time comparing myself to and appeasing others. McHugh attributes this habit in particular with a female-driven desire to be liked and appreciated. As a child, I never cared what people thought of me and it made me seem bizarre to other kids, especially to other young girls. In fifth grade while my “normal” female classmates were learning to straighten their hair and passing notes to the cute boys in class, I was designing identification cards for my three best friends as official entry into our magical world. We were young witches in a Harry Potter-based universe one week and ghost hunters trying to break into the haunted house behind the gym the next. I remember mustering the courage to ask the one boy I had a crush on if he liked me back and he laughed in my face. “No. You’re weird,” was the response I got before he sprinted back to his herd of cool boys. I shrugged and walked back to my friends unscathed. We had adventures to continue and the rest of our lives to fantasize about. Sure, it would’ve been nice if dreamboat Nick liked me back, but his opinion held no power over my confidence. I’ve been searching for that strength inside myself ever since. (P.S. Nick has since added me on Facebook and flirted his way into my messenger.)

My fixation on what others were thinking of me or what others were doing with their lives only held me back. Instead of allowing myself the time necessary to focus and think about who I wanted to become, I filled my time with Youtube videos of other people making their dreams come true. I soaked up the lives of the fictional TV and film characters that I adored and envisioned seeking out the same adventures and success. I’d often say things like “I could easily do what she’s doing!” or, after a random surge of inspiration, attack my parents with lists of ideas and dreams I hoped to accomplish to which they would nod and reply “It all sounds great Mariana. I want to see you do it.” I don’t regret soaking up all the inspiration, but I do regret not giving the same attention to myself that I gave/give to the people I admire. I realized that I need to build a relationship of admiration with myself to start making real strides.

Self-discipline is a bitch. I’ve been struggling with it my entire life, but more as a postgraduate than ever. Someone recently told me that talent is only 30% of what we can each rely on. The rest is how much work and dedication we are willing to put in every day to bring whatever dream we choose to fruition. I had been failing at this miserably, blaming bad luck and fate for how stagnant my life had become. The truth was right in front of me and I knew it all along. I was the one thing stopping me from moving forward.

So, what now?

As the title of this post would suggest, my path to pushing my limits and “making my dreams come true” is still a work in progress. I plan to make this blog my guinea pig, a place where I can track my creative productivity. I strongly suggest anyone who feels road-blocked or lost to watch Caroline McHugh’s Tedx Talk. She reminds us that we each have something powerful and unique to bring to the world. The first and most crucial step is to see it.