The New Road Traveled: Look What Improv Has Done to Me

I have been taking an improv class for a couple of months and just participated in my first open stage performance last week. Talk about flying without a net. For most, the thought would be terrifying but for me, it’s perfectly comfortable up there. A year ago I never would have predicted I would be writing that sentence. And the idea to study improv came to me spontaneously, as well, which fits since improv is all about spontaneity and acting impulsively. Because I am drawn to public speaking and the stage, improv seemed like the freest place to broaden my options. So I found workshops at the HUGE Theater in Minneapolis and began my journey.

It’s a class of around a dozen people, one teacher and a teaching assistant. I am learning all the basics in improv like it’s always your turn, failing is winning and just how to support and nurture my fellow actors. The more I do it, the more I want to do it. It’s not exactly like heroin, but more like crack; not everyone gets addicted right away but if you do it regularly, it will get you hooked. Now I need it. Nothing balances the absurdity of everyday life like embracing an absurd concept coming from you head or fellow improv actors. It’s the most fun I have all week!

The years I had Dad here with me, when I stepped away from paid employment, transformed me. I pledged I would not squander the life and the gifts Mom and Dad gave me. I stopped holding my funny, snarky and sometimes biting tongue when observing the world, its politics or my own daily encounters. I completely lost my tolerance for the petty workplace trifling some call office politics. As I peel away the layers of the old skins that no longer serve me or this world, I am beginning to accept, discover and reawaken aspects of my true self. I am a writer and a raconteur, not a non-profit manager or some boss’ pin cushion, but if anything strikes me amusing in that old bag of nuts, I promise to share.

Part of taking the old path to terminal office pallor and early death was diminishing my own intelligence. It has only been lately that I remembered my high I.Q. results being a discussion in high school. I’m not going to replay ancient history but I am going to own and trust my head and know I will survive this new road not yet traveled.

I saw the signs before in jobs that simply bored me to tears, sucked the oxygen from the office like a raging inferno and always made me feel the outsider. Any time a department did the latest inter-office, interpersonal dynamic discovery workshop, the what color is your parachute or underwear or unicorn waste of $20 grand and three days, the room would look like everyone just learned I had typhoid – all would be huddled in one group and I would be way over there somewhere, the different one. I always knew I was different but I thought that difference provided the value, the creative piece. And it probably did. I just wasn’t providing any value for me.

Today after class, one of my new besties asked me if I was an ENFP, a Myers-Briggs personality type. I revealed I was an ENFJ and about five others chimed in they were either my type, his or one letter different. This was after we’d just laughed ourselves to tears and nearly wet our pants over a three-hour lunch. It’s a moment I won’t forget. I found my people! I wasn’t the odd one on the other side of the conference room, unless that was what worked for our improv scene. But when I am with this group, all the funny and joy and wit in my head is appreciated and encouraged. I love them. I hope they read this. I hope HUGE Improve reads this. You have changed my life. The puzzle pieces of my life are moving directions so I can see how it fits together.

I have tried to explain my transformation to old friends and acquaintances. Many dear friends were still around while Dad was with me but besides not being part of their social life then or much now, they also still see me as the non-profit manager. And when I begin to describe this new path, they don’t quite know how to respond. Maybe what I have chosen frightens them. Change frightens a lot of people. Or maybe they don’t believe in me.

If I had to, I could go back to the old job, life, mindset. But I hope in another couple of weeks that will no longer be the case. Because I want to bring my best to this life and this world. I hope Mom and Dad are watching in the wings, laughing – hard. They got me here.

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