How Improv Saved Me

Three years ago, I was formally introduced to the art of improv. I say formally because I had dabbled in it as a teen, and was exposed to it throughout the years. However we were formally introduced in August of 2011.

2011 was the hardest year of my life. I finished grad school by the skin of my teeth, I had gotten out of a bad relationship (and replaced it with another), and my dog, grandfather, and uncle passed away within 5 months of each other. It was very hard to be around myself. I tried to escape with partying and jetting off to Portugal, but I could never run fast enough. Soon, I was back home sitting on my staircase wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.  And wondering how I could escape.

Within two weeks of that moment, I had a job doing what I went to school for and doing what was expected of me. As I was fitting in at my new job, my uncle passed away. Although expected, there was always a hope that maybe the cancer would disappear. Maybe then this pain would too. When it didn’t, I felt a part of me was dying as I was “living.”

A few days after my uncle’s funeral, a slightly bearded man named Jose came to my work to do a team building workshop with a focus on improv. I played it off as nothing during the workshop, but inside I felt a burst of happiness I hadn’t felt in I don’t know how long. I was timid and a bit reserved during the workshop, but a part of me knew I wanted to do more of this.

I convinced a friend of mine to come to Jose’s theater, The Torch Theatre, for a free class. It was me, her, and this guy in the class. I was really bad and wondered why did I waste this Wednesday night? Feeling down about the class, I didn’t go back the next month. 

On November 11, 2011, my nephew Luke was born. On that day he was, and still is, perfect. Here was this beautiful life I was holding. So innocent. He didn’t know how bad the world could be, or cared how sad I was. He was happy just resting in my arms. As I held them, I decided that 2012 was going to be my year of growth and change. I wanted to be better for him.

A week before my birthday (November 18), I wrote down new things I wanted to try in 2012. On that list was improv. In December of 2011, I went to the next free class. I was still was bad, but with Level 1 starting soon (and on sale) I decided to give it a go. One class session wasn’t going to hurt. What was the worst that was going to happen?

The first class session was hard for me. I was scared a lot of the time, and people kind of scared me as I had personal space and intimacy issues. I didn’t like people getting too close or touching my face as they would know who I really was and would feel my imperfections. I would like to think I hid it well, but I don’t think I did. I would often go home from class feeling bad, but as the weeks went by and the classes progressed, I started to feel a little less bad about improv and myself.

 It would take months and months of classes and shows to break down walls, but once they did, I started to enjoy the art more, and being around myself. One big breakthrough was when a fellow classmate, and now great friend Andrew, literally touch my face during a scene. He didn’t know about my issues, and I don’t think would have cared. He showed me that I was alright and I can be myself. I was okay.

As I started to attend more shows and perform more, I started to feel comfortable in my own skin, onstage and off. I discovered new things about myself, and didn’t feel scared to express and show them. As a result, improv has allowed me to travel more, have closer relationships with my family and friends, and find happiness that I could create. I started to enjoy being around myself more, and enjoying my imperfections. I’ve also liked to think I’ve gotten better at improv.

Improv saved me. It wasn’t therapy, but it allowed me to express emotions and feelings I would have kept hidden from the world. I’ve met some of the greatest friends and family from improv. It also gave me strength to move from the tiny pond I love of Phoenix, Arizona to the massive lake of Chicago to study this art. Without improv, I don’t where or who I would be.

Probably still on that staircase.

May regret posting this, but I found the video from that workshop because Google. I also have bangs. Enjoy?

 

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