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30 Days of Joy: When Others See What You Can’t See Yourself

Brent Stoller with his improv troupe at Station Theater in Houston

Note: This article is the next step in my challenge to find joy in something — anything — every day for 30 days. Today’s entry is part 19.

After a year of classes, this past weekend brought my graduation performance for my improv comedy experience.

George Costanza taught us that it’s best to go out on a high note.

Sadly, I did not.

In front of a packed theater, I failed to hold up my end of the bargain.

Thankfully, my teammates did, as they got laugh after laugh.

Yet nearly everything that came out of my mouth fell flat.

There are few lonelier situations to be in than when you say something you think is funny, only to have everyone else disagree with their silence.

I have varying theories as to why this happened — I tried too hard, it happens to everyone at some point, I’m still not that good at improv — and my guess is it’s a combination of them all.

Still, understanding what went wrong hasn’t made dealing with it much easier.

What was supposed to be a celebration, a culmination of facing my fears and stepping out of my safe space, ended up feeling more like a funeral.

So much so that I’ve been avoiding all the pictures, videos and discussion that’s flooded my class’ Facebook group.

Until yesterday.

After a couple days of mourning, I decided it was time I get off the mat.

And in a display of the spirit of improv, there was someone there to help pick me up.

Our instructor had written our group a note, and included a personalized message to each individual.

Because she had taught our Level 1 and Level 5 classes, she knew what each of us was like at both ends of the experience — and how we had progressed from beginning to end.

To me, she extended a series of welcomed compliments, like how I played so intelligently, and how I worked so hard to support my teammates.

But more importantly, she acknowledged knowing how far beyond my comfort zone improv is, yet I kept showing up. Week after week. Until the journey was complete.

And for that, she was proud.

There are no words to explain how much her words meant to me.

They were sweet, and insightful, and spoken from the heart.

But more than anything, they were a validation of the last year of an important part of my life.

I’m still disappointed with the way this past weekend went, and I will be for some time.

But buoyed by my teacher’s message, I’ve finally felt what I’d been hoping to feel the second the curtain fell on our performance:

A sense of accomplishment.


This originally appeared on 100 Naked Words.

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