A few years back, I met someone at an NYC networking event and we got to talking about what we were up to. When I told them I just finished the UCB Improv program, they were like, “Advanced?” (referring to the UCB advanced classes) and I was like, ::sheepishly:: “No.” And they were like, ::disappointed:: “Oh. Well… keep going.” (Read: DO YOU EVEN LIFT???)
For me, everything really has started with a step. And taking a step at a time has added up, and I have gotten further and further on my own path. But it turns out that the further I get, the length of the road ahead is all I can see.
My friends used to come to my improv shows and lovingly tell me how funny I was and how I compared on stage. All I could really see is how good everyone else is, and how much I need to improve.
Maybe it’s classic imposter syndrome. But also, I think it’s that thing people talk about. The thing where they say, you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. And the other thing, if you’re the smartest one in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Nevermind that both of these things are a bit pretentious sounding. I think what they refer to is making sure that we always challenge ourselves. If we’re not in a place where we see room for improvement, if we’re not feeling like the weakest link, it means we’re not challenging ourselves enough, we’re not asking ourselves enough. (And I think it’s possible to feel like the weakest link in any room if we see each person’s unique gifts and ask ourselves to work harder.)
I haven’t really figured out the look-around-and-appreciate-the-milestones part. I am still focused on the climb. And yes, it is exhausting to think like that. I’m sure I’d be better off if I marveled at the distance a little more, but I don’t/won’t/can’t. If instant success were a thing I’d gladly give up the hard work and sit on the throne of my ginormously cushy ego. But it turns out it’s not a thing (mostly) and there is only one way: the hard way.
I do find something both humbling and exciting about constantly feeling like the loser in the room that has the most work to do, the longest way to go. It’s thrilling really, because there is potential. It’s like… knowing how much burn one has to feel in a workout before getting to the next … goal? Idk muscle language/talk. But yes, there is a sort of thrill/adrenaline rush attached to it.
I guess I’m writing this to share something I didn’t know when I was 22. There is no instant satisfaction or award awaiting the end of each milestone. There is what I have in myself. Knowledge, and also, increased knowledge of how little I know and how much more there is to learn. I think and hope this is how I will always feel. Which is cool and exciting. No matter how much I accomplish, how much I do, there will always be bigger achievements, people who have contributed “more.” And “we can always do more,” but also, “we’ll be dead soon anyways.”
So there is a built in dissatisfaction in achievement that I had no idea about. And witnessing the pattern of my life, it’s clear now. There really is no such thing as “winning” in the solo sense and it really is about how we get there together (even when we think we got there alone). And… winning doesn’t really feel like “winning.” It feels more like, “wow! that was fun! okay cool, now let’s get some rest, and then… onto the next.” I think that’s pretty cool, and grounding.
And also P.S. I’ve met lots of cool people on the road who are like, oh cool! and lot’s of people on the road who are like, oh. that’s it? The road giveth medicine for thine ego.