If I’ve learned nothing else in the past week, it’s that getting a shitty first draft out there is more important than being right or funny. The best thing I can ever hope to do is tell the truth. That’s what follows. The following post is unedited. In a world where humans are quick to point out typos and discount all that follows because you’ve made a very human mistake, ask yourself: Have I ever made a mistake?
If the answer is no, fuck you for being a liar. If the answer is yes, fuck me — I’m in good company.
We were nearly three hours into the first day of class and something was terribly wrong. Imagine Paris Hilton getting a letter announcing she had aced her SATs.
That kind of wrong.
I swiveled my still-concussed head towards our instructor (who could only rightfully be described as Permission in a Damn Nice Pair of Pants). Great things! What worked? What would you like to learn more about? Possibilities? Anyone?
I swiveled my head back to center, confident that the thing most terribly wrong was the bag of marshmallows jammed into my head after Saturday’s mishap(s) on a mountain bike.
Right before lunch, I figured out what was wrong.
It was me. I was wrong. And I was about to have to fess-up about a whole lot more that was wrong.
Doing it OR A ridiculously short backstory involving Harold Ramis
In late 2000, my wasband (thank you, Amanda, for extended license on this delightful term) and I were about to celebrate our second wedding anniversary. I wanted to do it up right, so I bought tickets to a Broadway show that was coming through San Diego and made dinner reservations. By the end of the evening, I’d realized that the gift I’d gotten him — the Broadway show — wasn’t for him.
It was for me.
I sat in an all-I-could-afford balcony seat, affecting eye swipes I could easily attribute to allergies, with tears that wouldn’t stop welling up. The show was STOMP, and I watched a story unfold that had no words but somehow had the power to make me ask:
HOW CAN I DO THAT?
I’M GOING TO DO THAT.
Within a week, I’d found acting classes. Within two months, I was signed by an agent. Inside of six months, I was the top booking talent at the agency. I was DOING IT. I became SAG-eligible (notable). Got a role on a quirky show called The Chronicle (pathetically forgetable). There was a time where I was the Surefit Slipcover girl, found in videos throughout Bed, Bath & Beyonds (note: I was in the Beyond section) demonstrating how to properly put a giant, overpriced sheet over your sofa.
At least I was associated with something that was getting thrown over the arms of sofas.
On that note, I was separated and soon to be divorced inside of the same six months. I’d also landed in Los Angeles at my agent’s behest.
I went from financially flush and booking to broke and ever-the-callback-queen, finding that I was trapped between “too much” and “not enough.” I was either too old or not old enough. Too redheaded or not freckled enough. The list went on and on and one day, it was too much of not being enough. I left the front of the camera for a brief stint as an agent’s assistant at CAA. There, I enjoyed a relationship much akin to that of being a battered wife. Flowers would appear when my agent had been especially cunty the day prior. The day she railed into me for forgetting Harold Ramis’ birthday was the end of it (note: it was not in her calendar but I should have known and AM I THAT FUCKING STUPID?!)
Also: Swimming With Sharks is a documentary.
So I left. I left DOING THAT behind. I put on a meat suit.
What makes a story OR Why Lady Gaga’s albums should be in the deli case
I believe that we’re given a pen and a blank notebook at birth — we’re given the gift of being able to write our own stories. When I left performing in 2004, I gently closed my notebook. Clipped the pen to its tattered cover. Set it gently on a shelf with a sign taped to it:
And what came next — the next eight years — was a story I’d let everyone but me pen.
Giving away your story…what a dick move. When faced with challenges an shit that doesn’t go our way, we make the easy decisions — the ones we come to regret — because we forget that we matter and we have worth. That’s what makes our story.
It looks like this:
This is where validation comes from — knowing that you have worth and why you matter in the grand scheme of all that is this gloriously skewed experience called life.
Then Paris Hilton gets that letter. The world spins a bit. And this happens:
Fuck Paris Hilton. If only you could fuck Paris Hilton, right? Because she matters. Apparently. And please feel free to substitute a celebrity closer to a 10 on a Scale of Fuckability so this through line is palatable.
Validation slowly slips away, leaving our hearts and finding a home in the hands of others. Without even knowing it, this happens:
The pen is gone. Why we matter and our worth disappear, drowned underneath The Meat Suit.
In 2004, I quit. I walked away from what I loved because I felt stuck between too much and not enough. I felt I didn’t matter and that everyone else’s story was more important than mine. I’d fought and fought to write my story, only to have people come along and tell me mkaythanks but no thanks, sugar.
I gave away the pen.
I stopped writing.
I put on a meat suit — a weighty, cumbersome cloak crafted by what everyone else said I should be. Because what I was…wasn’t enough. I stopped writing and let everyone else write my story.
And here’s the thing with meat suits — I said above:
We make the easy decisions — the ones we come to regret — because we forget that we matter and we have worth.
That’s the meat suit. The rough path of being ourselves becomes too hard, so we opt for easy and crawl into a carcass that belongs to no one. Frankly, it doesn’t really look good on anyone. The most important thing to know about that meat suit, though, is that it has a shelf life. It feels better for a bit, but before you know it, days, months, and years have gone by. You’re swaddled in a rotting ensemble and you’re exactly back where you were when you decided to put it on in the first place: lost and in search of validation, albeit a bit smellier than when you started and nary a top 10 single in sight.
Where the fuck is my pen? OR Why my life’s been shit for 10 months
I started blogging in 2006. Some of you reading this have been around since that time. I wondered what would happen if I picked up a pen (or keyboard) again.
And suddenly, instead of performing on a stage or in front of a camera, I was performing…with words.
I told stories. I got to dance with experience and circumstance like the popular girl I never was at every homecoming dance everywhere.
And here I sit in 2013, having built an amazing career out of it — this wordsmithing. This uncensored, for-the-love-of-fuck mouth of mine and I — we were DOING IT. Kind of.
And then September 22, 2012 came along and my world got twisted like a thong in a fat woman’s ass at high noon on July day in Dallas.
Enjoy the visual.
I walked out on stage at TEDxBoulder and I…was honest. And I didn’t apologize for it. I had somehow walked up to whatever motherfucker had my pen and performed the world’s first penjacking.
Since then, my world’s been shit. Complete shit.
The disposition of the meat suit OR Why standing ovations suck
I don’t know if you know how hard it is to sit here and tell you that — after walking off stage in the wake of a standing ovation — my life has been complete shit.
But it has.
I’d been walking around in this meat suit for years — answering interview questions like, “When did you decide to be yourself?” and “How do you give yourself permission to be who you are, knowing you’re going to offend people?”
The answers to those questions have always felt like a sham. FUCK IT. Be unpopular. Love me, hate me, just don’t be indifferent. Embrace your YOU and you’ll find the yous who appreciate you for you.
In all those “yous” — I’d lost me.
I wrote the answers. I spoke the answers. But with every ounce of honesty I can muster, I’ll tell you that there was still a part of me that didn’t believe the answers.
By walking out on stage and giving that talk, I’d ripped off my meat suit and stood there completely naked.
Since giving that talk, I couldn’t settle for anything but being me from that point forward.
And being ME is the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever asked myself to be.
I was here.
I’d chucked the meat suit and realized that thestory I’d forgotten — MY story — well, I was the only one qualified to write the thing. I’m also reminded that, should I use these graphics in the future, I’d need to replace these janky pencils with a ballpoint. I’m also much taller than the wooden figurine*.
For ten months, I’ve been so damn stuck. And it’s all because I had to start being honest with myself about who I am and what’s going to happen when I dare pick up this pen and write my next truly uncensored chapter.
I’d been wrong about who I really was…or maybe I’d drastically changed — the girl working with startups, the magazine columnist, the author, the bitch in the boardroom. I’m good (actually, not too damn shabby) at all of those roles. But they’re not ME.
So who the fuck am I? OR How credit cards get you things
This past week, it was a three-day comedy writing intensive at The Second City Training Center in Chicago that filled me in on the exact magnitude of my wrongitude.
Back in February, I’d gone to see a Second City show when it came through Boulder. The whole evening, I stared down at the stage and asked:
HOW CAN I DO THAT?
Seemed the question had a pretty simple answer. My ladydate, Robin, was from Chicago and said Second City had a training center there.
Which is how I came to be in Chicago last week, taking a three-day comedy writing intensive.
Which I also didn’t tell too many people about because who am I at age 40 (wasn’t it too late?) to bugger off to Chicago for three days to take a writing workshop at an iconic center that’s incubated the likes of Tina Fey, Chris Farley, Stephen Colbert? A fucking idiot, that’s who. It seemed a bit childish, grasping for former days of glory. But that’s the glory of credit cards — even fucking idiots can use them to pay for things.
I was in a room with 12 other people — complete strangers. Most weren’t writers. (There was this girl Joy — soon to be studying Fuck You levels of biochem in grad school at MIT this fall — who made the word “shit” sounds more earnest than I ever thought possible). And they were all so goddamn funny.
What made me swivel my recently-concussed head from side to side is that no one in the room ever said NO.
They said, “Yes, and…”
It was completely unnerving to be in an environment where I was allowed to be my inappropriate, uncensored, say anything self.
I’ve built a career giving other people permission to become the next better version of themselves. Fuck if I hadn’t given myself the same permission along the way.
I went back to the hotel that first night and cried, pissed at myself for living for eight years in a world fueled by, “No, but…” I sat down and did my homework — writing my first ever sketch comedy scene — and laid my fuzzy, still concussed head down for a restless night’s sleep.
The next day was awesome. There was so much about the scene that worked (and plenty that didn’t). I was in a room filled with people taking chances and I I found my iPad filling up with new ideas spawned from theirs. I laughed. I learned. Which brought me to the point where I had to admit that I was, inarguably, fucked.
Some changes OR Fessing-up
Ever so fucked, my friends. How could I go back when all I wanted to do was move forward? I’ve come to realize what’s important — what makes up my MUSTS. Here they are:
- Telling stories to, for, and about smart people: You, my readers, are the pump cheese on my tater tots. I’ve taken a hard look at what you love (shit about Ann Coulter, when I get fed-up with leaning in, truths about leadership, slaying skeptcism, how we treat one another under the veil of online interactions). There’s going to be more of that shit — because that’s what I love, too. The goal of every story is but one thing:
- Helping people become that next better version of themselves: I said goddamn, I do love getting people UNstuck. My Buy Me Coffee sessions and The GSD Mastermind will continue. I love the one-on-one approach to getting people from where they are to fuck yeah. As my business continues to evolve, I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing than helping you get to the next better verion of you. From my keynotes to workshops, blogs to magazine columns — this is why I write. And I love that I get lucky every now and then and people laugh through the metamorphosis. Stories have the power to change people, which is why I’m:
- Taking back that pen and continuing to write my story: Which is why I’ll be moving to Chicago later this year with the goal of dunking myself mitzvah-style into a pool of “Yes, and” in the Chicago improv and writing scene. I never thought I would leave Colorado, the first place I’ve ever truly called home. But I’m leaving where I love for what I love, knowing that I’ll fall in love with Chicago even more than I already have. Is this bold? Yep. Scary? As fuck. Audacious? Like a book by Barack Obama. But the most wrong thing I could do is stay here in Denver and wish I’d had the balls to say, “Yes, and…”
So…I was wrong OR How having a dog named Hippo is fucking awesome
It turns out that what I really love is telling stories to, about, and for people who like to think.
Who want better.
When you’re the person that people turn to to get them UNstuck, it’s a scary thing to admit that you’ve been stuck all the while. I’m supposed to have my shit together. It takes a lot for me to tell you that I don’t. But I’ve been through enough shit to help you avoid doing the same dumb shit. Which means I’ll keep fucking up so people can learn from my fuck-ups and go on to fuck up in new and glorious ways.
And aside from the day back in 2012 where I decided to reclaim my life after Jason died, this is the scariest thing I’ve ever done:
- Realizing it’s not too late, because this is my story and nobody’s writing this thing but me
- Leaving the place I call home
- And saying — once again — I’M DOING THIS.
I’m going to fail at so very many things that Texas will draft draconian legislation in my honor. And it’s awesome, just like having a dog named Hippo (full name: Hippopotamus). People at the dog park always ask, “Is that his real name?” No, asshole. His name is really Jack. “Hippo” is our safe word for when play gets too rough.
The funniest thing of all? I’ve gone through the past year feeling somewhat broken — never being able to quite put my finger on what’s been wrong. Today, I’m completely fixed because I’ve realized the final place where I’ve been wrong.
I’ve been trying to solve what’s not working about all of the things I’ve been doing.
What’s wrong is that I was solving the wrong problem.
The actual problem has been who’s been doing all of those things that haven’t been working — because it sure ain’t been me.