Funny Things or Leaving Where You Love for What You Love

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:


Followed by:


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:

Our Story


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:


The Scribble


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:


Meat Suit


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.

finding your story

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*.

*not really.

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:


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:

  1. 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:
  2. 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:
  3. 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.

Who need to laugh to get themselves through the maze of self-important douchery and the head-spinning level of WTF that allow the words Spitzer, Weiner, and come to appear in the same headline.

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.


Erika, You've been an inspiration to find the person under the "meat suit". For that, thank you, it was getting stinky in there. You've had quite a journey since I came across your page in 2009. It's so good to see how someone can transform their situation to achieve happiness instead of the of the other way around.  Keep up the good work.


Being able to make people laugh is one of the greatest gifts one could hope for. Don't beat yourself up for taking the long road to discover this.


"solving the wrong problem" hmmm fuck me that sounds familiar. Also gets me thinking that I take on other peoples problems to "solve" ,then get pissed when they don't appreciate the effort. And fuck me again, that's because I almost expect it. Bitch slap, uppercut and wake up call all in one. Cheers.



I will always have a special place in my heart for you.  During a period of darkness when my soul was filled with anger, bitterness and hatred, I found you on Twitter.  I have happily followed you and your writings since 2008.

I arrived into 'the darkness' after a continual spree or family related deaths.  In 2008, the number totaled 12 members of my family.  I was deeply crushed by the number of losses.  From my 4 year old nephew, to my parents, grandparents, brother, other relatives and two completely total strangers who I held in my arm as both inhaled their last breaths.

In 2013, the number has risen to 17 deaths in total.  Over the past couple of years I have examined 'why' several times and of course I always ended up at a dead-end street in terms of answer.

What you did for me was more than share your writings.  You made me laugh.  You gave me reason to locate the humor and laughter in the subtle spaces of time between the tears, anxiety and feelings of emptiness.  

In 2008, I found myself sitting on the steps of the porch which lead to the backyard.  I describe that moment as:  the trees were swaying, there was a flash and flicker of lightning, followed by a roar of the thunder in the distance.  "A storm was brewing on the outside, and on the inside".  On a fateful Friday evening I grabbed a yellow legal pad and a pen.  I wrote my story.  I attended an event for public speakers on a Monday night.  I shared my story.  The tears streamed down my face as I shared an authentic and sincere moment with the audience in hope it would be of value, even if it was only on value to (1) person who needed to listen to my story.  This event set the wheels in motion:  to make a difference in the lives of others.

In the years to follow between 2008 and today (2013) I continued to put 'my purpose' under the microscope and lens of magnification.  I knew I was headed in the correct direction.  My head and heart indicated it was true.  Yet, it needed additional work, dissection and attention to eventually uncover my larger purpose which tied into:  to make a difference in the lives of others.

Allow me to do a quick roll back:  to make a difference in the lives of others.  Something was missing.  I was close but no where near complete or nor had I had the bullseye of the target.  Until the past two months:  To make a difference in the lives of others and to contribute to building organizations that will outlast my lifetime.

To make a difference in the lives of others and to contribute to building organizations that will outlast my lifetime.  

No longer do I wander around harboring a feeling of living life without a purpose.  I cannot thank you enough Erika!  I will always wish my RedHeadedWriting friend the best which life has to offer and I know you're doing the work of taking care of you and I promise I will continue to take of me.  



This was exactly what I needed to read today. The phrase "meat suit" resonated in my have described how I have been feeling (but not realizing it until very recently). Thanks lady, for writing this honest blog post.  You rock! Have a super new adventure in Chicago.


We teach what we need to learn.

Now go on with your bad self. Proud of you.



I finally get some of the things you write about. I finally walked out of the meat suit and into a dream position where I'm the boss (who refuses to boss...) and I got control of a bunch of bad negatives in my psyche this spring/summer. But some days I still put the suit on in order to move my ass forward, and cuz not everyone can take the uncensored me in large quantities.

 All I can say, is that you should find some time to follow the Lake Michigan road around to the west shore of Michigan. Go when the weather absolutely sucks and walk the beach when nobody is out there, the solitude will cleanse. There you have it, my mental floss if you need it. I wondered if the celebrity aspect of things was draining, and I think I got the answer in your post... Take time for you, the net will still be here after you take a day off...


Congrats and best wishes, Erika. I made a similar leap last year (at age 42), moving from my home of 18 years -- Nashville -- back to my home state of Virginia. I knew it was the right thing and I knew it would be hard. It has been both. Mostly, I miss the great friends I left behind and have found new friendships tough to come by. But I don't regret my decision for a minute and continue to work towards getting unstuck. Thanks for sharing your story and continuing to be an inspiration.


Ah, my she-ro speaks truth again!  Because there is nothing like fucking up so other people can learn from your fuck ups.  Look at fucking Oprah. Woman kept fucking up and we loved her a billion dollars and 20 years on TV because of it.  May your magnificence be praised and fuck-ups be glorified in the months and years to come....  And should you desire, may you also give away brand new cars to random people who come to breathe the same air as you.  Much love, Jessica

Andi Roo
Andi Roo

THIS. Wow. Can we be friends? I feel like you just read my own history aloud. Speaking of stealing pens... I'd like mine back, please! ;)


Thank you! I somehow slid into a job that I like a lot last year, but in the process forgot what I was meant to be doing for ME and MY future. I never intended working for this company and although I have liked it a lot, I completely fucked myself by not realizing what I could be doing. I don't know if it was fear of failure, or just being a coward, or accepting mediocre stability at this position, whatever it is I am STUCK and I need to get out and back to what I want to do and be who I want to be. 

I don't know how I stumbled on this post today, but it was what I needed. Thank you. 


Thanks - good to know others are in this place of transition and awakening too. Spent the last 2 years of my life plugging away at something I thought was my dream only to wake up one day to the realization that I HATED it. Not all of it, just.. parts of it.

Working on change.

It's hard and scary to take the leap, but so important.

And no - 40 isn't "too old". My folks are 57ish and they too are taking a new leap. (Their 4th great leap in my lifetime.)

Good luck to you! Kick ass and take names. Can't wait to see what you do with your new found super powers!

Stephanie StClaire
Stephanie StClaire

You got this, and you're going to rock it. I didn't have half the awareness you do when I moved to NYC with 20 bucks and 2 suitcases. I was forty. I was going for an interview for a shitty office job after 9 months of unemployment (yeah 2008!). I ended up saying fuck the office job, took a waitressing job, and reinvented my life.  Now I'm a writer and a guidance counselor who teaches people how to create miracles in their life. I live on both coasts, make my own schedule, and get up every day like it's Christmas. You got this, and you are going to do great!

Carrie Drephal
Carrie Drephal

@Stephanie StClaire Wow! I wish my short lived time in NYC had turned out like yours! Alas, I too showed up with a small amount to get me by, worked for $5 a day for an internship with a record company and 2 months later they fired half the office. Didn't turn out the way I had planned, but I'm glad to hear things went so well for you! That's awesome!

Stephanie StClaire
Stephanie StClaire

@Carrie Drephal Girl, lemme tell you..there was so much zigging and zagging and fits of crying during my process. The upshot is, we always end up making matter where we end can't stay hard forever. That's what I learned. And also, that if you move to NYC, you *will* be that girl crying on her cell phone in front of a Bank of America at some point. I hope things are going well for you now Carrie!! :)


Congratulations on your leap, my friend. 


Somewhere between "who am I and what am I becoming" and "I figured it out" (last part in progress) I realized I'm in charge here.I write my story. I shape my life. Crap! Every time I think I have it figured out some new realization bitch slaps me. Then I find something amazing like your Ted talk which leads me to something thought provoking like this blog. Thank you.

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@jillshaul Well, whether it was my TEDx talk or a friend passing this blog along, I'm glad you landed here. Welcome to the community -- we have a damn nice bunch of folks here, Jill :)


I just found you today, Erika, and it couldn't have come at a better time. I watched your TEDx talk and was all, "Damn, finally someone who gets it." I even posted on FB that you're my top candidate for life coach. After posting that, I read this piece and here you admitting how it feels to not be on the right path. And yet I still think you'd make a kick-ass life coach. It's because your story--YOUR story--is so effing inspiring. Tears and more tears--not out of sadness as usual but because I know I need to find my Chicago story. Welcome to the Midwest...I'm here and hope to get to meet you in person some day! Best of luck, but I know you don't need it!

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@carrieg777 Well, whether one's a coach or not, we all get stuck sometimes. I've always been pretty damn good at helping other people get UNstuck -- and I'm glad I figured out my Chicago story (also: love this title!).

And if you're ready -- or when you're ready -- I'd be honored to be a part of helping you find your Chicago story. You sound like you'd be a fun client to watch discover, emerge, and grow!

Where in the Midwest are you?


@Erika Napoletano @carrieg777 If there was ever a category I fall in at the moment, Stuck captures it perfectly. I'd give you my first born (more so because the thought of having children terrifies me), to get UNstuck! Or I could just pay you...that works, too. ;)

I'm in Madison,WI, which is a couple hours from Chicago. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and my family and friends are still there, so Chicago is my second home. Let me know when you'll be in town and we can get this [un-pity] party started!

Thank you...seriously.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

I read this when you first published it and I'm just now able to process it - (kidding. I finally made it back to actually comment.) I write and talk about big leaps a lot - but this? This is such an epic leap, I love it. Only one problem. The mountain biking really sucks there. Believe me, I tried. 

Seriously though - I'm super excited to watch this unfold!!!

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@Lisa Gerber Thanks, Lisa! And yah -- the mountain biking is going to be pretty different, but I'll trade in some shoreline rides with Gini Dietrich for anymore clunks to my head on the downhill side if it means appeasing this restless fire inside to DO THIS. Appreciate the kind words!

SL Clark
SL Clark

< this restless fire inside

I reread this again last night and couldn't sleep for hours! In my dreams I write well enough to create such emotions. Blessings on your move, -Steve


Awesome, Erika.  I remember being bummed about not being able to go to that TED talk because I was getting married that day.  And our paths crossed anyway!  Loved reading this post -- fucking hysterical and inspiring.  Maybe you will write my next favorite show (currently Veep) ;)  Can't wait to see more from you.  

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@sarahjmccavit Thank YOU, Sarah -- and frankly, getting married is a whole lot more important than going to a TEDx event. I'm delighted that our paths crossed. Can't wait to see more of you around here, too.


Hey Erika, I've been reading your blog for a long time, but I've never jumped into the conversation until now. Your stuff is always epically awesome and informative, but there was something earth-shattering about this post (at least it was to me). It takes a rare level of courage to display true vulnerability and realness in such a public way, and I sincerely applaud you for it. In a blogosphere of seemingly limitless douchebaggery, you continue to impress by refusing to pretend to be perfect and most importantly, showing us that there's real value in just being real. Mistakes and all. Keep it up, Erika--you're an inspiration.

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@Shola  Well, thanks for peeking out from behind the curtain -- and I'm glad you're here. Thank you for the words of encouragement. Whatever happens next is sure to be epic! 


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