I recently finished The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer and like most people who have read it, it’s stuck with me. And since I have a blog and I do what I want, I wanted to write out a few of the ways I’ve noticed where asking has helped me and the thing I think about the most is with improv.
Now before you get your panties in a twist let me clarify: No I am not asking questions in an improv scene. That is still as close to a mortal sin as you could get.
What I’m talking about is that at some point in the past year my communication skills have gotten ON POINT. My relationship with my fiance is better than it ever has been, I have real friendships built on open communication, and I’m a part of ComedySportz Houston where I get to utilize some of my underutilized skills. All of this because I know how to ask.
I cried a lot when I read that book. I cried out of heartbreaking recognition. I cried much in the same way I cried the first time I got my Myers Briggs results (swear to god) because I saw in this book something that would have helped Past Meagan out SO MUCH. Well, at least I think that way now. I don’t know if I had gotten these things earlier if it would have helped me as much. I don’t know if I had to learn these lessons myself and the hard way for me to be who I am but I’d prefer to think that the answer to question is no, because otherwise you suffer in vain you know? Oh well, tangent.
So improv. I’m a part of CSz Houston Home of ComedySportz and I’ve been a part of them for about two years now (omg how has it been so long already!?) but it’s only in the past few months that I’ve really come into my own in this company and it’s honestly because I asked. I joined the troupe to do improv. I competed on the High School League when I was in High School and on my school’s team and it was the best part of my high school experience so I was overjoyed when I got to return to my high school and pick back up where I left off as the sponsor of the program! I did that for two years before I got just the right push from my mentors and joined the professional team. A year after that I left sponsoring to coach and since then I have grown in leaps and bounds with my improv. But the most important part of this story is that asking has nothing to do with my stage time, in fact I asked to not be on stage as much.
I love improvising, I love improvising with my csz family, but my job is nothing but improv. Every day I perform (to a degree, it’s debatable how much of your job is a performance when you’re a teacher) but all I knew is I was exhausted. I was tired of performing every single day at work and so when on the weekends I was expected to get up on stage and do it some more, albeit in a different aspect, it was hard. It felt like more stress just from a different source, and no matter how much I tried to tell myself it was different and it was fun (which it totally was!) it was draining me, and I didn’t want to have a hobby that drained me.
Then one magical day I was trained on running the box office which I LOVED because it used all my sweet bookkeeping skills that I have from my days at the Home Depot. It calmed me. There were checklists and specific things to do at certain times and when you were done you were DONE. Like officially! The check list said so!
I got to go home at the end of the day and say with confidence “I did something today! I did my job correctly!” which, if you teach, you know isn’t something we get to say at the end of our days. At the end of semesters, yes. Grading periods? MAYBE. Days? Oh heck no. No learning takes too long. It’s too varied. It looks too different to be like YES I LEARNED THAT STUDENT TODAY! I LEARNED EM GOOD! Nope. There are no checklists in teaching. I mean you can try, but then you’re turning a kid into a science experiment.
So now I have this second job where I get to go and check boxes and put things into their place and at the end of the night someone says THANK YOU and GOOD JOB and it’s thrilling y’all let me tell you!
Except I didn’t get to do that all the time. Every time I submitted my availability it was a guessing game on whether or not I would get a mix of box and playing or if I would just be performing all the time. It was nerve-wracking. It also made me feel like not making myself as available because I was so tired and I didn’t know if I could handle exerting myself more which really sucked. It sucked battling my anxiety and my exhaustion like that in order to do something, that I genuinely loved. Like when I was performing I LOVED IT. It was just all the before and after anxiety that was killing me. It wasn’t letting me be my whole self. I was only the performer who went off the cuff, and I already did that for a living.
Realizing that I wasn’t addressing all of my needs and using all of my skills hit me really hard. I was exhausted and miserable because I only got to be half of me all the time and it was the extroverted half. Talk about too much!
So one month after talking to my mentor I just went for it, I was honest in my schedule and left a note to the effect of “Life is crazy so can I just do box this month?” and then I did. AND IT WAS THE BEST EVER.
Now my Fridays and Saturdays were spent centering myself, checking off boxes, doing a good job that I got to say “I did this correctly!” afterwards. Now these nights helped me come back together, they glued up my cracked seams, and they actually better prepared me to go out there and be a better teacher.
Improv skills help me run my class better. They teach me how to be more adaptable, how to be more engaging, and how to be responsive. But working Box Office centers me, calms me, and gives me the space I need to be the box checking little accountant I am deep inside.
Now when I perform with the troupe it’s a fun treat. It’s something that energizes me, especially when it’s followed by box office. I get to go play and then come back and put the pieces together again.
And it’s all because I asked.
The first step was being honest with myself, the second step was being honest with someone else, the third, ASKING.
And so that is how sometimes, asking can be a good thing in improv.
Thanks Amanda Palmer.