Last time I posted to this blog, I wrote about how I almost bailed on my Intro to Standup class (and myself.)
But I didn’t. I stuck it out. I went to every class and I got on stage every time after week 3, when I sat in my seat praying class would end before my turn came around.
8 weeks later, I had only one more thing to do: Perform standup for a live audience.
Not just my teacher and classmates: People who paid to see comedy.
Granted, they were the friends and family of all the people in my class, as that’s who comes to an unadvertised Student Showcase at 8:15 on a summer Tuesday evening, but still…people.
I arrived in Cambridge 3 hours before we had to be at the theater. Luckily, a friend drove down with me and kept me company until it was time to go. When I was in the lobby, I saw three family members who had come to see me—one was a surprise!
I was so excited to see them, because by then I knew I could do it. If I could just keep my nerves from getting the better of me, I would soon be someone who had done standup comedy before a live audience.
If I let fear lead the way, I’d never be able to get the timing down that I needed to have the jokes work. I’d rush through it and people would be looking at each other, wondering what the heck I’d been trying to say.
I realized, reading over my bit, that the words weren’t funny. At all. The comedy was in the timing and the pauses—and a little in the words, but only if they were spoken in the right way.
I wished I hadn’t thought of all that right before my show. Maybe I shouldn’t have given myself so much time before the show to think about it.
Anyway. I knew what to do.
It was time for the show. Because only about 27 people showed up, we (the students) were able to sit together in the back row of the (tiny) theater. I had hoped to go early in the lineup so I could really enjoy my fellow comedians, but I was one of the last people on the schedule.
I still enjoyed my fellow comedians. I couldn’t read my notes in the dark theater, so I just sat back and laughed.
When it was my turn, I got up on stage, took a deep breath, and started.
I didn’t forget my lines.
I paused where I meant to.
I ad-libbed a little.
And I did it.
When I sat down, one of my classmates gave me a high five and another slapped me on the back.
I did it!
My fear was wrong. Not only did I survive—I made people laugh.
I was so proud of myself.
“Who cares?” you might be saying to yourself right now. “Big deal.”
You’re right. In the grand scheme of things, my 4 minutes on stage is no big deal. It has no importance.
Except for this: if I can gather my courage to do this tiny thing that scares me, and tomorrow I do another thing that scares me, I am building my courage muscle—for more important things.
Except for this: My fear wants me to live a tiny, boring life. My fear wants me to agree with everyone and do what everyone else does. My fear does not want me to get on stage—anywhere—and say anything.
So I won. I proved to myself I could do this scary thing.
When we act in ways that contradict our fear, we contribute to the world and we grow.
What fear are you ready to face? Start small and see where it leads you.