My First Meeting with my New Career Coach (and some childhood background).
September 24, 2014
Geoff agreed to meet me at Kaffee 1668, a quaint place near my office in Tribeca; an odd yet cozy spot whose nooks and crannies were decorated with wooden/woolen composite sheep-dolls.
As promised, I found him tucked away in a corner with a folded up copy of the NY Post, fast at work on a Sudoku puzzle, eyes fixed onto the newsprint behind bifocal spectacles. He wore a delicate plaid button down shirt and khaki trousers held up by a dark brown leather belt. Geoff’s gentle features had that “been around the block” quality, suggesting that he was a chap possessing a wealth of life experience.
It was early evening, and still quite hot for mid-September. Despite the humidic condensation, I tried to look as chic as possible, wearing a rose colored flouncy shirt, black pencil skirt, and a tall black pair of boots (the only shoes I could tolerate after injuring my Achilles). Looking back on it now, the boots probably made me look a little like a Dominatrix; my ensemble was merely an awkward attempt to impress him, to make him think I was worthy of a job that didn’t leave me feeling empty and jaded.
– – –
Sitting before me, he had an assured demeanor as comfortably worn as the dark leather portfolio at his side. I imagined dozens of people in similar shoes as mine had sat across from him; men and women he’d helped discover their truer purpose. It gave me hope.
“I’m not going to get you a job; it’s important that you know that,” he said, explaining that this was about finding a career path that spoke to my heart, and nailing it down was going to involve a lot of work on my part.
Ok, I can deal with that. So let’s get to the excavation process.
We discussed his price, and though I haggled a bit, I didn’t try to knock him down too much. I told myself that it might help me to take this venture more seriously.
I don’t know why the words, “I want to be a stand up comedian” came out of my mouth. Until now, they appeared only as a line item on my Artist’s Way list of ‘Dream Lives,’ and it was buried pretty darn near the bottom.
I’d enrolled in a memoir writing class at the 92nd Street Y over the summer, and had a slew of ridiculously funny anecdotal stories to my credit. At the end of the session, my teacher told me that I had chutzpah, a cheeky boldness that belonged on the stage. And I’d had a great experience just a month ago when I read one of the stories to a group of over 200 people. It was great–people nearly fell out of their seats from laughter.
Finding my funny bone seemed to come with ease after letting go of some excess baggage this summer. I guess the freedom came from the fact that I didn’t have to be anything but who I’d always wanted to be, which I believe is a writer. The performer piece of that had been brewing in my brain for a long time.
– – –
In 2002, my boyfriend at the time told me that I had “so much f#4%ing drama I should take an acting class.” So I did, I studied acting, speaking others peoples’ words.
In 2007, when I switched to writing plays (having someone else speak my words), I could safely share my own thoughts, feelings, and clandestine behaviors without actually owning up to them. “Wow, that girl in your play is CRAZY,” people would say.
What would it be like to be myself — could I do that? Was I allowed?
When I was a kid, I was taught early on to keep my opinions to myself.
Seven years old, armed with a microphone and a cassette tape recorder, I loved interviewing people, and I love recording my thoughts and opinions, marveling at my observations.
But something happened when I brought my sparky interview style our family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. All seemed well. I had that wonderful quality that’s associated with childhood – that outspoken, outgoing freedom. The lack of self-censure in regard to social etiquette where you’re not afraid to ask a barrage of questions. You want answers. It wasn’t until one day, one single moment where the shame crashed down on me. Standing before an uncle who smoked a stinky cigar and sipped on a goblet of red wine. That’s when it all came crashing down.
“Uncle Ken, how’d you get to be so fat?”
My parents were aghast. I’d created a scene, a stink, an uncomfortable moment. I didn’t know any better.
Maybe I was over-sensitive. Any other kid might have shrugged it off, but I took it as an infraction on par with murder. Of course, there were many similar experiences leading up to that day, but in that moment, I made a silent vow never to slip up that way again–to never again say anything that was offensive or made waves, potentially hurting someone else’s feelings and bringing shame on myself.
This sort of ethos is contrary to the essence of stand-up.
So here I was with Geoff, and a boat load of discomfort to overcome.
Can I take up space? Am I allowed to be heard?
– – –
That evening I contacted Andrea Shapiro, creator and co-host of the Puttin’ On Your Big Girl Pants podcast. Andrea expressed enthusiasm for my journey, and told me to start going to open mics — she said there’s a great one tomorrow at Upright Citizens Brigade East, so I’m going to take a peek.