This is a post about happy accidents. Changed plans. Taking a risk on something new. Knowing when you’ve reached the end.
So, then, where to begin… I’ve been mulling over this post for a full month now (anecdote #1 took place on April 22, a month ago exactly), but I haven’t been able to let myself sit down and write it until today. I was waiting on the right timing. And here it is.
On April 22, Matt and I were on our way home from a wedding in Memphis. I was driving. Matt’s iPhone GPS app was navigating. And, as I will go to my grave insisting, I was following every instruction from the automaton voice perfectly…right up until it told me to turn around. Because one of us (Me? Matt? Effing Siri & her big mouth?) had led us 30 minutes off course, on what was already a tired and rainy 5-hour drive.
I broke down (me, not the car), at some rest stop between here and Tennessee, half sad because I was sure it wasn’t my fault (it wasn’t! Effing Siri…), and half sad because, as I whimpered to Matt, “Now I have to go back to real life…” after a perfectly wonderful weekend. But I pulled it together and back on the road we went, tears dried and GPS audio muted.
On our way toward the right direction, Matt looked to our right and noticed a rainbow. Two rainbows, actually. One of them the brightest I’ve ever seen. (No hyperbole for the sake of the story, here. It was incredible. It looked fake. It was glowing.) I slowed down so he could snap iPhone pictures out the car window, and I had to roll my eyes at the happy ending moral that was writing itself for me:
Sometimes you have to drive off the path to discover where the treasure is.
That got me thinking: if it weren’t for a series of at-first-unfortunate events, I might never have been driving back from this wedding at all…
Jennie & I were freshman year roomies at Drury — but we weren’t originally supposed to be. Mid-summer before college began, I’d been assigned to a different hall, and Jennie had been assigned a swimmer student-athlete as a roommate. Through some unplanned switch-a-roo-ing on both our parts, we ended up with a new roommate assignment after registration day: each other. I remember the phone call from my admission rep telling me the new situation, and how I was a little bit apprehensive to hear she was from Memphis. (What if this stranger — from a Big City — didn’t like me? She wouldn’t know anyone else at first…and what if she thought I was a nerd? [She would. I am.] What if she liked bad music? Or was mean or messy or loud? 18-year-old me had some strict priorities…)
But I remember another phone call, the first time I talked to Jennie. Something about the smile in her voice (and the simple relief in discovering we both dislike scary movies…) put me at ease. And on a rainy day in August 2002, I met the bestest of friends. It’s funny to think that one random change of plans has ended up shaping so much of my life and led to so many good times and adventures — including her wedding in Memphis one month ago.
So that brings us to today, as I’m thinking about the decision I made last week to quit The Skinny Improv. There are no hard feelings, there is no Big Reason, just the simple fact that after 5 years of performing, it’s time for a break. My time at The Skinny was a happy accident in its own way. I’d taken a couple of classes and done a few small shows, but in fall 2007, after almost two years, I was starting to feel a little disenchanted. Like maybe this dream just wasn’t for me. I almost didn’t even go to the workshop where I found out about performance intern auditions — which were happening the following day. Fast forward a few months later, and I was on mainstage full time (thanks to some well-timed exits of other well-loved performers), and I was happier than I’d ever been in maybe my whole life.
But now I’m ready to say goodbye.
Last weekend I told people that it felt a little like graduation day… I’m reluctant to leave but eager to see what’s next; nostalgic and warm-fuzzy over the faces and spaces I’m about to leave behind.
Kristen Wiig’s final night on SNL was Saturday as well. It ended in a little graduation sketch with Arcade Fire singing “She’s a Rainbow” with Mick Jagger just offstage. Again, no hyperbole for the sake of the story… but when I watch the goodbye clip below, I get a little emotional. For two reasons:
1) I worship her & this show. Plus I’m a total schmaltz, and I just love a well-played poignant moment. It’s perfect.
2) I’m not Kristen Wiig (yet, you guys. Yet.) but I am grateful to know what it’s like to perform (and work. and fight. and make up. and laugh. and laugh and laugh.) alongside your (got-your-back) friends.
This happy ending moral is harder to accept: you can love something but still have to let it go. If you never step off your path or change your plans, you may never find new dreams. Or old friends. Or rainbows.