By The Numbers

5 weeks.

5 instructors.

15 classmates.

100 hours of class.

1 writing class audited.

2 workshops attended.

1 city explored.

3 injuries sustained.

20 lunches eaten with friends.

2 threatening encounters with locals.

4 shows participated in.

40+ shows watched.

50+ cups of coffee consumed.

60+ hours spent on the L.

=

One of the best decisions I ever made.

Pretending for $$$

This week I earned money for doing improv for the first time. It wasn’t a lot, and it’s not even a big deal, I have a lot of friends who routinely get paid to do shows.

That wasn’t the point.

The point was I realized it was the first time I’ve ever been paid for any kind of creative effort.

I got paid to make things up.

What a weird and amazing concept.

10 Greatest Things of 2011

I typically sit down and work on my goals list twice a year, using that time to review the last six months, but the review in December is always a little more in-depth. It has less to do with the January 1st craze and more to do with my birthday falling into that week between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve found that turning a year older prompts me to consider my life more deeply and it just so happens that it occurs in conjunction with the new year.

Anyway, I’d already finished my new goals for 2012 before I read this post but I liked the questions he asked so much that I did the review anyway- they made me think. I’d recommend going through it now, especially if you didn’t take the time already to think about last year. For me, it’s not “making resolutions”, as I said, I set goals twice a year. But reviewing the previous year helps me to see what did and did not go well, and reveals if I am actually getting any closer to some of the big things I want to accomplish in life.

After doing the entire review I reread it and noticed something interesting. But we’ll come back after I show you the first question: The 10 Greatest Things That Happened To Me In 2011.

 

  1. Moved to Minnesota
  • This involved a Southern woman tackling a 1,500+ mile road trip in the snow, white-outs, a visit with good friends, and frostbite.
  1. Joined Sovereign Grace Church
  • First time I’ve been a member of a church since my teens, a scary/exciting step for me.
  1. Moved into an apartment with 2 awesome roommates
  1. Started a job at Bethany
  • Fear alert! This was/is the scariest job I’ve ever had. Also the hardest and yet most fun.
  1. Learned to knit
  • After a fashion. Things turn out, but they don’t always match the pictures.
  1. Saw my first improv show
  • It was an Improv-A-Go-Go show at HUGE, and it was not what I expected. Three of the four groups did not impress me and I likely wouldn’t have gone back if not for the fourth. So glad they were there!
  1. Learned to do the improvs
  1. Wrote a fictional story in my own voice
  • Yes! And it was fun! And I just got my first ever rejection letter when I tried to sell it! Now I feel like a real author.
  1. Payed Matt back all the money I owed him
  • It only took me 2 years…
  1. Went home for Christmas
  • And it was lovely to see my whole family in one together for the first time in a long time.

 

I was looking through that list when it struck me- I didn’t consciously put only things I actively did on there but that’s how it worked out.

The greatest things of 2011, the things I most enjoyed or that most changed my life, were all things I choose do to. None of them just happened to me; every one of the above items took effort and time, and most cost money to boot, which meant more time and effort to get said money. No one is going to hand me an awesome life. Do I receive gifts? Of course! All the time. And all of these things involved other people. But none of them would have happened if I hadn’t put effort in as well, in some cases a lot of effort (example- calluses from both knitting and writing so much).

My list of things to do this year is longer and more ambitious than last year, though tempered with the knowledge that life changes so quickly. Example? This time last year I was still living with my parents in TX, no job, no church, a ball of yarn that I couldn’t even get on the needles, and I’d never even considered going to watch an improv show. There’s no way I could have foreseen where I’d be now and some of the goals I set last year were derailed along the way.

That’s ok. I’d rather have goals and have to set them aside for more interesting things that come up than to wander aimlessly around and get very little done because I don’t know what I’m going after.

I urge y’all to go to this site and download his 2011 review, then take 30-60 minutes to fill it out. It’s well worth the time.

Do I really need a goal I’m afraid of?

 

Dare to be bold by Matt Cheuvront

Our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Next to Resistance, rational thought is the artist or entrepreneurs worst enemy. Bad things happen when we employ rational thought, because rational thought comes from the ego. Instead, we want to work from the Self, that is, from instinct and intuition, from the unconscious.

A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. Its only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” – Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

The idea of “being realistic” holds all of us back. From starting a business or quitting a job to dating someone who may not be our type or moving to a new place – getting “real” often means putting your dreams on hold.

Today, let’s take a step away from rational thought and dare to be bold. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to accomplish but have been afraid to pursue? Write it down. Also write down the obstacles in your way of reaching your goal. Finally, write down a tangible plan to overcome each obstacle.

The only thing left is to, you know, actually go make it happen. What are you waiting for?

(Author: Matt Cheuvront)

 

 

I skipped this prompt yesterday because I needed time to think. I’ve thought, and the answer is the same-

 

I can’t think of anything.

 

Not that I don’t have goals and dreams and such, ’cause I do. It’s just I can’t currently think of anything I’m putting off because I’m afraid. Currently I’m-

 

  • Taking improv- With is pursuing an interest I’ve always had in acting AND confronting my fear of speaking in public at the same time.
  • Writing a novel- Confronting an entire bundle of fears. And while I’m not getting very with it I am working on it and I don’t need a game plan. I need to sit my butt down and type.
  • Going to writing groups- Getting over my fear of being critiqued.
  • Joining a church- I started the rather in-depth process last Sunday, dealing with fears of commitment, openness, and rejection.
  • Work- I am tackling a job that feels too big for me, and dealing with the fear that I will permanently ruin a student or building.
  • Trip planning- I am tentatively planning a trip for next summer to the other side of the world, to a country/countries I’ve never been to, that aren’t known for being overly safe. I’m actually not afraid of any that right now but the pre-flight tension will explode after the ticket is bought.

 

So, while perhaps not having a goal to reach toward is a bad sign, I have no idea, I’m pretty happy right now. I feel like I have more than enough on my plate. 

Where do you want to go before you die?

Travel by Chris Guillebeau

If we live truly, we shall see truly.– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?

(Author: Chris Guillebeau)

I always said I wanted to go to every country in the world. It was a throwaway answer, something I said because I do love to travel and it sounded cool and it was impossible anyway so, why not? Then I started reading Chris’s blog. (Yes, the Chris who wrote today’s prompt. I HIGHLY recommend that you check it out)

After only a few months I had to quit saying that I wanted to visit every country because here was a man who was doing it.

By the age of 35.

It was no longer just something to be said with a knowledge that it was impossible. Suddenly it WAS possible, if it was a priority. Which it’s not.

I do enjoy traveling. I do quite a bit of it. I’d like to see a lengthy list of countries, cities, and sites. However, while travel itself is a priority in my life (and I plan on keeping it as one even once I have a family) I don’t really want to go to every single country in the world. I do, however, have the goal of going to every continent at least once.

Still, this is a hard prompt because I can, with absolutely no hesitation, name off 25 places I’m dying to visit. I finally narrowed it down by imagining someone offering me $10,000 to go any place I want, as long as I left right then. My gut answer?

-The U.K.

I spent 23 hours in London and loved every second of it. I have every intention of returning someday and spending a longer amount of time in that amazing city. And Scotland is on my top 5 list. Especially Northern Scotland, up where it’s still quite wild and barren. Such a breath-taking, beautiful country.

The 2nd part of that question is difficult for me to answer. I know I should have a plan for getting there, setting aside money and such. But I’m already planning a different trip for next summer- Southeast Asia. My goal is to hit 2-4 countries while I’m there. So I really can’t think about going to the U.K. anytime soon. But I will. And that’s not an idle comment, I’ve proven that I can and will go exploring.

I understand the point of that question is that so very many people talk and dream and talk about going places but they never actually go. It’s a shame. And it drives me nuts. Either shut up and go, or admit, out loud and publicly, that you are not going and never intended to do so. Don’t keep saying you are but never taking steps to make it happen.

But please go. Believe me, it’s so worth it. When you go overseas 3 things will happen. Well, far more than 3 but this is my blog and these are the ones I’m focusing on.

1-You will appreciate America more. It’s not a perfect country but it’s a damn good country and I have a far greater appreciation for it now.

2-You will have a greater sympathy for tourists, visitors, and immigrants. Even the simplest of tasks are frightening and exhausting when you can’t understand the language or behavior of the people around you. Going to a grocery store can take hours while reducing you to tears and a numbing weariness, and then you still might not have anything edible to eat at the end of it.

3-You will be changed. You will have experiences that others have not had, and they will mark you. I remember standing on a mountain in WY and realizing that of all the billions of people who have ever existed I was in an almost immeasurably small group who had seen the sight stretched out before me. It was humbling and empowering at the same time. I’ve had similar moments, I now call them “movie moments” because they seem like something straight from Hollywood, both here and overseas.

Getting sprayed by chilly water when a whale clapped her 40 foot flippers together an intimidatingly close distance from the bow of the boot I was on.

Eating ribs on a Korean beach at sunset while an International film festival kicked off behind me, the sound of 1000’s of screaming fans drowning out the gulls.

Standing on London Bridge one freezing cold February morning and watching the sky turn gold before the sun finally rose over the Thames, surrounded by millions of people and yet completely alone and quiet.

I’d love to know, where do you want to go?

When is that going to happen?

Get lost?

If finding my way from point A to point B was a contest I’d lose. Every time. It’s not that I can’t navigate, I’m actually pretty good with a map. It’s that I can’t navigate without a map and I know that and yet every time I still think that for some reason this trip will be different. Today I’ll find my way to the new place without a map. This week I won’t get lost, I’ll be able to figure out where I am on my own. This afternoon I will just know which way north is and thus go the correct direction.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

No.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I am always wrong. And before someone tries to defend me and explains that I’m really not bad with directions, well, just consider the following-

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once drove the wrong way across an entire state. On the interstate. And it was daytime. More than 4 hours the wrong way. Didn’t notice until I was at the rest stop and looked at the “You Are Here” star on the  map. Thankfully I saw the map. Otherwise I might not have stopped till we hit Canada.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once got lost walking from my car to a creek that I had just driven over. To be fair- 2 other people were with me. But our 250ish foot walk ended up being over a quarter mile and we still never found the creek. Nor did we realize we had walked too far until we saw the interstate.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once got on a random bus in Korea and then rode it to the end of the line. Why? I have no idea, it seemed like an OK idea at the time. After the driver forced me off in the middle of nowhere I spent several hours walking along weedy roadsides and waving at staring locals until I eventually stumbled across another stop and caught a bus back toward the city.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once went for a walk in a forest in NC with 3 other people, all of whom were experienced wilderness professionals. We became so lost on our “30 minute walk” that we almost built shelters and camped for the night. No food, no phones, no supplies. I wasn’t in charge of that near disaster but I credit my direction-impairing aura with influencing their own abilities since they hike for a living.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once tried to go to church just south of Houston and spent over two hours looking for it before giving up. Long after it would have been too late to attend, I was just trying to find the place at that point. I finally threw in the towel and went to a Mexican flea market instead.  I passed the church not 10 minutes after I left, obviously sitting by a road I been down several times that morning.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

The upside to all this is that I have seen some really amazing things that I might have missed otherwise. Things like a toothpick holder that was shaped like a man with cactus spines sticking out of his butt. Or fresh bear tracks, crossing over our own (though, creepily enough, we never saw said bear).

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I think my sense of direction in other areas is just as bad. I always feel like today is the day I will know exactly what God wants me to do. It’s not that I can’t follow God’s will. It’s that I can’t follow God’s will without his regular guidance and yet every time I think that this time will be different.  That this move will be the move that puts me on the right road for good. That when I apply to this college or take this job or make these plans that this is when I’ll have my direction for the rest of my life. That this time when I get guidance it will be permanent. This time I won’t get confused. This will be the decision that I can handle on my own. That I’ve finally gotten the hang of this and I can totally wing it now.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

No.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I am always wrong. Not always that I am not in God’s will for me at the time, but it’s not a one-time thing. I always want him to just tell me what I should do and then I’ll go do that. A sort of  job placement. He doesn’t seem interested in leading me like that.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once had horses and I was as happy as I’ve ever been. I thought I could raise and train them for the rest of my life and be supremely content. I’d like to say I gave that dream to God when he asked for it but to be honest he had to pry my cold, frantic fingers off one by one. And what could have been still hurts too much if I dwell on it.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once joined the military, the Coast Guard. Everything came together so well, my tests and exams went far more smoothly than I had imagined and I scored better than I had any right to score. And I was being assigned to my #1 choice in field. Then I was given a medical discharge for a condition I don’t have, and though I had all the symptoms while I was there I haven’t been bothered once since I got out. And that was a  death of a dream.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once went to Korea and I had an amazing time. I was scared and alone and completely dependent on God and I grew more than I thought possible. Love for a people I didn’t understand and couldn’t really talk to filled me and I was inspired by the opportunities I faced and the work I was being welcomed into with open arms by the people who were already there. Then I came home, back to the States, and “reality” set in and I let that passion drift away. And I was reasonable and I was logical and I never went back.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once went to a missions college, full of hopes and excitement. I was going to become a missionary, and I was going to go on the field for 16 months. I passed my classes, I passed my evaluations, I dealt with issues that could have kept me here. I was fully approved. I didn’t go. There were a number of reasons and they were all good; to this day I wonder if I should have gone anyway. But I made my choice and I stuck with it. And I said bye to that dream as well.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once moved to New Orleans to go to college. I fought the move with every fiber of my being. I hated to the city, I hated the thought of living there for 4 years, I hated that the school I wanted to attend had to be in a state I loathed. I fell head over heels in love with NOLA. I adore that city in a way I’ve never felt about anywhere else I’ve lived. I found an amazing church, made friends right away, and was excited to start classes for a major that perfectly fit my dreams. As if it had been written for me. And I couldn’t stay. No matter how hard I tried and I fought and I prayed there just weren’t any jobs and I ran out of money and I had to leave. I was so ashamed that almost just walked away into the streets and disappeared.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I once went to MN and doors opened for me at every turn. I began to work at an amazing job where I knew I had the chance to make a difference. I was surrounded by friends and people who truly cared about me. I found a great church and a great writing group and I got involved with the local arts scene.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

And while I am filled with joy and excited for where I am there is a part of me that cannot help but wonder- how this chapter in my story going to end? I can see God’s hand all through my adventures, both the good and the bad. And I can see how each of those experiences has shaped and prepared me for the next one. Truly, all things have worked together for my good. But that doesn’t change the fact that I catch myself feeling nervous now, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Feeling like this is too good to be true, or at least too good to last for very long. But I’m going to enjoy it while I’m here and see what the future brings.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

And I’m going to use my GPS while I’m in Uptown so I can avoid ending up in North Dakota.

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