The Scary/Safe Venn Diagram

With COVID19 causing the world to stay inside, it’s given me time to reflect on what a ride the past few months have been. Personally, November of 2019 was wild.

  • I was collaborating, writing and editing our Cards for Humanity game (it’s award-winning!) – 450 cards on a bonkers timeline.
  • I was planning the final aspects of my honeymoon, a three week, three-country journey around South America – where, like any American a-hole, I don’t speak Spanish, or drive stick shift. Bonus points: we were leaving on Thanksgiving!
  • And, like the planner I am, I was trying to get all of our holidays in order with gifts, cards and any amount of seasonal decor to make our limited time in Atlanta feel more festive.

What does a sane person do during any of that? Get through it.
What did I do? Sign up for a stand-up comedy class because if I could survive that mess, I could clearly get through five minutes of material.

I’ve been performing and teaching improv for 8+ years in Atlanta. I feel very comfortable on stage, with nothing prepared. To be honest, I also really enjoy the excuse “well, it’s not like we prepared anything” just in case anyone who comes to the show was disappointed. I also really enjoy performing with other humans, knowing they have my back and will support and amplify whatever decisions I make.

Stand up is the exact opposite of that.
You are alone.
You are prepared.
You are exposed.

When I showed up for the first day of class, I was on the spectrum of scared. I purposefully picked the only all-female comedy class in Atlanta, Laugh Lab, run by the amazing Lace Larrabee to calm some of my nerves (fast fact: some men still think women aren’t funny). We spent the first hour going over what is stand up comedy, what to expect from class and – my personal favorite – mic stand etiquette!

And then we were asked to get on stage to just talk about ourselves.

Omgosh. My favorite subject! I’m an expert. But then we were asked to tell a joke. Well, shit.

I started sweating in that moment, and didn’t stop for six weeks.

Logically, I understood I was fine. While my physical body was going through all of the stages of fight or flight every. single. time. I went on stage, I knew I wasn’t under any real threat.

As the weeks went by, we had to try new material out and receive notes on how to make it funnier, have stronger stage presence, and be a better comedian. While the notes were supportive, at the end of the day, we were still paying someone to criticize us in our most vulnerable form every Sunday.

The six-week class flew by. As a writer by trade, the weekly writing assignments were actually really enjoyable. Once I found my stand up voice, I (fortunately) felt really comfortable in it and wrote more than 10 minutes of material to use. But the stage time continued to make me panic. Every week I was told to slow down, and every week I’d chug a tumbler of coffee on my way to class and speedtalkthroughmyset.

The day finally came for our graduation show. I was trembling all day, my husband forced me to eat a handful of dry Honey Nut Cheerios just to ensure I wouldn’t faint on stage. I just needed to get through five minutes – 300 seconds – of doing what over a quarter of Americans rank as their biggest fear, ahead of heights, snakes, drowning or clowns.

I don’t really remember what happened on stage (there is a video, I refuse to watch it). I know I slowed down, I know people laughed, I know I survived.

But what happened after I got off stage is what really stuck with me. I felt invincible. It was a high you only get when you do something that is truly terrifying, despite the fact I was never in real harm’s way. It got me thinking, what other things fall into this scary/safe venn diagram?

Parasailing? Buying a house? Bringing a new pet into the family? What are the things that if you think about them, really think about them, aren’t that scary?

Consider this nudge to do one of them, once you’re done socially distancing. Since we’re all taking a little more time for ourselves these days, consider making a list of things you can tackle once COVID19 has passed. The world needs more people that feel invincible every now and again (but seriously, you’re not invincible right now, go wash your hands and stop touching your face).


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