It’s 4 am, and I’m sitting on the roof of our temporary living space looking out at all the apartments with lights still on. From here, those little windows look so inviting. I make up romantic stories about the people inside them being freelance artists and yoga instructors wanting to take advantage of what I once heard described as the ambrosial hours.
Maybe they see me, outlined by the glow of my laptop, and think I’m this really interesting bar owner with handmade shelves full of homemade cocktail ingredients. I bet that version of me has an advance for their first book and they’ve got this great working title like zen and the art of mixology or something.
Maybe we’re all in the same boat. Sticky, sweaty, and guilty about all the money we spent on patios this weekend. Maybe we all have the same balance of self-doubt and gorgeous Instagram photos.
Maybe we’re all up late because we’re trying to figure out how to take our own advice.
I love who I am when I’m giving other people advice. I love who I am when I’m telling people my “plan.” I’d love to hook my heart and my ego up to those words and, when I wake up at 4 am, be comforted by them instead of feeling so fraudulent.
Two years ago I was accepted into a Comedy Festival in Toronto. I felt pretty pumped on my own gas, like everything was finally clicking into place. My first set was at this really cool venue with a backstage and we all had cupcakes and I was wearing a black and gold jumpsuit. It felt like my third act. Time to shine.
The show was dimly attended, and the crowd hated the jokes I’d done back home to uproarious applause. Those jokes were on the demo that got me into that festival. And here they were, hanging in the air like dog farts.
I spent the following week trying to prep at open mics where comedians leave the moment their set is done and the audience stares at you with dead fish eyes.
It was pretty heartbreaking and lonely and while I was enjoying my time in the city, I couldn’t shake the idea that stand up wasn’t for me the way I thought it was.
So, after a truly gut wrenching stage experience, I raced back to the place I was staying and did what I’d tell anyone to do. I worked on my act. I went over my set for a couple hours, pausing to write down all these new little tags that were starting to come to me out of nowhere.
And I had the movie moment. I got to perform for a large and receptive crowd, and several people told me to move to Toronto. That I was good, and I was ready. “There’s no one here like you,” one person said, “and if you wanted Yuks you could start working there within months.”
Living in Toronto, I feel like I live that week over and over and every time I think I break the cycle it gets faster.
How’s that for melodrama? If you could see the view from my rooftop you’d understand. It begs for furious typing and deep thoughts.
Really though. In Winnipeg I always felt like I was either “meh, not the best in the room but not bad” or “wow look at her go!” And I oscillated comfortably between those two feelings for 7 years.
Seven years! Three months in Toronto and I constantly feel ripped between rooftop patio and dumpster diving. It’s exhausting, but it’s what I’d tell anyone to do to get good at something.
I came here because I wanted to be scared and break down my ego and build myself up and all that big city montage stuff.
Right now I’m finding my footing, soaking things in, writing new material, seeing good shows, and trying to tell myself there’s no deadline to get where I wanna be. My plan is my plan, and sticking to it will yield good results in the long term. Even though its already felt so long.
Montages were invented to show us things don’t happen overnight. But we forget all the stuff that gets cut out. Imagine if Rocky’s training was real time? Just an hour long scene of a guy punching meat?
I’m sure one day I’ll end up with a really quippy soundbite that sums up all this ambivalence.
In the meantime I can only do the work. And that’s what I’d tell anyone to do. Don’t get in your head about how long you’ve been doing it or how old you are or who got what when they’d only been doing it 3 years or that time you said something dumb in a riffy conversation or that time your boyfriend was funnier than you or that time your hands shook too much or that time that person said that thing.
Just do the work. But isn’t that so much easier to say to anyone but yourself?
I’m tired. This week I had pasta with tomato sauce and leftover white wine from a wedding. It was really good.