It didn't take long before we figured out he wasn't like the other kids.
It was a short improv workshop for five junior high aged boys. And while the other four happily made up scenes about workers in Wal-mart, funny grandmas and one very imperious king, this boy consistently made choices that involved affairs, drinking, drugs, violence and a number of other things that are generally shocking to hear from a 12 year old.
It's not as if kids aren't exposed to those things at that age, but the other boys were far more adept at innocent play, while this kid seemed stuck in a filthy loop that even made me cringe a time or two (and I've said "fuck" at family friendly shows at least three times).
As teachers, we did our best to help guide him to a different space, to not simply go for the joke, but to try to come up with real moments, funny or not.
After the class, one of the moms explained why this boy might be behaving the way he did. At twelve, he had experienced more heartache and upheaval in a few short years than most of us will experience in this lifetime.
But the thing is...I already knew that. Maybe not the details, but I did know that something was there.
That's because improv is an art form where you can't hide.
There's no script, costumes or set to mask anything. It requires that the artist become their "youest you", so unless you're very, very good in real life at hiding your shit, it's gonna come through when you're making things up on the spot...even if it is just for fun.
The beauty of doing what I do is that it forces you to take a hard look at yourself and try to do better...if not for yourself, then at least those around you.
The shitty part of doing what I do is that it forces you to take a hard look at yourself and try to do better.
I like to chant this little mantra: "I'm perfect just the way I am...I just need a little tweaking."
Sometimes it's easy to wallow in the things I feel need tweaking. To only see shortcomings, or to only feel challenged by situations where I don't handle things as my best self.
I've found though, that sometimes I just have to sit with my tweakings, as uncomfortable as it makes me, and just see what happens. To let myself be messy and not-so-together and real.
I worry in these messy times that I am not easy to love. I buy in a little to the lie that if I don't stop being messy, I'll lose the love of my loved ones.
HOGWASH. (Yes, HOGWASH.)
Life is messy. People are messy. Loving and being loved is messy.
Even joy can be messy, surprising us when we least expect it.