04.13.12 Truth & Wisdom
There is a rule in improv comedy called “yes, and…”, which is how performers foster the world they create with fellow comedians in the moment. The “yes, and…” technique helps comedians learn that in order to develop a successful act they must accept what is thrown at them and build off of it in return. It’s hard to get used to at first, especially for someone coming from a traditional performance background, but once mastered, it will open up a wealth of possibility.
Now, jump to the years after graduating college.
After school, I was obsessed with getting the perfect writing job and the perfect life right away. I thought everything would fall into place so elegantly, because after all, hadn’t I been fighting for this for years? I was so determined to conquer my dream career instantly that I actually ended up going in reverse. I was a go-getter to my own detriment, and after I had crashed and burned in my attempts to launch myself, I spent a lot of time wallowing in my Ben & Jerry’s and being glued to daytime TV.
I was quickly becoming a victim of my own self-pity. When I couldn’t get a grip on my life-long dream, I coped by avoiding it altogether. I stopped doing the work I loved most and started feeling stuck. It took a long time, and many teary phone calls to my mom, for me to finally understand how the world really works. Just a hint; it’s not fun for impatient people like myself.
And this brings me to what I have found to be the most important thing I’ve done since graduation – becoming a “yes woman”. If you take the “yes and…” technique from comedy and use it to approach your fresh adult life then you will experience very few upsets. Every obstacle will seem like opportunities. You can completely rebuild your life just like improv comedians build their fictional worlds.
After things didn’t quite pan out for me I made some odd choices that, to this day, I blame on duress. Luckily for me, that’s exactly what I needed. My initial failure forced me to say yes to some options that I never would have considered before. I had to slow down and do the planning and prep-work that I was too anxious to be bothered with the first time around.
It is always incredible to see people you know hit the ground running after graduation. I have friends who worked for powerful people in powerful industries and were fast-tracked to being powerful themselves. And then there are the rest of us. We’re smart, over-qualified, ambitious young women with so much to give. We have been trained, worked and put through the wringer during our journey up the mountain of academia, and now we find ourselves lacking purpose. This can be very damning on one’s morale, and it isn’t easy to deal with by any means. That feeling of being “stuck” starts to creep in, but being stuck is just a state of mind. It’s easy to fall into but it only holds power if you let it.
The biggest struggle for all of us, as I mentioned before, is being patient and maintaining persistence. Be open to exploring new and different avenues in your career and your personal life, because let’s face it; we aren’t going to get to our dreams on a straight road.
If you look at my resume, you’ll probably have to sit down from a sudden bout of vertigo. Last year alone I held five different jobs. My random part-time jobs were all in fields I was interested in learning more about: management, journalism, marketing, etc. None of them were close to the industry I one day hope to enter, but they did open up more doors and allow for more possibilities that were more similar to my dream job. See how this all falls into place?
Later, I took this new motto and applied it to my personal life. After leaving your collegiate bubble, you tend to lose touch with many of your friends. Another little hint about adult life: it’s hard to find friendships like you had in high school and college.
You will never again get to stay up all night eating Air Heads and watching hours and hours of taped N’SYNC concerts while your girlfriends paint your nails and braid your hair. Many of us wish those days never ended, but they did, and now it’s difficult to even get together for lunch. Don’t let that force you back to the couch and your Ben & Jerry’s. Take risks with people you may know from work, or the gym or even the guy or gal you buy coffee from every morning.
Saying yes to yourself and others can hold a lot of power in determining the direction this new stage in your life will go. And what do you have to lose? Will the “yes and…” option really be worse than the alternative? It probably won’t be, because it’s a question of stagnancy or active optimism.
Are your loans going out of deferment? Yes they are, and to battle that you will get another job or start freelancing and cut down on your shopping. Does your job have nothing to do with your interests? Sure it’s boring, so to counteract that you will pick up your guitar and go to open mic night or volunteer at your local theatre group. You don’t have many close friends that you can confide in any more? It’s true, they’ve all moved to different parts of the world. Why not invite that happy looking girl you met in yoga to grab coffee after class or go shopping together?
Jocelyn Codner is a 23-year-old writer with a screenwriting degree currently located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She uses sarcasm, wine and daytime TV to cope with the crazy twists her life throws at her. You can find her on twitter @Jocelyn73c.