Seven years ago, I got my first professional writing job.
No Mummers Allowed In.
I was part of a collective for Resource Centre for the Arts in St. John’s, and I had the opportunity to write and perform with a group of wickedly funny people and be directed by a man who may be one of the funniest on earth. When asked after the run of the show to participate in a fundraiser for the theatre company the following spring, I was elated and agreed without hesitation.
Fast forward to March 2006. I find out that the fundraiser is a stand up comedy night.
Terror. And excitement. I’d always known that I wanted to try stand up comedy. But this was a stretch. 23 years young. Zero experience. A few weeks to prep and a venue that could fit every person in Roaches Line, three times over.
One might say I was a little scared. Everyone other than that one knew I was a lot terrified. But you rarely decide to face a demon. They usually seek you out.
And so I wrote. I wrote and I wrote. I would stay up nights, writing jokes and monologues and basically tearing my hair out. My only break from the Nightmare of Unfunny was working at Nautical Nellies and the trip to the dentist I took after cracking off a tooth on the constant supply of Value Brand Cheese Popcorn that fueled my efforts. Lesson Learned: Don’t Cheap out on Cheese Popcorn.
A week or two before the show, I woke up to a floor of crumpled paper and anxiety that could have caught the house on fire, and I made a decision.
I was going to flee Newfoundland.
I came to a realization that whatever I wrote would have to do, and that if it was as bad as what I’d come up with so far, that I wouldn’t be able to show my face in St. John’s again. And so I called my friend Jane and asked her if I could move in with her the day after the show. Move in to her apartment in Toronto. Move to Toronto to flee Newfoundland.
She said yes.
I called my mother. To make it real. She was perplexed but oddly supportive.
I then put on my boots and navigated the craters of snow that lined the path to get me to my night shift at Nautical Nellies. I arrived happy and refreshed. The weight of my stress had been lifted by my mad decision. I felt calm again.
The first table I served were a group from Saskatoon. I told them that I’d always wanted to go to Saskatoon. Still do. We laughed and talked a bunch, and I eventually told them about the crazy decision I had made earlier that day. They told me to take advantage of the call to adventure and we had a ‘Cheers!’ with a handful of mussel shells. They really made my day.
When I brought them the bill, they took it a step further. The group were a crew from WestJet and they gave me an insanely awesome tip.
Plane tickets to go wherever I wanted.
Buddy passes to be exact. And I had till the end of the year to use them.
Sometimes the decision opens the door. Especially when kind strangers hold the keys.
I did the stand up show. My little legs shook the entire time but I did it. I didn’t bring down the house by any means, but I gathered a few chuckles and faced a demon. I didn’t move to Toronto the next day. But I did a couple of months later. And I used my tip to get me here.
A week ago, I woke up to a floor of crumpled paper and anxiety that could have caught the house on fire, and I made a decision.
I am going to flee Toronto. Just for a little bit… we just need a little holiday break.
I quit my job and am going to have an adventure!!! I don’t know how I am going to do it, but fortune favours the brave. I aim to figure out where I am going by going back to where I started. And write, write, write.
I will see you very soon, St. John’s. It will be long enough this time to take my coat off and stay a while.
And I will be flying WestJet.