Dear Future Nervous Breakdown,
You suck. I know you’re coming. I tried to deny it. But it’s inevitable. You visit once every adult decade and I know my time’s gonna be up. So I’m writing this letter to you. Oh and in case this letter isn’t enough, I also made up a Twitter account to send you messages as they come in. (twitter.com/ToMyFutureBD)
I’m preparing myself this time though. I knew that since I started to put myself out there and write, perform and show my work more than ever that I’d get on your schedule (Fire your assistant, by the way, she has horrible phone presence. And if they still have them, get her some elocution classes). My soul is weak sometimes. I can only cycle through so many waves of self-doubt and blind optimism while making a living from writing and comedy until you decide that I’m so out of touch with myself you had to stop by and remind me.
I do not look forward to your visits. The first time you came I was in college and you pretty much blind-sided me. I cried every day because I realized I had that many tears to shed. I had repressed my feelings about…well..everything…so I said, I’m ACTUALLY going to tell my friends how I’m REALLY feeling. You know, I became that girl who was so committed to “emotional honesty” that whenever a friend in passing said, “Hey, Jenny! How’s it goin’?” I responded with “You know…I’m not doing so well these days. I’ve been a little depressed to be honest with you.” Now the art of it all is knowing how to follow that up so that EVERY person you see doesn’t feel like they MUST sit down and lend a shoulder to cry on. “Dude. How are you? We don’t need to get into it and all, I just wanted to be honest.” A couple of confused and tentative lines of small talk later, we were done. Bumping into folks at the library does not make a good on-the-spot heart-to-heart. And even in those instances when I did end up having an impromptu chat session with someone who REALLY wanted to get into it, it was always so comforting and nice. It wasn’t like they were taking away time I spent on studying. Oh no. That first time you came to visit, I stopped doing my schoolwork all together. Now…how is it possible to have THREE incomplete courses for the semester when all you had were FOUR courses in total? I didn’t know how that worked until I decided to cry instead of pruning up the pages of my Constitutional Law book.
After a horrible attempt at talking to the therapist in psychological services for a month (How can a professional therapist make my session ABOUT HER?!) and three gut-wrenching poems (that will never see the light of day again) later, you left…leaving me to pick up the pieces without you. Stop doing so much at school, my advisor said. Maybe you’re busyness is your way of avoiding something you need to confront. What I needed to confront was my own emotions and allowing myself to be vulnerable with the people who were closest to me. Aah. “Emotional honesty.”
After that, what I had to learn throughout most of my twenties was choosing the right person to trust with my emotional honesty. It’s not like it would be SANE at ALL to be “emotionally honest” with just anyone and all the time! There are limits to the truth, especially when it comes to bus drivers, supervisors and sometimes friends.
Turns out I was really shitty at picking boyfriends because they were certainly not trustworthy of my emotions, and it actually is quite possible and grand to be honest pretty much all the time! There are such things as tact, holding your tongue and choosing the right moment to say how you feel with difficult situations and people. If only I knew then what I know now.
Guess what? All that emotional honesty nearly ALL the time? That’s the reason why I KNOW you are coming at this point. It’s gonna happen. It’s all that commitment to honesty that got me into this kooky idea that I could make a living/lifestyle being a writer and comedian. That’s the exact reason for your second visit four years ago when I decided I had enough of my day job and it was time for me to find a professional that encouraged my honesty!
Instead of strategic planner and project manager, I would become comedian and writer! I will commit to professions that TRADE on honesty. The stock exchange of honesty is built on HONESTY chips of FAITH, BEING PRESENT and GUTLESS HUMILIATION (wait, that’s the stuff they trade on Wall Street, right? Chips? Or whatever). So yeah. My incentive nowadays is to be more honest than ever before. In fact, practicing the honesty muscle every single moment of every day is my life’s blood! Telling a co-worker exactly what I think of them when they ask me directly, even if it’s in jest and in front of other co-workers means, well, I’m GONNA tell you that I don’t think much of you and in not so many words, say you are a shitty person. *shrugs* And guess what? The world didn’t end!
((I wonder if Oprah feels this way. Does she bathe in baby’s tears because she can? I want to suckle on the teet of her eternal wisdom))
So I know. Because I’m committing myself to the craft and trade of “honesty” you My Future Nervous Breakdown is greasing the wheels of your bronze, Roman-looking chariot, just smiling at the sheen as the oil leaves the tip of your bulbous oil squeeze bottle and drizzles onto and around the axle carrying the mode of transportation that will send you blazing with blind horses atop storm clouds and flames and back into my life.
I’m about three and a half years into wearing this label of “comedian and writer”…so I’m giving it another year before you “hyah!” your way to my house. It’s a small condo. You’ll have to take my bed because surely I will be face-planted on my couch in front of my Netflix cue and the jar of peanut butter and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate-covered pretzel thins will be taking up substantial real estate.
So know this, Future Nervous Breakdown: I AM PREPARING LIKE A WARRIOR FOR YOUR ARRIVAL. Every glazed look of a comedian boy at open mic, every non-response to fellowships and journals I submit, every shitty white person who feels like they need to educate me about my perspectives on race after a show, every heckler that says show me your titties, every voice inside my head that tells me I’m not good enough or funny enough so why am I even trying, every drunk acquaintance at happy hour who decides to ask me loudly, “tell me a joke then!” after I’m introduced as a stand-up comedian, every time I try a new idea and get no laughter…I will own it then quickly set it aside.
Every day I practice my muscle of emotional honesty I’m also practicing my skill in transforming all the associated reactions of SHAME, SELF-DOUBT, REJECTION, and INSECURITY into FIRE – FIERCE FLAMES OF MY SPIRIT THAT WILL OVERWHELM YOUR SPINELESS ASS. Because in the end, you are a coward, hiding behind your duty to bring gloom and havoc on people’s lives. You’re just a middle-level bureaucrat logging your time, clocking in and out of your day, checking off the people you need to terrorize because, to be honest, you have nothing better to do. That stupid helmet with the red brush on top looks horrible on you by the way. Talk to your people about getting a new look. *I* did. I get to wear brightly-colored sneakers now.