life as improv

Some people live a very scripted life. They go to school like you’re “supposed” to, K-12, followed by four  more years in college, work, get married, and so on. The script is written by various factors in society – you do this, you don’t do that, and you get this reward and avoid that scary thing.

I’ve never been able to do this.

My life has been a series of me accomplishing things I “shouldn’t have been able to” because either I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be able to, or because I straight-up didn’t care that I wasn’t supposed to. Things have come to me in chaos for as long as I have taken breath in this lifetime, and that’s what I know to react to. And frankly, I prefer it that way.

Still, it gets under my skin sometimes when a scripted person tells me how to improv. I don’t do the opposite because I don’t have to. We all know the script. That doesn’t mean we have to follow it. And scripted folks seem to find that a terrifying concept.

Improv means you make do with what you have. You find joy in the moment, and when there’s nothing else to do, you do what they taught me at Diana’s Grove – you act with all your heart and leave the outcomes to the gods. I learned improv because I grew up in a poor, alcoholic household that was lacking in education – but not in adaptability. I finished my college degrees through improv, not script. Definitely parented by improv, rather than script because no one really wrote a script for having a child with cystic fibrosis, not when I was dealing with it anyway. I know, because I looked. The script can be very, very comforting, especially in printed form. And I’ve done married life by improv as well – not the easy way for sure, but I’ve come to see it as the right way for me and my loved ones.

Does that mean I never follow a script? Hells no. I live in a scripted world and I’m an adapter (all good improv artists are). I know how to go by the script and sometimes I do – when it suits me, when I’ve examined the script thoroughly and decided it’s meeting my needs (there’s nothing more scripted than a college degree program, for example). But I really try not to just metaphorically mouth the words I’ve memorized without grokking the meaning behind them. In fact, I kind of suck at that, and find myself improv-ing without even thinking.

There’s a need in the world for both types – the scripters and the improv artists. Scripters are great at imposing order, for example. They make great scientists (though a little improv is helpful there too). But for me, I’ll be staying on the side of improv, especially in this coming time when everything that was ever scripted may very well be tossed aside.

A script can take you to a point, but I find that life is not always orderly, not when it’s lived fully. And I’d rather have that full life in all its chaotic glory than be limited by a script.

I’m 46 today. I never had a script, and I’m good with that. I’ll keep doing what the script says I can’t for another 46 years or until I die. I suspect the latter will overtake the former.

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