I Have No Limits!
The other day I saw a clip of a comedian on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and I had this out-of-the-blue thought: I’d like to be a comedian.
When Dominic, my husband, returned from retrieving our middle child from preschool, I decided to share this thought with him. I think I meant it as a joke, but Dominic took it seriously. His response went something like this: Are you in a perpetual midlife crisis? One day you want to be an opera singer. One day a pastor. Today you have blue hair. And now you’re talking about being a comedian. Do you even know how to be a comedian? Have you studied comedians? Where would you start?
So, well: No, I didn’t have any experience. No, I hadn’t formally studied the art of comedy. And what was he saying, that he didn’t think I could do it?
His response practically begged me to write a routine and perform it at the next available opportunity. I haven’t done this yet.
Dominic’s right. I am absolutely prone to fits of grandeur. When I go in on something, I go all in.
When I was 24, I decided I should find out what drinking was all about. The back story is comical. I was attending a top-10 music school for opera. It was costing us an arm and a leg, and I had repeatedly heard the vocal coaches say, “It’s like when you’re drunk or nearly drunk” and everyone in the class—except me—would laugh and adjust their performances. But I was blank and I was paying big bucks for this education! So I marched myself home, burst in the front door, and said, “Dominic, I want to get drunk.”
He looked at me with no expression. “Okay, but you’re not going to like it.”
We bought a bottle of Arbor Mist, which did absolutely nothing. Then we tried peach schnapps because I remembered my mom mentioning that once. Nothing. We drank the whole bottle, and then I fell asleep. Next we tried Captains and Coke because I had worked in a restaurant where a lot of people ordered those. After that I stumbled to the bedroom and fell asleep. In the morning, I woke up thinking, “I’ve tried to get drunk three times now, and I still don’t know what my professors are talking about!”
I kid you not. This was truly all about my education.
I kept trying. I heard Oprah say that she really liked cosmos, and so I gave that a shot. Loved it! I raced Dominic through a large-sized glass. He did not race. And it may have been two glasses. I can still remember vomiting in a bucket and not eating the next day until 4 p.m. That was my limit. I had found it.
The experience of living as if there are no limits—and then finding the limit—has been a common one for me. It’s like I actually believed all those people who said, “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up.”
In terms of my opera career, it went like this: I want to sing! I’m going to a top-10 music school. I’m going to be an opera star!
And then I found my limit. I didn’t like living a life where it was all about me and all about performing. I didn’t want to be hyper-aware of whether or not I was getting sick. I wanted to be a force for good in the world somehow, and though you can probably do that as an opera singer, I didn’t feel like I could find my way in it. So I changed courses.
Another example: Let’s have a family—a big family! Trouble keeping a pregnancy? No problem! We’ll adopt!
It’s possible that my description of myself sounds reckless. To me it’s ambitious. I do ultimately find limits. And then I adjust. Maybe one day I’ll look back on the younger me and think, “That foolish girl.”
But it works for me. I feel excited to get up in the morning. I feel free to make a difference. I feel passionate. I feel like my life is about something.
I’m helped by surrounding myself with lots of people. They encourage me and keep me accountable and help me figure out if this is a moment to increase my skill set or turn things over to someone else.
I schedule regular downtime. I need reflection. I need time to rest. I need time to regularly assess my priorities.
And I’ve learned to be okay with needing help sometimes. It’s come as a shock that my body does not function like a machine and that my children don’t always sit still in chairs like dolls with folded hands. But that’s taught me that it’s okay to ask for help.
And there are certain assumed limits. I only go five miles per hour over the speed limit. I pay my taxes. The dishes have to be done. I need to wash my hair at least every three days.
This approach may have a shelf life. But for now I’m super grateful for the life I’m living. It’s fun. I feel alive.
Will I actually add “comedian” to the list of things I say that I do? Well, maybe not today.