The other day I did something that truly scared me. And when I say truly scared me I’m talking out of my comfort zone and into my zone of sweat-inducing, hand-shaking, throat-swelling fear as opposed to my usual, mild state of caution at all things that aren’t puppies.
Guys, I did stand-up for the first time.
Reasons why this was terrifying:
- It’s not the same as writing funny things on my computer and clicking share on Twitter, although sometimes, when you’re mentioning cystitis, and there’s a chance your boss will read it, that is scary
- As someone who thinks of themselves as adequately hilarious, the thought of spending five minutes risking everything about your personality on stage and coming away with a shattered image of your own soul if no one laughs, was horrendous
- Human beings I know, and spend time with in real life, were in the audience, watching me
- Human beings I don’t know, some of whom were intimidating because they were a) boys and b) girls, were in the audience, watching me
- My throat was genuinely swelling up so I could have died
Reasons why I did it in the first place:
- To prove to myself that I can do anything
- To reward myself with croissants the next day as a prize
- An element of self-destruction
Because I can never be organised (obviously why I’m a personal assistant) and in the lead-up to the event I got really, really sick (see my last blog: “When October betrays you”) I left everything a bit last minute and decided in the 24 hours leading up to the show to document everything that scared me and talk about that instead. And now – because I choked on quite a lot of lines and I can’t remember any of what happened when I was on stage – I wanted to revisit all of my fearful thoughts for LOLS. As hey, I’m not one to waste material, and I’m certainly not going to get back up on stage as myself again anytime soon. Plus it’s Halloween – and there is no better time to talk about fear (except if you’re about to die).
I love Halloween. Autumn is my absolute favourite season because the leaves are adorable and the weather is crisp and cool and pumpkins are friendly. I love everyone’s terrible pumpkin carving photos that all go up at exactly the same time on Facebook – almost as much as I love everyone’s identical photos of roast dinners that go up on Sundays. Because how else would we know what they look like? Not to mention the whole “Is someone really hurt, or is it just make-up?” when you’re stumbling down an alley in Elephant and Castle trying to find the entrance to your party.
Of course I don’t actually go to Halloween parties anymore because since being 25 I’ve developed a pretty intense fear of hangovers (fear #1). My greatest high is now taking my bra off at the end of a long day and just not having cystitis. As a twenty-something millennial with an English degree and several broken mirrors behind her, most things in life are scary. In a way it’s like every day is Halloween, but scary masks and sexy bats are disguised as other fearful omens such as breast pain, or being late for work. Or the holes in crumpets, my teeth falling out, getting my cactus caught in my hair again. Or the clowns. Apparently they’re planning a purge on Halloween so we’ve all got that to look forward to.
Another new fear – gynecological cancer. I read an article about it on Cosmopolitan, because anything on Twitter with the word “cancer” on it I feel like I have to click on otherwise I’ll get cancer. Like not doing the ice bucket challenge and getting motor neurone disease? (I’m allowed to say that because it runs in my family.) Anyway I had the symptoms of all five types of gynecological cancer. Because it turns out gynecological cancer – the fucker – mostly presents itself as being a bit tired, bloated, itchy, and needing a wee all the time, which are symptoms all humans who are addicted to peppermint tea, eat pizza when they shouldn’t, don’t get enough sleep and wear uncomfortable underwear will find they have. And if you’re me – you’ll find yourself awake for seven hours the night before a comedy show worrying you have cancer of the vulva, when actually you just have a wedgy.
I’m aware this probably sounds a bit mental and when do I have time to do my job ever but it’s not just my own vagina that scares me. It’s drying my hair and catching fire. Why do my boobs hurt? What if the bits of nail I accidentally eat end up in my kidneys? Trying to remember if I’ve already taken a tampon out and what if it’s gone up inside me. What if someone at work finds out I just spent fifteen minutes wondering if I can pull off leather trousers? What in god’s name will I do if I lose my lip balm? A lack of good roles for women, Donald Trump, and the Sun always being a newspaper. Spiders in my bed and on my face, getting stuck in a lift, not being famous, being famous, dying, everyone I love dying, doctors appointments, wearing a watch, narrow stairs.
Also military dolphins – another thing I read about on the news. And when I say read – I mean, look at the headline of an article, feel appalled, and share it to look good. So at first when I saw the pictures I imagined the military training dolphins to spy on and fight people and bomb submarines. When I read about it in more detail though, I discovered they also use sea lions and seals (not to be confused with human navy seals) to find underwater mines, and to save swimmers. So there are fewer lasers and mini guns and it’s marginally less terrifying but I have so many questions now. How does one communicate with the dolphins? Do spies have to learn “dolphin” now? How do I get a sea lion to rescue me? What happens if a dolphin actually does find a bomb? How does it let us know where the mine is in order to get a bit of mackerel?
So you get where my head’s at every day. Thing is though – the world is scary, dolphins and all. It’s full of wacky, crazy things, and people are weird, and spiders are awful, and the government is demonic. But it’s also completely magical and not all terror – sometimes the monsters under your bed are really friendly and helpful. Like stand-up – it’s mortifying and frightening and made me feel very vulnerable but it was also quite fun and encouraging and confidence-boosting and made me feel proud of myself. Fear is what makes you do things, I’ve realised. Fear is what gets me through the day – it keeps me looking for more things to do, for more people to meet, life experiences, adventures, projects, friendships, laughter, love, happiness. I love my fears – they are hilarious and it might not sound like it but they’re under control and I’m only getting them out in the name of entertainment. My fears keep me running and laughing and motivated and make other people feel better about their lives. The monsters can stay.
I hope you all have glorious Halloweens, wear whatever you like, eat cheesy chips after, and remember it forever. As for me, I’m going as a military dolphin.