The Hero’s Journey. Part II.
September 25, 2011
(This post is continued from “The Hero’s Journey. Part I” and is substantially longer…)
Before I left Jackson, my friend Emma P. and I put on a Jackson first—a full-length improv/sketch comedy show that poked fun at, and lovingly embraced Jackson culture. It was called “Still Single: Lessons on Love with Emma and Andy”, and it’s my proudest accomplishment. The show was a hit, and at the end of the show, I remember looking at Emma with our hands clasped for the bow, and thinking “Damn. We did it.” We received standing ovations both nights and got great compliments from people in the community. Of all the plays I’ve done in the past, I’ve never felt such a strong connection between myself and the audience. It was surreal.
Five days later, I moved to Chicago, and the loving people of Jackson waved me farewell.
Having been in Chicago now for nearly half a year (time crawls when you’re feelin’ glum) I’ve thought a lot about what brought me here and why oh why I’ve been in such a rut. Please follow along as I offer up an abridged account of the past year. The Hero’s Journey:
Late June 2010 Andrew goes to Chicago to participate in the Summer Intensive, a five-week workshop with the iO (formally improvOlympic) Theater. He spends an incredible month and a half in a brand new city, meeting a slew of incredible people and having one hell of a time. Fellow classmates: “So, are you gonna move to Chicago?” Andrew: “Nah I couldn’t handle it. I’m a country kid. I need my trees and open space.”
Mid August 2010 Andrew returns to Jackson (while driving passed the Dairy Queen, he grumbles Oh god… I’m back), equipped with a slew of new improv knowledge and a refreshing look into the real world beyond the mountains. With all the incredible friends he made and the new experiences, he looks at his town with new eyes and sees how small it really is. When he speaks about his Chicago adventure, he has nothing bad to say. In short, the trip was incredible.
Fall 2010 More shows with local improv group The Laff Staff. While he loves the improv scene in Jackson, it’s nothing like he experienced in Chicago and the bond he made with those classmates lingers in his mind. The off-season trickles by and Andrew is back to the same grind and has moved back in with his mom. Sigh.
December 2010 Andrew rethinks his move back to Jackson and realizes that maybe improv is where it’s at. Perhaps this is his calling. He impulsively buys a one-way ticket to Chicago, IL for April 21st, 2011.
January—April 2010 Poisoned by the knowledge that he’ll be finally moving out of his mom’s house and on to brighter, better things, he develops an unwelcome cynicism for Jackson Hole. In a series of dickish, arrogant interactions (with some unnecessary low-blows), he completely puts up a wall to all the things Jackson does offer, insults the people who love the town, and just wants MORE. “I need more life,” he says, “more opportunity, more people, more improv, just more.”
April 21st, 2011 After a sorrowful mom-hug, Andrew lands in Chicago and rolls out a sleeping bag on the floor of his friend Josh B.’s house. Unforgivably intoxicated and full of terrible Chinese food, he passes out on a slanted floor. He has two suitcases no car, no apartment, no job. He couch surfs until he’s too much a nuisance.
May 2011 Unemployed and unhappy, Andrew settles in an apartment Lincoln Square and spends his weeks meandering from cafe to cafe doing a lot of journaling. Improv class is once a week, and the experience is nothing like last summer.
June 2011 Andrew is hired as a food runner at a Michelin-starred restaurant, and overworks himself to a point of mental breakdown. He ends up quitting at the end of the month. Improv classes continue. 3-hours a week.
July—September 2011 Andrew gets a job at a webhosting company, the most prestigious and well-paying position he’s ever held. Improv classes continue. Once a week.
Alright, I understand every transition is difficult, but I realize that I specifically moved to Chicago for improv, and I’ve only been hitting that goal for 3-hours every week. Everything else is just filler (no disrespect to some of the amazing friends I’ve made here), because other than those three hours, I don’t really know what I’m doing here. And I realize that if I didn’t have those three hours a week, I have a full week of nothing.
Many others have moved to Chicago with the same goal in my mind: become successful in the improv world and make a living doing what you love. I believe a lot of them had a crush on the city (or at least city living) before they moved, and I’m a bit envious of that. When I left I was yearning for more, more, MORE, and now that this idea of more surrounds me—I’m practically drowning in more—I realized how much happier I was having less.
In Jackson, I only had two-hours of improv a week, but I also had a jobs that I loved, the opportunity to create my own art (“Still Single”; my one-acts “Those Days” and “Second Guesses”) and be around the people I loved and who loved me. Even if I didn’t have improv, I had other things to keep me happy. I saw an incredible improv show here a few weeks ago where the monologist said, “We’re always striving for more, but when do we stop and realize that what we have is enough? This is enough.”
In Jackson I was riding out an incredible wave of self-made success and I tossed it to the wind because I followed an impulse. Do I regret moving to Chicago? Absolutely not. I guarantee I will not come home bitching about how much Chicago betrayed me. Truthfully, without this move I would not have realized that improv isn’t my one true passion, and (I should have known) writing makes me happiest. And, while I can pursue writing anywhere, I should pursue it in a place that I love. Jackson does not have to be permanent, and I can always springboard to another place if I feel that urge again (though this time around, I’ll think it through a bit better).
I have a lot in my mind as to what I would like to accomplish when I come home, and that includes writing and directing more plays and even possibly a full-length narrative play based on “Still Single”. Not to mention finally dedicating some focus to finishing my novel in hopes of a future publication. When I return, I won’t be reverting back to the life I left; my mom has moved to Arizona, my car is in the hands of a new family, and I have a brand new outlook on life and love.
I know who I am, and I know what I want. Two questions that I’ve had trouble answering are now solidified in my mind. And unfortunately neither of those answers involve the word Chicago.
I really wanted to love it here. I wanted to enjoy my new life and embrace everything around me. But something kept holding me back, something prevented me from enjoying myself here, and I understand that it’s the loving, supportive, amazing people that I’ve had in my life. With my personality, I will always, always push myself to new horizons and new accomplishments. But I think it’s time that I stop asking for more and more, and realize that this amazing little life that I’ve made for myself is indeed enough.
My current Hero’s Journey will come to a close on December 22nd, 2011. Whenever the next journey decides to present itself, I’ll be ready for it.