Sound familiar? Of course it does. Everyone has had their own experiences with being nervous. My most recent was as a result of “performing” stand up comedy this past week.
Laff’s Comedy Club in Tucson, like quite a few other comedy clubs across the county, has an open mic night where anyone willing to make the lonely walk to the stage containing a solitary microphone stand is welcomed.
The first time I ever did this was at The Funny Bone in Virginia Beach. A week or two before leaving the area, as a new civilian in 2001, I rallied one of my hetero life mates and his wife and told them I would give it a shot. I was so nervous that I failed to notice the flashing light from the back, signifying my time was up. I got a few laughs (most of which were from my buddy) and then was graciously relieved of my time on stage. There was no animosity, only a strong sense of “the show must go on” from the MC.
Going into it this time, I was better prepared and more cognizant of my need to keep an eye out for the flashing light. Between putting my name on the list of “performers” and the show’s start, I was asked if I was nervous, to which I replied with an emphatic OF COURSE. The next response was “Why would you subject yourself to that?”
Post-performance it really got me thinking and, more often than not in my case, thinking results in writing.
Considering how we are all walking a razor’s edge between harmony and tragedy, it seems like a waste of God’s precious gift to NOT make the most of your life while on this earth. Stepping out of your comfort zone just about always results in the disappearance of saliva, the appearance of sweat in surprising places, and several other physical manifestations of fear. The best (and worst) moments in our lives are punctuated by this fear.
Allowing yourself to be held back by fear is to not experience life as fully as you should. Fear can actually propel you forward as well. It’s easy to give in to that fear and skip your plans. A great example of this is the 20 mile ruck I did on Memorial Day. I’ve never walked that distance before, let alone strapped 40lb to my back while doing it. Terrified of letting down the folks who had contributed to the Carry The Load organization on my behalf, terrified of letting down the family members of those whose memory we were carrying with us, terrified of letting down anyone who showed up to walk with me (it was awesome by the way; a buddy made the entire 20+ mile ruck with me, a pregnant friend walked four miles, my own wife walked five, my sick son came out and walked two, and several other folks made it out to help), and all because I had made a claim that I was willing to step out of my comfort zone.
There are so many bumper sticker mantras out there about living one’s life to the fullest, and countless obituaries make mention of how the person listed lived a full life, but how many people truly do get the most out of their lives?
Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new is impossible to quantify or break down into scalable measurements. What may be “old hat” for some people is utterly terrifying to others. The bottom line, though, is that you SHOULD do something that scares you. I’m not advocating that you go out and wrestle a grizzly bear with your bare hands or anything (although it’d make for a most excellent conversation starter if you survived), but I think people should live a little more and make their mark in the lives of the people around them. Taking that first step in a new direction may move you closer to a new hobby, a new friend, or uncover a talent you never even knew you had. I have no delusions of becoming a full time comic (you can watch the video below and see how rough it may be and how nervous I was) and I don’t even think that standing in front of strangers while cracking jokes is necessarily “brave” per se. What I do believe is that if I think I could maybe accomplish something, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t at least try.
When you’re on your death bed, do you want to be able to honestly say that your life was a life full of experiences and meaningful relationships or do you want to have regrets that you played it too safe when given opportunities that could have altered the course of your life?
The sun is setting on your life, what will you do with the time you have left?
“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake…”
-Francis Bacon Sr
ROUND 3 (with a fantastic intro from my buddy Dave)