Megan Again: Happiness Boomerang
By Megan Wirts
“Why are you doing this?”
I was asked this question several times over the weekend and many times it was me asking myself. The answer was a little different each time, but always centered around a common theme, happiness, be it my happiness or other people’s happiness. Happiness was always the reason.
This past weekend, I was honored to participate in Gilda’s Laughfest. Laughfest is a 10-day comedy festival that has been held in Grand Rapids since March 2011. It was created to celebrate “laughter for the health of it” and all proceeds go to benefit Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids, a cancer and grief support community.
As much as I was excited to be selected to participate, I was also incredibly nervous. That’s when the anxiety that lives inside of me...
... reared its ugly neurotic head and I started to question myself and ask, “Why are you doing something that causes you to have an upset stomach for 3 days prior and is probably boring a hole into the lining of your stomach?”
When this starts to happen, I think back to when I was in the 5th grade and I had a solo in the school music program. I was center stage standing at the microphone and the kid next to me sang his solo and then it was my turn. My mind went completely blank! I forgot all the words and I just stood there frozen in fear.
Then I experienced one of the most embarrassing moments of my life and is probably one of the reasons I’ll need therapy forever.
There I was, 10 years old,standing on the stage wearing my Hypercolor t-shirt, (90’s kids you’ll know what I’m talking about. For those of you that don’t it was a shirt that would change color with temperature change.), and stirrup pants with pee running down my legs.
I tried to squeak out a few words to the song, but they were all wrong and I just gave up and literally peed my pants on stage in front of my entire class and all of their families. For what seemed like 30 hours, but was probably 30 seconds I stood there petrified. After those few horrifying moments, I came to and scurried back to my spot in the chorus smelling like pee and hoping that nobody saw that the back side of my Hypercolor t-shirt was now turning a darker shade or orange. I was devastated.
Before every performance, of any kind, that moment flashes in my mind and I can still feel the warmth running down my leg. Then, I tell myself that I have already experienced my worst nightmare and I have lived to tell about it, so what have I got to lose now.
So, why am I doing stand-up comedy? I definitely didn’t start doing it because I saw it as a new career opportunity. It started out as just something to cross off my bucket list and I never actually planned on doing again after my first open mic.
Then the audience laughed, people told me to keep going and each time I do a set, I want to do another. So, until I stop wanting to do another or until my body really tells me it’s had enough, I’ll just keep going.
Reality is, that committing to a lot can sometimes be too much for my body to handle. So, I have to do what dystonia, the neurological movement disorder that I have, will allow me to do. That’s not to say I won’t try, I’m not one to give up easily, but I also need to take care of myself in order to have good enough days to do the things I love.
When I became disabled, and was forced to give up so much of my life, my career and independence and now spend most of my days in pain and exhausted, I still felt the need to perform in some way. I just couldn’t give that part of me up. I already felt as if my life was fading away and I needed to hold onto that part of me and I was gripping it as tightly as I could.
I love to perform. I always have and even though I experienced a mortifying moment that may have caused anyone else to never attempt anything like that again, I used it as a point to build from. It seriously can’t get much worse than that.
I love it so much that I will face the fear of humiliation over and over again, just to be on the stage. Almost all performers that I know, be it stand-up comedians, musicians or actors, they all say they do it because they love it. They do it because there is something inside of them that makes them want to be the center of attention for a few minutes.
Now, we could get into the psychology of all that, but I’m extraordinarily unqualified to go there so I won’t. I just know that as a performer myself, if I didn’t love it there is no way I would put myself through this type of anxiety time and time again.
I also happen to be a middle child and am constantly seeking my parent’s approval, so make of that what you will.
Being a performer has always been something I thought was fun and exhilarating. When I am on a stage, whether it be singing, acting out a part or telling a personal story, it makes me feel good. It gives me a high that no drug could ever touch, and I take a ton of drugs (all prescription, calm down), but that feeling can only get you so far. Once the spotlight is off and the show is over, that feeling goes away and you need more of a reason than just that it makes you feel good in that moment.
Then I watched a video of a comedian named Michael Jr, give a talk at a TedX Conference. He talked about how one night everything shifted for him and instead of thinking about how he was going to “get laughs”, he looked at it as a way to “give an opportunity to laugh”. When I heard that, much like him, it created a shift in my thinking and that was the attitude I brought with me to Laughfest this past weekend.
Okay, I know that it is better to give than to receive. I have used that philosophy in many aspects in my life and it’s something I say constantly to my kids, especially at Christmas time when they think they need every single new toy they see on TV. However, I had never really applied that to my performance endeavors. Going into my performances with a giving attitude this time changed everything for me.
Sure, I was still incredibly nervous and spent most of the afternoon prior to each show I was on, in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet pleading with my guts to just work properly for a few hours. However, I found myself feeling the most relaxed and at ease once I got to the performance venues and looked around and thought to myself, “Everyone here wants to laugh and have a good time, how can I make that happen for them?”.
When it was finally my turn to go on and I looked at the faces of the people in the audience and they were laughing, smiling and having fun, it meant so much to me to be able to give them that joy and happiness.
Now, I’m not saying that I am solely doing stand-up comedy or performing in general for unselfish reasons, there is something in it for me too. I’m not perfect people. I don’t need that kind of pressure. I’m saying that only a masochist would do something like stand-up comedy if they didn’t really love it for themselves.
What I have realized is that the more I do things with the attitude of giving instead of getting, the more enjoyable those things are going to be. It’s like a happiness boomerang. Every time I throw out there, it comes back.
So, do everything for the happiness that you can give and you will find yourself filled with more happiness than one could ever imagine.
When all you were doing was trying to get it for yourself.
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