That one time I did improv off a suggestion from my bladder
“I’ve never wanted to be a dude more than right now,” I thought to myself.
FACT: One out of ten times I pee in my pants at the front door OF MY OWN HOUSE.
FACT: The other nine times I come home bolting into my house doing a variation of the dance every child has the right to.
(This isn’t the worst thing that has happened to me. But that rainy day tale is between me and my local Borders bookstore. )
I can hold a lot of things in: anger, criticism, intense excitement. Tears. Apparently I can’t hold in pee.
“Why yes, coffee is a diuretic,” the waiter at breakfast should have said.
“Here, have more water because I know our bathroom isn’t going to be available and I have personal joy in seeing your anxiety.”
And so started a chain of events that tested every part of my personality. The skills used to survive the commute to Los Angeles have been thrown out of the window. I came into a Bear Grylls state of mind after the initial panic settled down. A third of the way into the drive, I regretted not using the bathroom. Halfway in, it was over. I knew it was over and a mental blueprint of places I could stop and use the bathroom came into play. I started calculating the correlation between the distance I could run and the amount of pee that would dispense from my body.
“Katherine, you need a game plan.”
I started taking inventory of the contents of my car to see what could help me.
One water bottle. This is what happens when you grow up without a penis.
One soul on the verge of a urine-soaked breakdown.
I started surveying my surroundings.
One car driving in the left lane.
How upset would I be that I used my sweater as a makeshift diaper?
NO. That’s not happening.
What was the exact angle I could lift myself up from my car and slip my shorts off without anyone seeing?
Really? Is this a thing? Veto.
What is the probability that there are video surveillance cameras around my area and I would be on the evening news?
About 1 in 50 chances that there is a surveillance camera around here. Veto.
Where can I stop by and run in, given the chance I’ll explode?
The grocery store by UCB? The coffee shop across from the grocery store? No. There’s no way I would make it. Veto.
How badly would I have to stop at a store (You have $10.27 in your bank account) to get a change of clothes?
I have $10.27 in my bank account. I can’t afford to buy dinner let alone a pair of pants. Veto.
What is the distance between the potential rest site and my destination?
Is it worth calculating?
Do I continue to my destination?
There. THERE IT IS. GOD BLESS THE ECHO PARK EXIT. I could run into mom’s work and — PROMISE LAND.
I parked my car in the lot and gracefully ran into the lobby of the hospital my mom works in. The parking lot was relatively empty, but at that moment all I felt were the eyes of TJ Eckleburg on me as I ran in. It’s like everyone knew what was happening and they didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or help. I ran past those waiting in the lobby and at this point, no one existed.
I’m not used to having a game plan — the “job by 22, engaged by 26, career by 28, kids by 30, house by 32” convienient timeline so many people tailor around. I attribute being organized to growing up, and I think I’m in the (irrational, stupid idea of a) quarter century crisis of not growing up. Full Peter Pan mode.
I walked through those sliding doors, I sat in my car, relieved. In every sense of the word. The paper has been submitted, gas got me to school, card wasn’t declined, phone didn’t die kind of relieved.
That was the most intricate game plan I have ever conducted. It was flawless and a part of me almost wanted to see how far I could take it. Why not make this already terrible story a little more Doodie Calls with Doug Mand worthy? In that amazing moment of stress, I managed to map out every cause and effect that was possible. My instincts changed in those moments.
Growing up is change: responding versus reacting; acceptance versus competition; value versus validation. Independence instead of reliability; standards rather than expectations. I’ve always considered myself an old soul, so maybe that’s why I’m so afraid to grow up — the contradiction of I’m already up there and I feel like at 21 I shouldn’t be. Growing up is being okay with giving something away and looking for something new — relocating, landing a job, committing to a relationship — to piece you back together to be whole.
Once I took another second to compose myself, I drove the five miles down the road to iO West for a free improv workshop, which I thought was going to be my biggest anxiety attack of the day. I watch improv. I don’t do improv. I told myself I would never get up on stage and try this seemingly impossible task of being an intelligent comedian in front of people I don’t know.
Once I had released my frustration on my friend (through many “I hate you” mutters under my breath) who convinced me to take the workshop, I went up on stage, bombed in the first exercise, and sat back down. My teacher looked at us and said, “Okay. You did it. And you’re still alive, right?”
I was still alive. I didn’t spontaneously combust. I didn’t pass out. I didn’t collapse under the heap of pressure I had just put on myself. I’ve scratched my whole philosophy of a game plan and focused on right here and right now — the basis of improv: don’t think and be present. And the second that I remembered to breathe on stage, I wasn’t bad. I was okay. No, I was good. Okay, I wasn’t good, but I wasn’t terrible. My only goal was to make my teacher laugh at some point in the day and he did and I was basically content with life.
FACT: I don’t know where I’m going to be in five years.
FACT: I’ll surround myself with genuine, funny, smart people and I will be happy.
I realized that stint in the car — the panic, the questions, the solutions — that was improv. The suggestion was from my bladder, and it was “Katherine, I’m going to explode, think of a fucking solution.” And me going up on that stage was an important step in figuring out how this decade was going to help me change,
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” // Emerson