I don’t like New Year’s resolutions. For years and years as a child and young adult, I resolved every January to stop biting my fingernails. People had repeatedly told me it was a disgusting habit and that I must quit doing it. I felt ashamed and I tried to change but I failed year after year. Once I stopped obsessing, I eventually stopped biting my nails without trying. Today, when I see someone whose nails are bitten down painfully short, I feel a connection. You may think it’s gross but I feel a kindred connection with others who bite their nails.
For you, the new year may be about losing weight, becoming more organized, or learning a new skill. All noble pursuits. I have no problem with self-improvement, only with the negative motivations behind so many quests for self-betterment. Setting goals to correct aspects of ourselves we deem negative or to adopt traits we feel would make us better humans can reinforce our convictions that we’re not good enough.
But how often do we resolve to be ourselves? Some people may float happily through life, always happy and secure that everything they do and say is perfect in every single way. Good for them. They can stop reading at this point.
For the rest of us, our personalities and self-esteem take a lot of beatings on the way to adulthood. By the time we’re grown and independent, we’ve absorbed so many criticisms and reprimands that we’ve shoved huge chunks of ourselves out of sight. We believe that we shouldn’t be playful or silly. We shouldn’t say the funny things that pop into our heads, we shouldn’t jump up and down when we’re excited, we shouldn’t act like the children we once were. Playfulness and silliness leaves us vulnerable to attacks, whispers, and strange looks.
When I started taking Improv 101 classes at ComedySportz® Richmond, I realized that people who cut others down for being silly are not worth the mental space I used to allow them. In that fateful class, I met people who allowed me to be myself in all my weirdness. We were lighthearted and true to ourselves. We even played a form of tag. That’s right. We were a bunch of adults laughing and playing like children at recess.
That was two years ago. As I remain close with this original bunch of people and continue to develop friendships with more people in the CSz and improv community, I continue to be amazed at the simple way we accept one another. In two years, not a single CSz player, student, or instructor has ever said a cruel word to me. I’ve had poor performances and my teammates have unconditionally supported me. Hanging out socially, I’ve sometimes behaved like the awkward, clumsy, tone-deaf nerd with two left feet I am. And never have any of my improv friends shown any hint of condescension or rejection.
So go ahead and make that resolution to eat more vegetables. Visit the gym seven days a week and floss your teeth. Those are healthy goals. But don’t neglect who you are. If there’s a playful, fun-loving, quirky, or otherwise childlike soul wanting permission to flourish, this could be your year. Don’t analyze its practicality to death. Go for it. Cultivate your inner playfulness.
Lisa Swope has been selling her nail clippings as a dietary supplement at ComedySportz® since 2016.
If you are curious about this whole "improv" thing then come try it out! We're offering a FREE 2-hour Adult Improv sampler class on January 15th, 2018. If you are at least 18 years old then come play with us and a bunch of other people just as curious as you. You still need to register so we know you're coming (https://form.jotform.com/73367920413961). It's totally no strings attached.You’ll have fun and still have time to sign up for the Winter Adult 101 class starting January 22nd.