Tonight my voice is crackly and it’s tough to talk. I wish I could at least say my words were used for good, but the truth is I’m feeling pretty guilty right now.
This weekend was the theater where I do improv’s annual comedy festival. Translation: things were bonkers. Tonight our last show ended with everyone at the theater – performers, students, audience members and everyone else in our community, together celebrating a beautiful thing we created. As the last show ended, I was overwhelmed with happiness and this really strong feeling of connection to so many people.
Then came the rude awakening.
The theater director came up to me and asked a very condescending question. There’s history of tension between us, although I think I’m more aware of it than her. When I was trying to think of the quickest way to phrase the answer and whether or not I should use the white board to preserve my voice, she pressed again. It was really rude. At that moment, all I felt was attacked and like she shouldn’t be talking to me this way and I wasn’t going to deal with it. So I put up my hand, said “I’m not doing this right now,” and headed outside. After a few deep breaths, I found her again and told her she was being condescending and I didn’t appreciate it.
Then she went on the offensive. It was not pretty to watch. At the time I was very upset at her for treating me that way. She was very nasty. Now that a few hours have passed, I’m just sad for her. She’s too old to be talking to people like that. How did she get in a position of power? It’s baffling.
I faced a side of myself I wasn’t all that aware of before tonight. The idea popped into my head that it’s stupid for her to treat me poorly considering no one likes her and people at the theater tend to like me. It would be easy to tell them the story and wouldn’t even really take me turning them against her since they already are. Having fucked up thoughts like that, even if just for a second, scares me. I don’t want to think that way. I don’t want to view people like things that can be turned to/against or steps on a ladder.
I went to a bar after finally processing everything and talking to some good friends about it. The truth is, this woman is sad and lonely. She wasn’t at the bar where everyone was hanging out after the show. Maybe that’s why she wanted an after party so bad – so she didn’t have to be left. It must feel really lonely. She’s also about to leave her position at the theater. I imagine it’s very difficult to let go of something she’s put so much into. One of the hardest things of all is she’s moving somewhere with no improv at all very soon. Someone who started a long-form improv theater can’t be thrilled to live without her main art form. It’s the only way I’ve seen her express herself in any kind of a convincing way. I can’t even try to think about how that feels. Actually I kind of can, considering I can’t sing anymore. Only it’s different because I can’t hop to a different city and be able to use my voice again. She’s making a sacrifice for her family right now.
Maybe I didn’t say anything mean to her. Maybe what I said was “right”, “correct”, or “valid”. But it doesn’t matter. Because now that I’m home and I have to reflect on my behavior, I realize I could have been a lot more considerate of what she’s going through. Of course I’m still playing out fights with her in my head, but that’s not the take away. The big lesson is to try to really empathize a little bit more and remember what other people are going through – even if you don’t like them.