We are all dumb in some way. The smartest people have knowledge blind spots. I’m sure Einstein didn’t have an extensive vocabulary for medieval British literature. Oprah probably doesn’t know the intricacies of competitive dance in Australia. I had a professor who had never seen Stuart Little, so yeah, film wasn’t his specific intellectual strong suit. What I’m saying is, we are all dumb-dumbs a little. I want to explore my own specific brand of dumb.
My brand of dumb has layers. Most brands of dumb do most likely, but I only fully understand my own. I know this will be a shock, but there’s a global pandemic happening. If you’re reading this and the year 2020 is a distant memory: God, I hope there’s not a global pandemic happening. Despite this pandemic, I moved. Like, move to live in another state move. Okay, that’s not really that dumb. With those two pieces of information, you’re probably thinking “well, that’s not a strong brand of dumb.” No worries, more information is on the way.
I just graduated college, so moving would be logical if doing so for a job. College graduates go out and spread their wings throughout the United States, and by that, I mean college graduates go out and spread their wings to Los Angeles and New York City. I’m different in that respect. I just moved to Chicago from Columbus, Ohio. But I didn’t do so for a job. I actually had no job when I made the decision to move here. Side note: a few days after that decision, I did sign a contract for some video editing work, but still!
I decided to move for… comedy. I know, I know. Moving to Chicago to pursue a career in comedy has never been done before and thus, it is extremely courageous and brave to do so.
Okay, let’s reflect on the information we have up until this point. I just graduated college (going to college may be a specific brand of dumb but I won’t get into that right now). I moved to another state. I moved to another state with an unstable job. I moved to said state to pursue a career in comedy. Those are the facts that we have at this current time. Let us continue!
In March of this year, I was furloughed. I was an intern at a law firm, a job I was hoping would turn full-time after graduation. A lot of people lost their job this year, so this is nothing new or shocking, and I am fine with it now. But at the time, I was stressed, obviously. I was still in school, so I turned my focus to that. I was trying to finish my undergraduate research thesis and attempting to keep the same amount of normalcy from the precedented times. Permission to speak a little more on why going to college plays into my brand of dumb?
I went to college because it felt like the thing to do. I became addicted, and I do mean addicted, to good grades. The validation from doing well seemed to fill the void of me not having a good time in school, nor knowing what I wanted to do after school. Comedy never felt viable, so I didn’t even bother entertaining the idea. I doubted myself a lot. I still doubt myself a lot. Who doesn’t? Some of you need to doubt yourself a little bit, though.
I hated being in the same city as the university that was now a ghost of my past five years. Even with graduation approaching, I knew there would be no closure without a ceremony. And I knew there would be no ceremony, given the pandemic. So, like so many other young Americans that had the option, I made the pilgrimage back to my childhood home. It wasn’t the first choice in terms of post-grad plans, but I was thankful to have the opportunity to make that choice. It was a small inconvenience in the landscape of this year. And in the end, it wasn’t an inconvenience at all. It was a blessing. But I’m dumb! And I couldn’t see that in the moment.
I spent months back in my hometown, enjoying the kept-woman life (having my mom buy groceries for me to cook all day) while planning to move back to Columbus in July. Permission to talk about pre-quarantine times for a second?
In February, I performed standup comedy for the first time. I loved hearing the laughter. The only other time I had ever experienced a similar high was my junior year of high school when I played a comedic lead in a musical. Isn’t this all very desperate and tragic? The answer is yes. But I was finally feeding my dream. That night after my set, I started searching for open mics and budgeting for improv classes. My schoolwork and research took priority, but I decided that after graduation, I would stay in Columbus for a year. I would, hopefully, work at the law firm and maybe pick up a serving job as well. I would take improv classes and work on writing. I would live with a friend in a neighborhood that was impressive and very classy, defying the odds by jumping socioeconomic classes. I had a plan. A lot of us had a plan. It’s a cliché but plans change, either by choice or by circumstance. I suppose my particular change was a little bit of both; choice driven by circumstance.
In June, I started going to Columbus on the weekends. I hated being there. Loathed it. I felt like I was still trapped in the city despite graduating. I could go anywhere (somewhere cheap). The world (somewhere cheap in the United States) was my oyster! I realized that, yes, I wanted to do comedy. In what capacity? Any. College degree? Acquired but potentially useless now (brand of dumb is getting stronger!).
I just needed to go somewhere, do something. Make a commitment to something for once, instead of scrambling to have a conventional answer to the question “what job do you want?” when all I really want is to make people laugh in exchange for validation. And to be famous but that is, of course, a given.
One afternoon, while sitting in my Columbus bedroom, I called my mom. I cried and cried and cried, telling her about how lost I felt. How powerless I felt. This sounds dramatic, and it probably was a little, but I really felt it. I’m sure that feeling was for a lot of reasons, but also for the way I had lived for the past five years. I’ll never be able to fully share my feelings as I am me and you are you, but I don’t know if I was ever really happy during that time frame.
I think I had happy moments and things I loved that distracted me. And that was enough then, but not anymore. My mom said she’d support me wherever I go. Side note, Cheryl is amazing, and we love and adore her. Cheryl is obviously my mom. I said that Chicago is generally the first stop on the comedy career journey. She said we could go visit, if I wanted. I did. We shared heartfelt, encouraging words, said “I love you,” and hung up. I got on Facebook to distract myself. Who the heaven and hell gets on Facebook anymore? Me in that moment for some weird reason. The first thing I saw was a shared post from a childhood friend of an old roommate. We all have those. It was for an available room in her place. In Chicago.
Okay, knowledge check! Before moving to Chicago, I had a plan to pursue comedy for a year in Columbus. But alas, I hated Columbus, and because of this fact plus my job loss, I went to live with my mom aka Cheryl. We also know that my baby brain now knows about an available room in the same city I am now considering moving to.
I booked an Airbnb in Chicago with money from my imaginary job, which is what I call my savings account. We drove to see the place that I had seen on Facebook, and I loved it. But I didn’t want to love it, because then the idea of moving would take shape and implant itself permanently into my brain. I kept trying to talk myself out of it.
The area wasn’t ideal for my goals.
I don’t have a job.
I’d be screwing over my friend in Columbus that I was about to live with.
I have no “comedy experience.”
I was throwing obstacles out in front of my path left and right. I am constantly talking myself out of things. Perhaps to save money or to not hurt people’s feelings, or to just save emotional and physical effort. It was a classic me move, so much so that my mom immediately clocked what I was doing and began dismantling the obstacles I had set up for myself.
My mom is one of the most indecisive people I know, and combined with the fact that she rarely voices a hard opinion that she herself formulated, it’s a rarity that she says anything with certainty. We packed up and headed back to Ohio, me silently driving the car along the corn-lined highway. My mom finally said, “you should move.” I’d never lived over an hour away from my mom without an expiration date to the distance. To save time, I’ll just say it: we are pretty co-dependent. It’s gotten a little better over the past year, but I still have a knee jerk reaction to seek out my mom whenever I feel the smallest amount of sadness or stress or worry. I don’t mean seek her out with a text or call, but rather by going back to my hometown. It’s a form of escapism for sure no doubt no DOUBT. That’s why it was huge for my mom to say that I should move. Because I knew that she’d miss me and my proximity so much; I am her favorite child for goodness sakes. But her desire for me to have as few regrets in life as possible trumped her want for me to be geographically close.
I had to strain friendships, pulling out of plans to move back to Columbus. I had to tell relatives I was moving for a job (if any of them ask, that’s still the truth wink). I had to say bye to my mom and the state I had called home for the past 17 years. I had to acknowledge that I was moving in the middle of a global pandemic to try and start my comedy career. I had to realize that I am, in many ways, an absolute dumb-dumb. But I did it. I moved.
I’ve been writing a lot more. I’ve been filming and editing things. I made a YouTube and a TikTok, even. Can you believe it? I’ve been cooking and baking and sharing these things with my roommates because it makes me feel good. They make me fulfilled and so does this city. I’ve been going to open mics which are a little soul crushing but also exhilarating because I’m finally doing a thing that I love. I originally wrote “what I love” but to be honest, I love all parts of comedy, and I’m ready to explore the many forms that it can take.
I’m sure the rose-tinted glasses will come off eventually, and there will be moments where I will question everything. I will miss my mom. I will miss my friends and familiarity. I will worry about money and my abilities and whether or not I’ll have an attractive lover. These are all givens. But I will never wonder “what if?”
I am a clown dumb-dumb. I am a dumb-dumb who wants to pay a month’s rent to take improv classes. I am a dumb-dumb who moved to Chicago for comedy with next to no comedy experience. I am a dumb-dumb who writes in run-on sentences and still has the audacity to think she has good grammar. I am a dumb-dumb who deserves to be happy. I am a dumb-dumb who finally is happy; really, really, really happy.
What type of dumb-dumb are you?