For many students, taking the first concrete step toward a higher goal often comes in the form of an internship, a research position, or an artistic production of some sort. I’ve had a slightly different experience with thrusting myself into my ideal future.
Since my tween years my bedroom television was permanently tuned to Comedy Central, for want of a remote control. I’ve since decided it’s a safe bet that my best, if not only, professional hope is to become a comedian or comedic screenwriter. Naturally, the first step toward this goal, other than having a screenplay magically greenlit for production, is to perform standup comedy. I had been subconsciously building up material for a set since my awkward and oblong middle school days, but I still lacked the courage to get up on stage.
When I returned home from studying abroad last semester, I told my mom I planned to do an open mic set. As any parent who learns his or her child is seeking to make a career out of public self-loathing and mockery of others, she was ecstatic. She pressed me for the next several weeks when I evaded the goal at all costs, to the point where she became a terrible annoyance. Because I really wanted — needed — to do this, I eventually decided to use my mom’s coercion to my advantage. I convinced her to double her harassments until I became so furious that I had to either block all communication with her or do stand-up comedy. I did both.
About a month ago I did my first stand-up set at The Middle East in Cambridge. Since then, I’ve had no nerves about performing. I’ve been able to effectively assess the hilarity and appeal of my own jokes based on the response of several diverse audiences. Success in this sort of pursuit relies largely upon creative interpretation of the commonplace. It’s extremely beneficial to evaluate oneself based on objective responses. I’m saying your friends will always think you’re funny/smart/capable, even when you definitely aren’t. That’s what friends do. Trust the experts.
Every college student knows how quintessential gaining “experience” is. If you don’t go beyond academic practices, you’ll most likely be at a hefty disadvantage in the real world. (Whoa, really? Thanks for the advice, man!) But it’s especially important to seek guidance from authority and to actively self-evaluate. So, as soon as you have identified that pivotal passion that guides you, immediately put yourself in an environment that is conducive to furthering it. Do whatever it takes to get your feet wet. Even if you end up with an estranged mother.