I went on vacation this week. I almost asked to reschedule because I Think You Should Leave – Season 2 came out in the middle of my time off. Seriously. I thought about staying home when I found out the release date.
Not a surprise to anyone who met me in the hotmail days of firstname.lastname@example.org – (honestly, that email address might still work, I should really check it out and see if I’ve missed anything over the past decade.)
I did go. I was fully prepared to activate my delayed gratification function for the absurd sketch show until we got home. There wasn’t supposed to be any wifi at the cottage. It was supposed to be a tech-less paradise. That’s why I didn’t bring a laptop. I would have used it. For Netflix. And work. Not vacation stuff.
Given the past year and a half, I honestly think my Netflix needs a vacation more than I do.
That’s not true. I need one. Needed one. Took one, regardless of making Tim Robinson wait til I got home, like the cat — and stupidly like the cat, I checked in on Tim. We tried to stream episodes of ITYSL on a tiny iPhone screen. I think 75% of that show’s comedy is in Tim Robinson’s face and teeth, so we missed a lot of it being on a teeny tiny screen. Why couldn’t I just have let it go? Because most everyone went to bed and those of us still up were drunk and high, that’s why.
The weather was less than ideal for vacationing. Except that one day where the outside was nice but Lake Ontario is always fucking freezing. Luckily laughter is a good substitute for sunshine and we had it in abundance.
Every cottage needs a cheese grater. FACT.
It’s a weird thing being on vacation with people a generation younger than you. Why is the music so uggggh jeeez?
The extravert that had been suppressed during lockdown reemerged AT THE COTTAGE. It’s so nice to feel the buzz of being around people once again.
It’s also nice to be home now. There’s still no place like it.
Anxiety is weird and sometimes I think my SSRIs are even weirder.
Follow the Path
I’ve recently rediscovered a love affair with hiking. I live near the Short Hills Provincial Park, and over the past year I’ve spent a lot of time getting reacquainted with nature trails, steep climbs and butterfly cocoons. It’s also a great way to get my rings closed (amirite?)
I’ve got pretty comfortable with one trail in particular. It takes just over an hour to hike the whole thing and there’s a lovely waterfall along the way. Delightful.
But every once in a while, I don’t want to take the comfortable trail. It’s human nature to explore, so I seek out new paths.
Earlier this week, I went off and followed a different path than usual. One that indicated at the beginning that no horses were allowed. It started very tame, but after a while yeah, I get why you wouldn’t want to bring a horse along with ya. I eventually started to realize I had no idea where I was in relation to where my car was parked. I considered returning in the same direction from where I came, but felt like I was already too far gone to go back. And anyway, I think I’d jumped onto a completely different path along the way, so I’m not even sure I would have been able to find my way back!
I take my phone with me when I go hiking because I’m not an idiot. There’s still a fair amount of cellphone reception in the Short Hills that I could find where I was on Google Maps and try to connect up with some of the main paths outlined in the GPS. Except that my iPhone 7’s battery ain’t what she used to be, and the power quickly began to drain from 30% to 20% and uh-oh now the bar’s gone red I should probably turn it off and hope for the best.
Thought Process Pre & Post Meds
This is where pre-medicated Brie would have started to freak out. I even felt the urge a few times too. Thoughts came up like “maybe now’s a good time to cry super loud or just sit down and bash your fist against the ground? Maybe that’ll be helpful!”
And just as quick as those thoughts occurred, I could feel ol’ SSRI stepping up to the bat:
“No need to cry Brie – just keep walking, you’ll connect with the right way back anytime now! Trust your cadet training and outdoor prowess” and;
“Keep going. 5% is more than enough juice to call someone!”
It did go a little far when I recall myself thinking:
“Don’t worry Brie, I’m sure if your phone dies, you can sleep in the woods overnight and find your way back tomorrow! It’s totally cool out here, you’ll love it! Curl up to a cuddly critter for warmth!”
Very shortly after that, I did reconnect with the main path easily made my way back to the parking lot.
However, it did make me wonder if sometimes my medication might work too well.
A little shameless self-promotion, which will only really be accessible to you if you speak or understand French. Unless there are subtitles available somewhere. I haven’t checked for that yet. I can’t do everything, people.
Anyway, one of the wonderful projects I was lucky enough to be cast in (over Covid!) has been released, and it’s a really lovely coming-of-age / take-down-the-man webseries about renovictions in Toronto. It’s beautifully shot, the cast is terrific. I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s called Ainsi va Manu.
I was a little reluctant to even audition for the role of Mme Gisèle because even though I’ve written “fluently bilingual” on every resume I’ve ever written, every time a new opportunity arises in my mother tongue (yes, I learned French first, actually though I now consider it my second language. There’s a whole section for folks like me in the census!)
In high school, I always got good grades in French. I felt I spoke it more often than most people in school (an all French-language school I should mention – Not French immersion) Grammar and spelling didn’t seem to be too big an issue.
Until I got to university and it turns out grammar was a huge problem. The majority of my courses were in french in first and second year. When I got to second year, I wrote an assignment in French and got a 60%. I wrote a second, similar type of assignment in English and got a 90%. When I approached the teacher, he basically told me my French was shit, and corrected my anglicisms WHILE I WAS SPEAKING TO HIM.
This wouldn’t be the first time I had someone actively criticize my French mid-conversation.
I tried to maintain my French – working in Ottawa for almost a decade, working in France for a year.
A here’s a fun thing that happens in the workplace you might not know about – when people know you speak French in a predominantly anglophone environment, you become the go-to person to translate things between French and English – even though you are not, in fact, a translator and you have the skills to complete work more that isn’t translation-based. You often get assigned translations anyway. Hey! How about that.
I left Ottawa – our officially bilingual capital eleven years ago. Francophones are in the minority in Toronto and Southern Ontario. But we still speak the language. Our accents are a bit different. What do you expect? We live a hop skip and a jump away from the US. We don’t speak it as often because it isn’t as readily available. We have to work harder to keep it up.
People wonder why the French language is dying in Ontario – in Canada. I think a huge part of it has to do with the fact that the people who DO speak the language are afraid to do so in public less their coworkers or university professors chastise them.
So yeah. I was a little reluctant to audition for the role.
But I was reluctant when I auditioned for Les improbables (now, the LIF) a few years back – Toronto’s french language improv group. There, there was no judgement (other than my own perceived one) – just an open welcome and desire to play on stage in our mother tongue.
I felt that support in Ainsi va Manu, as well. I’m very grateful about that.
En français maintenant !
J’ai eu la bonne chance d’être engagé (pendant Covide, même!) dans un merveilleux project qui viens tout juste de sortir. C’est une très belle webérie au sujet des rénovictions au Toronto, qui comprends des thêmes de passage à l’age adulte et de démolir “the man.” Le tournage est magnifique et les acteurs sont formidables. Je suis fière d’avoir être capable de participer.
Vous verrez la bande-annonce ci-haut ainsi que le lien aux autres épisodes.
J’avais honte d’avancer mon nom pour le rôle de Mme. Gisèle parce que, même si j’ai indiqué que je suis “complètement bilingue” dans chacun de mes CVs depuis toujours, ça me rend nerveuse chaque fois qu’une nouvelle opportunité m’est offerte dans ma langue natale (oui, j’ai appris le français en premier – même que maintenant je la considère comme ma deuxième langue. Il y a une section dévouée aux personnes comme moi dans recensement canadien. C’est super cool!)
J’ai bien réussi dans mes cours de français au secondaire. Je parlais la langue probablement plus souvent que la majorité de mes collègues (dans une école francophone, je dois mentionner – pas une école d’immersion. C’était tout en français sauf, bien sûr, les cours d’anglais.) La grammaire et l’orthographe ne semblaient pas être un grand problème.
J’arrive à l’université et soudainement la grammaire – c’est un grand problème. La majorité de mes cours étaient en français dans ma première et seconde année. En deuxième année à l’université, j’ai écrit un devoir en français et j’ai obtenu un résultat de 60%. J’ai écris un autre devoir semblable, mais en anglais, et j’ai reçu un 90%. J’ai voulu en discuter avec mon prof qui m’a dit essentiellement que mon français était horrible et ensuite m’a corrigé les anglicismes au fur et à mesure que je les faisais EN LUI PARLANT.
Ce ne serait pas la première fois que quelqu’un me critique mon français-parlé mi-conversation.
De même, j’ai voulu maintenir mon francais. Je suis resté à Ottawa pendant près de dix ans, et je suis parti travailler en France pendant un an.
Oh, et voici une chose très amusante qui se passe aux lieux de travail que vous ne connaissez peut-être pas – quand les anglophones savent que vous parlez français, vous devenez la personne pointe pour faire les traductions entre le français en anglais – même si vous n’êtes pas, en fait, une traductrice et que vous avez les habiletés de faire beaucoup de tâches qui n’ont rien à faire avec la traduction. Too bad. Vous allez avoir besoin de traduire quoi qu’il en soit. Eh! C’est le fun!
J’ai quitté Ottawa, notre capitale officiellement bilingue, il y a onze ans. Les francophones sont dans une position minoritaire à Toronto et dans le sud de l’Ontario. Mais, on parle toujours la langue. Nos accents sont un peu différents, mais à quoi attendez-vous? On habite un saut de puce et un bond des Etats-Unis. On ne le parle pas aussi souvent parce que ce n’est pas aussi accessible ou disponible. Nous devons travailler plus fort pour le maintenir.
Les gens se demandent pourquoi la langue française est en train de disparaître en Ontario – au Canada. J’imagine qu’une grande partie de la raison est parce que ceux qui parlent la langue ne veulent pas le parler de peur que leurs collègues de travail ou leurs professeurs d’université ne les réprimandent.
Alors voilà. J’étais un peu nerveuse pour aller à l’audition (virtuelle) pour le rôle.
J’étais aussi nerveuse pour l’audition avec les Improbables il y a une couple d’années – la troupe d’impro française de Toronto. (maintenant la LIF.) L’a, il n’y avait pas de jugement (sauf le mien envers moi-même) – c’était ouvert et accueillant avec un désir de jouer en scène dans notre langue maternelle
J’ai aussi retrouvé ce soutien avec Ainsi va Manu. Et pour cela, je suis très reconnaissante.
This week, I went golfing and got my vaccine. Let me tell you which of these hurt more.
I’m new to golf. Previously, I’d gone to a driving range once, and to a golf course (9 holes) once. To give a bit of context, the course I played was turned into aPetSmart MANY years ago. So, let’s just say it’s been a while.
More context. I live down the street from a lovely, affordable golf course.
Even more context. My brother is obsessed with golf. He’s mentioned it once or twice on our podcast, if you’ve had the chance to listen to it.
So, with the courses freshly opened after lockdown, we got to spend Memorial Day on the green. (My brother works for an American company, so even though we live in Canada, he gets US Holidays off.) (I’m a performing artist who gets to decide when I work, so no judgement for spending the bulk of a Monday afternoon getting some fresh air, alright?!)
How did it all turn out?
So much fun. And also, INFURIATING!!!!!
If that doesn’t sum up the beginner’s experience for mostthings, I don’t know what does.
I kept missing the ball at first, and then again near the end.
I could not for the life of me control in which direction the ball was headed.
The shots I wanted to go far barely moved forward at all, and the ones I wanted to hit closely went waaaayyy too far.
I was exhausted by the time we got to the 9th hole. We played the full 18.
Now luckily the fact that I teach improv to beginners has granted me a little more perspective than the first time I played over a decade ago.
Missing the Ball
Once or twice, missing the ball is hilarious. But more than that, and it’s beyond frustrating. I kept thinking to myself “I can hit a softball no problem, and this ball isn’t even moving. What gives?” Well, a few things give – and pardon my being crude but – let’s compare ball sizes for one. Second, I’ve been playing softball since I was a little kid. Most summers of my life have been spent in some capacity playing softball. “These are two completely different sports.” I had to remind myself and give myself a little grace.
If you’re brand new to something, it’s totally normal to miss a few shots.
No Ball Control
OK, I’m really starting to enjoy the amount of times I’ve written “ball” in this post so far. But it’s true. Step One complete. I hit the ball! Success. Now comes an even more difficult part: controlling the ball! We were super slow on the course, and had a couple parties play through – and many of them had difficulties getting the ball to go where they wanted. These folks have probably been playing for years and it was still a challenge. Sure, they recovered a bit more easily than I did – but again, this was the second goshdarn game of golf I’ve ever played in my LIFE.
Getting good at your craft takes practice. The proverbial 10,000 hours
Just because it felt like 10,000 hours out there on those 18 holes, in essence, I still have 9,995 hours to go.
Can’t Predict What’s Going to Happen
OK maybe when you get a bit better at the game, you can start to get a better sense of where your shots are gonna go. But certainly at this point, the results of my shots were completely unpredictable, which at times was extremely frustrating. But what the hell am I gonna do about it? I can’t go back in time and change the way I shot. You keep moving forward. Keep the ball rolling, literally, in this case.
I remember back to the first time I played. I was embarrassed at how poorly I was doing. I got angry at myself when my score was so much higher than par. I got angry at my golf partner because he was better than I was. (He had, in fact, played before.) I was a big ball of frustration. At least now, I understand those feelings, and when they came up, I accepted this as part of the process. Yes, your ball is going to all over the place, at times seemingly out of control. But the more you work on it, the more control you will wield. The more confidence you’ll have. The less you’ll need to blame it on the wind.
I certainly couldn’t predict my husband breaking my brother’s driver in half when shanking a shot. You want to talk about something that’s both hilarious and embarrassing? Sometimes your teammate will throw you an unpredictable shot too.
You are not alone in this game.
I could not believe how tired I was playing golf. Really when you think about it, you’re just walking around whacking a ball from time to time. It turns out doing that for four hours straight takes its toll on your body and your mind. My feet hurt, my legs were stiff, my shoulder’s were angry and I started making more and more mistakes. This thing that was at first fun hard was getting actually really hard.
I think is an important side note. If it’s not fun anymore, and you’re starting to resent it – it’s OK to take a little break. Come back and try again another time. It obviously important to know your boundaries and step away if the thing is no longer bringing you joy or servicing your needs in some capacity.
That being said, we finished the course.
I believe the reason I was able to finish the course is because the three of us were encouraging each other along the way. Looking out for each other if we lost our balls. Cheering each other on if we made it on the fairway. Championing our good (and not so good) putts. The people you surround yourself with truly impact your view on the whole game.
In case you’re not getting it, this whole article is a metaphor for improv. As an improv teacher, I should have probably made that more obvious at the get go. Go back and read it again. Learning something new is hard. Get in the present moment and enjoy the journey. If you need a reminder, take 10 years off and then try again.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been able to establish some relatively healthy boundaries and habits over the past few lockdowns. It’s one of the good things to come out of this overall really bad thing.
But I’m worried all these boundaries I’ve set and improved upon might just come crashing down after society opens up again and we’re allowed to go back out to “normal.”
Will these habits stick? Am I a changed person now? Or was all the work just a result of imposed boundaries from an outside source? Like how when you’re in school, it’s easy to meet deadlines because there are consequences if you don’t finish the work on time. But when you’re self-employed… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
When you have nothing else to work on, you can stay home and work on yourself.
I can one hundred percent turn down a Zoom show. No problem. Easy. There’s just too much Zoom!
But a one-off improv show at SoCap on a Wednesday night when I know I have a lot of stuff to do the next day, but maybe I’ll stay late and have a drink and catch up because what the hell, it’s “networking” and comedian friends are so friggin’ funny and hey, I haven’t seen them in two friggin’ years so OK maybe I’ll just have one…
What do you want? I’m an extrovert. This has been really hard for us.
CUT TO: It’s 3AM on the QEW and maybe I should just crash at my brother’s because I’ve got to be back in the City tomorrow… But no, I can’t wake him up now because he has to be up in three hours to go to work…I’ll just go home. I’ll grab a Coke to keep me awake for the rest of the drive, and heck, why not some nuggets too?
Pretty typical of the way things used to be.
Over the past little while, I’ve formed way better habits around:
Accounting & financial knowhow
Eating at home regularly
Getting the right amount of sleep (more than enough, in fact)
Exercising more regularly and getting more fresh air
More quality time with my husband (not like that pervs. I’m talking marathoning It’s Always Sunny because it counts as R&D in my line of work.)
I’m having a hard time not worrying about what comes after all of this. I’m getting my 1st dose of vaccine on Thursday, bringing me one step closer to “back to life, back to reality.”
So, when this is all done, will all this hard work fly out the window? Or am doomed to fall back into old habits?
Have I really changed that much?
When it comes time to go back to normal, will YOU want it to?
I know we’re on the other side of it now. There’s a promise of being able to gather together again soon, at least outdoors anyway, and here in Ontario. I am so comforted by this.
BUT we’re not completely out of the woods yet, and if you have goals or dreams you’ve been wanting to work towards, I’m here to tell you there will never be a perfect time or ideal circumstances. So just get on the damn horse.
I’m talking about improv, here. But if it applies to anything else you might be interested in learning or experiencing, then let it sink in for you too.
I really want to learn improv, but I don’t want to do it online. Should I do it online anyway?
A question I’ve been asked a few times over the course of the past year and some.
I’d rather eat a piping hot steak and twice-baked potato from the Keg in one of their fancy dining rooms and sip on some delicious Ontario VQA in candlelit ambiance. But that’s not in the cards yet. Is it gonna stop me eating meat and getting drunk? NOT. A. CHANCE.
Let me be clear, I really want to TEACH improv in person. But that ain’t happening any time soon. Am I going to do it online anyway? Oh hell yes.
Online Training – Pros and Pros
I’ve been finding so many great things about running improv classes online right now. If it’s something you’re passionate about, I don’t think there’s a point in waiting to do it in person. You’ll have missed out on however many months of doing this cool thing just waiting to be able to do it in the same physical space as other people. Meanwhile, once we get back in person again you’ll have all this experience under your belt to finally get to take to the stage!
(Actual response I sent someone.)
Who cares if when you play Word-At-A-Time you’re going to ask Tim to repeat his word twelve times? That’s just where we are right now. At least you’re putting in the work. Putting in the time. Building up those 10,000 hours.
When we get back to playing in person, it’ll be that much sweeter. I can’t wait to play mannequins again. Or touch to talk. Or any of the wonderful trust exercises / warm-ups that involves getting all tangled up and then untangling each other.
We’ll get there, but for now – make the most of your situation. Learn as much as you can about the non-touchy part of improv.
Yeah I know it’s been a weird year, and yeah I get it’s totally OK of all you accomplished this year was staying alive, breathing and not murdering your roommate. I’ve been posting YIRs since 2016 and I’m not going to stop now. If there’s anything we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that among all the chaos, there’s still a whole lot to be grateful for and it’s easy to miss if you don’t take a second to appreciate it.
My lighthouse word for 2020 was NOW. I got into reading some Eckhart Tolle thanks to Pete Holmes and felt it’d be some super great reading for an improviser, an anxious person and for life in general. I think 2020 was the perfect year to have chosen that word, and that NOW couldn’t have come at a better time.
Here’s some of the good to come out of my many NOWs in 2020:
Continued teaching improv with The Second City Training Centre & successfully transitioned to doing so online since March. During his process, I taught my first Level D class, the highest level I’ve taught thus far.
Improv Niagara wrote & performed a virtual sketch for Suitcase in Point’s Community Comedy Series
IN’s held our first ever student show, broadcast live via Facebook (because groups of 10+ were not permitted.)
Welland finally got a Starbucks
I stayed alive.
I Didn’t kill my roommate.
I’m thankful for all of the NOWs 2020 brought along and I do wish to continue working in being present and in the moment (luckily I’m in the right field for that.) NOW, my word for 2021 is very different. Stay tuned.
This Remembrance Day in particular, I’m mindful of these men.
These are The Dumbells. They were a comedy troupe consisting of Canadian soldiers during the First World War. Them, The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Comedy Company, and as many as 30 other such troupes performed in France to entertain their fellow troops, and to help boost morale.
It got me thinking that throughout history, there are always people who feel a call to lighten the darkness others experience during difficult times.
They’re out there now too, throughout this crazy pandemic. Trying to make us laugh. Taking our minds off the rising numbers and harsh news, if only for a moment.
Understanding what we’re all going through, and expressing it in such a way as to allow us to carry on a little further.
I strive to honour that particular calling. And today, I commemorate these giants who did under truly extreme circumstances.
Well hot damn, this took a turn. I’m always using my busy schedule as an excuse not to blog. Well, that’s not so much an issue now, is it? With Covid-19 spreading like wildfire (another very serious problem we’re also still facing globally), there seems to be nothing to do BUT write.
Or so I thought. But you’d be amazed all the stuff you can do instead of writing. I’ve managed to get all my physical receipts ready for tax time. Not enough, so I organized my husband’s too. I’m learning to teach improv online. (Yes, and… it’s gonna take some adjusting!) I’m sorting through junk drawers (and bags, anybody else got junk bags from moving so often?) I’m cleaning this and sanitizing that. I’m taking naps. I’m meditating. I’m watching way too much Netflix.
So here. Gah. Here I am, keyboard. Let’s type.
2020 was gearing up to be great and fun and BUSY:
I was about to teach more improv than ever before.
Improv Niagara had just secured a second monthly show, which was to take place in downtown Niagara Falls.
IN was about to make a huge deal about our 2nd Birthday Fallout show.
I was starting to get corporate gigs.
I was getting better at Pilates (ie farting less)
I’d received a newfound confidence from performing The Vagina Monologues in knowing a) I can, indeed, memorize big chunks of text b) I can, indeed, rock full-faux leather performance attire.
The last month of February was BUZZING. I’m telling you, BUZZING. A huge Improv Niagara event in Niagara Falls, followed immediately by two sold-out, explosive performances of The Vagina Monologues at Camp Cataract.
And now it comes crashing to a halt. No more shows. No more events of 250 people or more. Wait, now it’s 50. OK I get it. No more events. Gatherings = virus spreading. Non-essential services must cease.
Yes, of course, for the best. We must do our part to flatten the curve and keep as many people safe as possible. And yet, it is an adjustment. I guess at least with improv, we’re good with making those.