Acceptance, Crying & Puppy Presence

I learned a lesson from my dog today. I should clarify, she’s not technically my dog, particularly anymore. Me and my ex-girlfriend got her (Maggie) in the spring of 2014, but we broke up and I moved out July 2016. I moved to an apartment in the same building mostly because I wanted to still have a relationship with Maggie and I knew if I even lived as far away as a few blocks, life would make it terribly difficult to see her regularly.

In the year since I moved into this new apt. in the same building, I have seen a lot of Maggie. I was mostly working nights and weekends and my ex mostly works weekdays so we had a mutually beneficial relationship. I would come get Maggie weekday mornings, keep her til around 5 or so and drop her off before my ex got home.

Randomly, she would ask me to watch her more when she was busy or out of town. And whenever I had a truly free night at home (rare) my ex was kind enough to let Maggie stay over.

It was fairly perfect, to be honest. My life is too hectic to take care of a dog full time and my finances are such that I can’t afford to pay for help. So, my ex and I tag teamed the dog responsibilities and it was good.

Then two things happened. One, my financial situation worsened to where I needed to take on another job. So, I did. And it works me during the day time. Not ever week day, but so far, many of them. This has cut my time with her dramatically these last three weeks as I have been in training.

The second, was that my girlfriend who had moved in with me in May got a dog of her own. Her previous dog sadly passed away last fall and it’s taken her time to get to the point where she could logistically get another dog. The perfect circumstances aligned so that she could get one.

Trouble with the last one is that Maggie doesn’t not play well with other dogs. She was a rescue found on the streets malnourished, pregnant and scared. Not sure what all happened, but despite 5 different professional dog trainers and a lot of in home training, she loses her mind when another dog is around.

I thought she could still come over and I would simply shut Westley (Ryan’s new dog) in the bedroom. It’s a big room and he’s small. But my ex is not okay with it. I get it. It’s very problematic.

So, now I only get to see Maggie when I walk her in the afternoons. And because of my work schedule, that won’t be more than one or two days a week at best. Basically, where I used to see her often, I will now get to see her rarely and for very small doses.

When I found out about this last Saturday I cried harder than I can ever remember crying at all. The sadness is a bit overwhelming. Today was the first day I had seen her since Saturday and I full on ugly cried four times when I was with her. That’s a lot for me.

I rarely cry. And not just because I’m a man in a society that still stigmatizes that as a bad thing. While I’m sure that plays a part, the main reason I don’t cry I believe is because of my depression. I’m pretty much always a little sad. It makes me numb to sadness similarly to how people with tinnitus always hear a low hum ringing in their ear.

The way to get me to cry is to spike my sadness to extreme levels. Knowing my time with my dog is now super limited spiked them terribly badly. I’ve never had a child, so I can’t know if this feeling even comes close, but Maggie feels like a part of me spiritually speaking. And not seeing her makes me feel incomplete.

The good news…

From the moment I walked in my ex’s apt. Maggie did not cry. Can dogs cry? Anyway, she never seemed sad. She was just living perfectly in the moment happy to see me. And I know that I can get to that point myself. The sadness is temporary. I need to learn from my puppy and accept that this is how it is.

Once acceptance happens and grieving ends, that’s when we can enjoy what we have.

Here’s what I have:

I still have access to my dog sometimes. That’s more than a lot of people can say who lost their dog when the relationship stopped. Some people never see them again. And even though my time is limited, it still exists.

Also, I have Westley. He’ll NEVER replace Maggie. No dog ever could. But he’s a great dog. And he already loves me as I already love him. So, now I have two dogs that I love.

Lastly, I have the lessons that Maggie has taught me. She lives in the moment. She loves unconditionally. She reminded me what it was like to truly open my heart. And I can be a bit closed off at times. So, that lesson is terribly valuable.

Since writing this post I’ve added three my tallies to my ugly cries, but that’s okay. It’s part of the process. I will grow stronger from this experience.

Thanks, y’all.

3 Lessons I Just Learned From Pain

Yesterday I felt a ping in my back. It didn’t hurt so much, but there was some pressure in a spot that was not normal. It morphed into a pain that has hurt quite a bit. Sleeping was awful. And I woke up hurting like the Dickens.

I have no idea what caused it, by the way. It just started when I was on stage for a class show doing nothing close to strenuous.

After some medicine, a heat pack and an ice pick it still hurts, but it’s not super horrendous. Though I would MUCH prefer to not experience it in any way, shape or form.

Now, I could feel very defeated by all this and just play video games all day. And I did for a while. I will likely play more later too, because it does help me relax. But instead of letting a whole day go by without moving, I put on some jammie pants (never called them that before this moment), hat & sunglasses and took myself for a walk.

Walking doesn’t seem to exacerbate the problem. But the sunlight was very much needed.

Also, I’ve been working on a creative project all day that I’m trying to finish by Thursday. Nothing wrong with extending the deadline. It’s self imposed. And I know I would give me an extension if I really needed it. But I can sit and type. And part of what I need to do involves that very thing. So, I’ve been at work for an hour so far. When I finish this post, I’ll go back to it.

My point for saying all this? I’m proud of myself for learning a lesson amidst the pain making me feel empowered rather than just succumbing to the pain and feeling defeated.

The main lesson: Pain is temporary

I’m currently broke. And it stresses me out. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the stress was a contributor to this back pain. The stress is a lot. I used to make more than enough money to live my meager existence. Currently, I don’t really.

And when I was thinking about this pain I realized that it’s highly likely to be temporary. Whatever’s wrong will almost assuredly heal at some point. Often times I can get tunnel vision. I’m like a baby in that I don’t realize that pain goes away. But after realizing that, I noted that my financial situation is a form of pain too.

And that means, I can look at it like something that will heal. And while that realization doesn’t completely void my stress it does help.

That’s huge!

What else did I learn? That when I have a problem that is clearly causing me to focus on it and not open myself up to the universe for potential solutions that I have to force myself to calm down and do something. I made myself go for a walk to get some sun on me. I knew it would bring me some Zen if I just got the blood flowing and let the sun’s heat on my skin.

While I was out there, I thought I’d take a selfie and tell Facebook what was going on. I just thought it was funny given what I looked like (see pic above).

Here’s the caption:

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 3.38.34 PM.png

Just now noticing the typo. Anyway, guess what happened next?

A good friend of mine who has medical knowledge is going to come over and help me stretch and stuff.

So, I might get rid of or significantly reduce this pain today because I made a choice to do something. I took myself for a walk. And that led to a series of events that may result in me getting healed.

Summary of this lesson: Don’t forget to do something for yourself when you’re in pain

And there’s even a third lesson.

See, it hurts when I breathe because this pain is exacerbated by expanding my ribs/chest. So, every breath hurt. But then I remembered that when I meditate I actively try to breathe thru my stomach.

It took a minute to figure out how, but I am now mainly breathing with my gut. It still stretches my ribs some, but not as much. However, I don’t breathe that way in consciously.

Summary of this lesson: Don’t forget to be mindful of your breathing when you’re in pain

That’s it for me. I appreciate all the well wishes on social media.

Thanks, y’all!

‘Fame’ or ‘The Hardest Blog Post I’ve Ever Written’

I don’t remember a specific moment in my life when I first clearly thought, ‘I want to be famous.’ But I have held that sentiment since early adolescence if not childhood.

And to be clear, I am talking about the type of fame that happens to people for their positive artistic accomplishments as opposed to being famous for any other reason (ie. assassination).

A few people have challenged me on this before by saying something akin to, ‘How do you know you want to be famous when you’ve never tried it.’ And that’s fair enough. For years I had to accept that fact that I couldn’t guarantee 100% that I would like it. Then in 2010, I got hired to perform on cruise ships with the Second City.

If you’ve never taken a cruise, it feels like it’s own closed universe for seven days. And that universe has its own famous people. The cruise director, the Captain, and the entertainers, etc. For one week, a number of people in that  cruise ship universe have a shared knowledge of those few who for all intents and purposes, become ship famous.

So, to an extent, I do know what it’s like to be famous. And I absolutely love it. I loved it when random passengers would stop me in the halls and say they liked the show and ask me to take a photo with them. I liked the awkward people in the elevator whispering at a level they assumed I couldn’t hear when they said, ‘Is that him? He’s one of the comedians. I think that’s him. Should we say something?’ I even loved those weirdos who clearly didn’t know how to socialize well who would sometimes talk my ear off for twenty minutes about themselves or their cats or whatever.

And I enjoyed all of it.

As a writer/performer I assumed that if I worked hard enough and stayed at it long enough, I would get cast on a TV show or something like that and I would then actually become famous.

Then I would reap the benefits of fame such as getting invited to be on podcasts hosted by other famous people who I adore, being asked to sit in people’s improv shows, and finding my face on fan made memes on social media.

I know there’s a lot more to it than that, but the point is, I want all of this. I’ve always wanted all this. And I don’t have it. Nor do I see any likely way for me to get this anytime soon.

As a 35 year old, I can do the math. I realize that every birthday means one less potential year of my life to accomplish this goal. I’ll be 36 in a few months. I know to many people, that’s young. I’m not trying to say ‘I’m old’ in a whiny way. But the fact is that I’ve been an adult for nearly 18 years and if I’m lucky I’ll live hopefully another 50.

The odds of me achieving fame beyond cruise ships decrease as time passes by.

So, what do I do with this?

Well, up til now, I’ve carried this desire in the form of depression and anxiety. I’m depressed that I’m not famous. I’m anxious, because I want to be, but don’t know how to do it.

And it hurts…a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is pretty good overall. My girlfriend is amazing, my mom is fantastic, my friends are great, my dog is awesome, my students are awesome, and my audiences are usually awesome.

The circumstances of my life are overall good. I’m broke, but other than that, I’m doing pretty well. But my depression and anxiety flare up way too often and way too intensely to allow me to accurately say I’m living life to the fullest.

There’s a quote from the movie Cool Runnings spoken by John Candy’s character that goes, ‘A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”

Switch ‘gold medal’ for ‘fame’ and/or ‘accomplishments’ and it applies perfectly to me. I’m finally realizing the lesson I need to learn from this beautiful quote.

As difficult as it is to admit, I’m guilty of thinking just like the character of Derice in the movie Cool Runnings. He wanted the gold medal more than anything. And he hated himself for not having it. He believed he wasn’t enough without it. And that’s how I respond to my desire for fame.

You see I measure (aka grade) myself by fame. Since I don’t have it, that’s an automatic mark off the grade I give myself. And the rest of my grade is measured by my earnest attempts at accomplishing things in hopes to get famous. In other words, I can’t have an A+ at life, because I’m not famous. Best I can hope for is an A. But I only get an A if I can honestly say, “I’m doing everything I can to get there.” And I’m a harsh teacher.

If I don’t book an audition because I made a mistake that theoretically I could have avoided if I’d only put more prep time into it, I beat myself up something bad. Much like the Counter Terrorism Unit in 24 I do not accept any mistakes.

I thought it was the best way to treat myself. But it’s not. I effectively have become my own Delores Umbridge (re: Harry Potter) in that I punish myself for not getting the grade that I demand of myself based on the criteria I came up with for myself.

Let’s break that down real quick. I’m in charge of the fact that I’m grading myself at all. I’m also the one who wrote out the rules. And I’m the one who doles out the punishment.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t self flagellate or anything. I don’t consciously punish myself. I don’t even consciously have a grading system. Everything I’ve been saying about this is stuff that I am just realizing tonight. Maybe it’s a ‘break thru.’ I hope so, because I need something.

Why is this the hardest blog post I’ve ever written? Because I’m embarrassed. I feel like I sound douchey. The words I’m writing – in my mind – sound like an adult male whining about not being famous when we live in a world with about a zillion more important problems to deal with.

Also, I hate admitting all this, because it seems like such an easy fix. If I wrote a blog post about how I was angry that my shirt was dirty, anyone would be well within their rights to respond by simply saying, ‘Then just wash it.’ And I fear that people will read this and think, ‘Just stop beating yourself up.’

It’s a sentiment I hear a lot. And very well meaning people think they’re being helpful by saying it. They’re not. ‘Don’t beat yourself up’ for me is the equivalent of ‘Just grow hair on your head.’ I would LOVE to not beat myself up. And sometimes I do. Sometimes I’ll go days or even weeks without feeling that self imposed harsh judgment. But it always comes back. And it sucks.

I’ve read so many books and articles, listened to so many podcasts and watched so many videos on how to be a better person. How to love myself and minimize fear. But I’m still stuck. And I think a huge component to all this is my desire for fame.

So, what am I going to do? I don’t know the exact procedure, but the goal will be to get to the point where I do not actually want fame in any active way.

I’ll never not want it. But I can at least (hopefully) eliminate it as a goal I’m actively working on.

For example, I’d love to see the pyramids in Egypt. But I don’t get upset by the fact that I haven’t. And if I never see them, I’ll still have the opportunity to live a fulfilled life. I’d love to see them, but doing so does not make or break me.

I need fame to become like the pyramids. Hope to get there one day. Will be excited and grateful if I do, but I am good enough to live a happy and awesome life without it.

Wish me luck as I attempt to reset my brain after 20-30 years and recalibrate my priorities. For me it’s almost like mourning the loss of a friend or losing my hair. It’s going to be a big change. But I need this change, because I deserve to live a happy awesome life that is not overshadowed by a self imposed dark cloud.

Thanks, y’all.

 

My Rocky-Style Montage

Remember in the 1980s when practically every comedy or action movie had at least one montage? My favorite is an obvious classic: Rocky.

 

When Rocky needed to become the best version of his boxing self he committed to training and we got to see that training in the form of a montage. Smash cuts from him running the streets of Philadelphia to punching slabs of meet in a cold room. He dedicated himself to the work he needed to do to become the best boxer he could. Because he knew that was the only way he had a chance to keep up with Apollo Creed.

 

You’d think all those montages would be an eye opener to a kid who for whatever reason believed that it was more about natural talent than hard work. Would have been nice if I’d emulated those montages everytime I wanted to be better at something.

 

But, like many people I would often ‘commit’ to things and then rarely do anything about it.

 

Now, I’m 35 and life is moving quickly by. And I don’t wanna do a montage now, because for starters, it’s hard. It takes a lot of time. And I’d much rather play video games.

 

There are probably other reasons, but those are more than enough. And those reasons kept me from being a hard worker for years. In December I told myself it was time. So, I set out a very ambitious goal to write a completed rough draft of an original pilot script once per month.

 

It’s April 5 and I’m happy to report that I have three pilots done and I’m already done with the outline and two pages into my fourth.

 

In order to satisfy my goal I merely need a completed first draft every month. But I can’t just do the bare minimum. I feel like I’m in school again in that regard. My January pilot is in revision 7 and my February pilot is in revision 5.

 

So, what I’m saying is that I’m in the middle of my own Rocky-style montage right now. And I can tell you it is not as fun as movie montages. Movie montages have one high energy song that plays from start to finish. There are quick cuts, so we don’t actually see Rocky do 100 one handed pushups. We just see a few and are led to believe it’s 100 in total.

 

Also, in real life you can’t just devote every waking moment to training. At least I can’t. I need to make money. I need to spend time with my girlfriend, my dog, my friends. I need to read, watch and listen to media. I need to go hiking, pay bills, run errands, perform in shows, hustle to find private clients when I am short on cash, etc.

 

So, my montage is taking a long time. It would make for a relatively boring movie montage even with a great song and killer camera movements. It’s just me at my computer typing. The most variance I do is go from typing the script itself to typing out notes in a separate document or typing in search engine terms to research something.

 

My point is that while I absolutely am satisfied with how I’m spending my time, I have to deal with the fact that my movie montage is almost nothing like a movie montage. It’s hard work in real time with no specific soundtrack and no script that definitively knows what the future holds. I knew from watching Rocky that it was going to pay off. That’s how most Hollywood stories work. I could predict it. I cannot predict that my hard work will yield anything. I hope it does. That’s why I’m doing it.

 

But right now I am working hard and sacrificing a lot of video game time to create scripts that may or may not ever get sold or even read by someone in the industry.

 

And to be perfectly honest, I’m not okay with that. I am betting big on myself. And I think I am afraid that I won’t pay off. And that I’ll be really disappointed in myself. And then I’m fraid I’ll go back to hating myself – which was a big problem for me for many years.

 

Anyway, I gotta stop writing his, because I need to go work on my fourth pilot.

 

If you have never had your own Rocky montage, I encourage it. If nothing else, you’ll be super proud of yourself for setting goals and sticking with them. And for those of you who have already gone through a montage or two, I commend you and hope you came out happier on the other side.

 

Thanks, y’all!

Me & My Bad Memory…and What I Need to Do About It

Over the past three years if you know more or read this blog, you would likely know I’ve been pushing myself thru self improvement with my depression and anxiety. And I have had many victories. My lowest is now much higher than it used to be. Panic attack frequency has gone down dramatically. They are now few and far between. I have improved my productivity by a ton. And I’ve pushed myself to be more relaxed in social situations.

A lot of what I learned boils down to the essential ingredient of ‘love yourself.’ Forgive me if it sounds like living in Southern California has changed me, but as hippie dippie as it sounds, ‘love yourself’ as I’ve come to experience it is like a real miracle cure. I don’t wanna get into that too deeply, because I’ve mentioned that a lot in several previous posts. And honestly, rather than another short description, I’ll just write a whole post on it later.

Anyway, there is an area in my life where I still need to apply this philosophy. There may be several more areas where I should do this that I’m still blind to, obviously I can’t know. But as I discover them, I need to remedy that.

That area is my memory.

I used to have an excellent memory. I remembered most every part of every meaningful conversation I had ever had. I was good. And what was even more awesome was that people would sometimes approach me like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you remember me, but we did that one promotions gig for US Cellular together four years ago.’ And I’d respond with, ‘It’s Tiffany, right? You’re from Detroit and you have two cats?”

And I felt like a bad ass.

Now, my memory is not great at all. Not only will I not remember your name, hometown and pet status, but I may not remember your face or the interaction at all. But most often this happens to people who approach me like, ‘Hey, Rich! Great to see you.’ And I’m faced with the awful dilemma of fessing up and saying, “I apologize. I don’t remember you. Remind me where we met?” Or spending our conversation in my head trying desperately to match your face and words with anything in my mental filing cabinet.

I’ve done both and they’ve both turned out badly.

Also, this usually only happens in social situations where I’m often in a place that isn’t super well lit, but I might be.

A few years ago I ran into my friend Lindsay Goldapp at the Dallas Comedy Festival. We were in the theatre. The lights had gone down. And I had completely forgot that she had moved back there. I get a tap on my shoulder and she’s like, ‘Rich! How are you? Good to see you!’ And what I could see of her shadowy face did not ring in my brain as someone I knew. So, I said something like ‘Hey. I’m sorry. Tell me your name again.’ And she looks at me like I’m a complete moron and says, ‘It’s me. It’s Lindsay.’

I may be slightly misquoting, but the meaning’s the same. Anyway, I instantly felt like a moron. My synapses fired and all my memories of her associated with who I was speaking to. But there was no putting the genie back in the bottle. I made it awkward. I asked someone to tell me their name even though it had only been a few years since I’d seen a lot of her in Chicago.

She may not even remember this for all I know. But I felt like a jackass instead of a badass.

Last night I attended a party that was filled with people I know from the Westside Comedy Theatre. And they’re all awesome. But there are also like 300 of them or more. And I don’t remember about 40% of their names on the spot. These are people I’ve seen several times over the past three years.

So, I often just talk to someone as if I might know them hoping to figure it out, before I need to recall anything out loud. I makes me feel awful, because I’m not fully listening to them. I’m listening to parts and then sending some of my attention neurons off to analyze what I’ve heard for clues. And half the time my lack of recall gets noticed anyway.

Another thing that happens way too often is that I forgot something fairly important about a close friend. Either a conversation we had that was meaningful or a fact about them that they probably don’t share with too many people.

I think I know why my memory’s not as sharp. If you’re interested, my theory is that I now meet so many more people, because I have so many different social groups that are all expanding in some way. And I’m just at capacity. I have to shift to a whole new subset of people for different functions.

That is a part of it, but I mainly think  my memory isn’t so great, because I feel stress living this bohemian hand to mouth starving artist life. Another thing you may know about me is that I”m a writer/actor/comedian/teacher who is 35 and living a fairly meager existence in hopes that all the free work I’m doing now (making videos, performing, writing, etc.) will one day pay off into a well paying job. And then I won’t have to sweat every month when a bill is due.

A big part of my self improvement attempts is about how I’m becoming a more disciplined worker. And I’m very thankful for that. That’s the only chance I have to graduate to the next rung in my career ladder.

However, what I have not worked on enough is how to cope with and even enjoy life when it still feels so unstable financially speaking.

That stress gets to me a lot sometimes. I’m working on it. But I know it affects me when I’m socializing. It’s difficult for me to ruminate and think about the night I just had, because I need to get back to the grind stone. Gotta produce. Gotta crush it.

I remember once hearing the quote, ‘When you aren’t working you have no days off.’

That made sense to me, because I was looking for full time jobs at the time and every day I didn’t have a guaranteed job coming up was a day I felt I needed to spend all day applying for jobs. It was exhausting.

I’m not looking for a full time job right now, but I am instead spending all my free time working insanely hard to make things. I allow myself social time 2-3 times per week. And that’s 2-3 more times than I used to only a few months ago.

I know I need to strike a better work life balance. I’m working on it. In the mean time it’s affecting my memory.

My point to all this? I am ashamed of my stress induced bad memory. It’s a part of me I don’t want you to see or know about. If I hide it from you, it’ll be okay, right?

Nope. Gotta love myself. All of myself. Even the parts of me I don’t like. And what better way to remove it from hiding than to write a blog post about it and put it on Facebook and Twitter.

So, here I am to say that ‘My name’s Rich and I have a bad memory.’ The first time I noticed I had a bad memory was…umm…hang on, I wrote it down I think…where’d I put my notebook? Oh boy.

Thanks, y’all!

Coming Out of a Depressive Episode

Today, for the first time in two weeks, I don’t feel oppressed by an undefinable, but still very powerful force. That force is Depression. I’ve had it – as far as I can tell – my whole life. Didn’t start dealing with it until I was 18. Didn’t make palpable steps toward battling it until the last two years.

So, why am I excited to write about it?

Because I can see my demonstrable progress and it’s awesome.

Duration: Two weeks sounds like a long time to be depressed and frankly it is a long time. But so far in 2017 this has been my longest stint of depression and I used to have 3-6 months at a time. If two weeks is my new definition of ‘long’ then I’m killing it!

Productivity: A huge part of how depression affects me involves my productivity. I remember going days without doing much of anything – sometimes that included showering. Depression fights me tooth and nail to stop doing anything other than Facebooking or Netflixing. These last two weeks I have gotten a decent amount of stuff done. And I know that because I track everything now.

Whether it’s health (eating & exercising), work (teaching, writing) or leisure (time with girlfriend, friends, movies) I have lists and charts that I keep daily. And I can look back at the last two weeks and see that my workouts and eating dipped a bit, but overall were still pretty good. I spent a lot of time with amazing friends, and I still managed to accomplish a number of work related tasks.

Coming Out of It: It’s always a weird eye opening experience to come out of a depressive episode. I don’t know if others experience it the same way or not, but for me it’s almost like I’ve been wearing a heavy blanket over my head. And today for whatever reason, the blanket is gone. I can stretch and look up and experience things more richly again.

The trouble is that in the past I would shed this metaphorical blanket and then realize that the last two weeks (or however long) was a depressive episode. And then I would remember that I’ve accomplished next to nothing in that time. I would look at everything on my to do list and understand that I am way behind on all of it. This would overwhelm me often shoot me back into depression.

If you ever feel depressed or anxious, you need to believe that it can get better. It takes a lot of work and the process will feel excruciatingly slow, but you can do it. And even though I will likely never be completely cured of depression I can make it happen less frequently and less intensely.

Thanks, y’all!

 

How I Plan to Accomplish A Huge Project: Race to Failure

A few months ago I decided that 2017 would be the year I confidently added ‘TV Writer’ to my resume. Not saying I’ll necessarily get hired to write for a TV show this year (but wouldn’t that be cool?), but rather I will be confident in my skills to do so.

How was I planning to do this? A stupidly ambitious/stressful endeavor called: Project 12 Pilots. I didn’t feel the need to be creative with the project title. Saving my creativity for the project itself. It’s pretty self explanatory. By the end of 2017 I want to have twelve different original pilot scripts in my hands. One per month…crazy, right?

Why am I doing this? I have many artistic talents I could focus my energy/effort into. So, why writing? And why television?

I currently perform and teach improv as my meager living. I’m great at both. Love ’em. And I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Even if I made it crazy big and became a revered and famous name I would still make time to perform and teach improv. But I don’t want to stake my financial future on teaching or performing. They simply don’t pay that well.

I used to perform stand up for ten years. I loved it. But the life of a stand up is often filled with a lot of solo travel between low grade motels. And I just don’t want to do that.

I am an actor and have built up my resume over the years. If I pushed it hard enough I could probably gain some more traction as such. And while I’m still going to audition and act, I do not want to focus the majority of my energy on that.

I have always loved writing. I was a writer/artist before I was anything else. Some of my happiest memories are of me alone in my bedroom in Texas on a cool spring afternoon with the window open so I could feel the breeze, lying front side down while doodling/writing in one of the many sketch books my mom had bought me. I drew and wrote about characters and stories. I created comic books, short stories, songs, info pages and portraits on those beautiful blank pages.

Most of what I did as a young age, was super derivative of existing works. For example, I wrote 4 or 5 issues of a comic book called ‘Teenage War Raccoons’ which were raccoon versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They had different weapons and names, but otherwise it was pretty much the same. They’re enemy’s name was ‘Dicer.’ Damn, I was clever.

Other than stand up, sketch and occasional prose I went for years without writing. I focused on performing. And I got good. I have a resume I’m super proud of as a performer. I’ve worked for Second City, Mission Improvable, ComedySportz, Comedy Shrine, the iO and many other places. My two man troupe Rollin’ In Riches has performed in eight states and been asked to teach workshops in multiple cities and festivals. I am currently a member of Mission Improvable who routinely plays to sold out houses every Friday and Saturday night in Santa Monica. I love what all I’ve accomplished as a performer.

And now I want another challenge. I want to reinvent myself with something that I have been since I was a child.

By the way, writing this blog post is insanely difficult for me. I apologize if I come off as bragging. My whole life I have been turned off by braggarts while simultaneously always feeling insecure about my accomplishments. And for the first time I’m completely secure in saying that I’m good at something. It still feels weird to say, but I realize that ‘bragging’ comes from insecurity. While knowing you’re good at something comes from self confidence – a trait I have worked hard to build up, because I never had any my whole life.

Anyway, back to the project. Why television and not movies or plays or novels? A few reasons.

1. Time invested. I have experienced more television than theatre, cinema or novels. I love them all, but at the end of the day, I have logged more hours experiencing it.

2. Time v. Output. I don’t currently have the patience to write a novel. I finished the rough draft of one last year and I understand how much time it’s going to take me to revise it several times before I have a finished product. I want to have something I can label ‘finished’ sooner than the next year. Same goes for plays or screenplays. It simply doesn’t take as long to finish a pilot, because it’s shorter. If I modified this project I bet I could only finish 1 novel, 2 or 3 screenplays, or 2 or 3 plays by the end of this year at best. I’d rather have 12 pilots.

So, why twelve?

I had already written one pilot before. It took me about eight weeks, but I wasn’t super focused. I am assuming I can knock one out per month and have the endurance to keep that up for a year.

Will this work?

Yes. Either I’ll make twelve scripts or I won’t. If I don’t, I’ll have learned a lot from the experience. If I do, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment.

And that’s the crucial point for this post. I am okay with failing at this. It’s the only way I can embark on this ridiculous commitment. If It was ‘succeed or die’ I’d feel too much pressure and just quit before I started.

I am racing to failure. I write something like ‘work on your outline today (dare to make it super shitty)’ on my to do lists. Again, it’s the only way I can do them. If every outline, draft, joke had to be awesome I would be paralyzed with overthinking each move and I wouldn’t get it done. And I’d quit.

I am trying to anticipate what will cause me to not finish this project and fix the problem before it starts. While there are many other things I’m doing, the most important is the mantra ‘dare to fail.’ It’s what I tell my improv students. And it’s easier for me to say. I have been doing improv for 18 years. So, now I’m putting it to practice with something that truly scares me.

At the end of the year I aim to have twelve pilots. They might all suck. But will I have lost much? I will either get better as I do it or I’ll learn that I can’t get better and abandon the idea. Sounds like I win either way. And either way, I will be able to completely back up the statement, “I am a TV writer.”

Thanks, y’all!

 

Anxiety & Crowds: My Kryptonite

Tonight a friend of mine had a birthday party at a bar I’d never heard of. I had a class til 10, so I zipped over there at 10:30 to stop by for a bit. I get to the bar and find that it is a small space filled to the brim with people – typical of L.A.

I circled the bar the best I could, but couldn’t find her. Maybe I happen to arrive when she was in the restroom or something. But I discovered something about myself in that brief two minutes…my stress level skyrocketed.

This is not news to me, per say. I am 35 and have been in many crowded loud bars. But this was the first time that I ever stopped to take notice of exactly what I was feeling. My anxiety went into overdrive. I felt shaky, nervous and on edge. So…I left.

I never saw my friend, but I couldn’t take it. I didn’t want to be there.

I will send her an email apologizing for missing her party after saying that I would be there. And I genuinely am sorry for not making it. But I realized tonight that I need to take care of myself.

I am easily prone to stress, depression and anxiety anyway. I simply cannot keep voluntarily putting myself in situations that exacerbate those problems.

Crowds have always been unpleasant to be around. A few months ago, I went to a karaoke bar in the valley with three people and we were the only non-employees there. We stayed about two hours. By the time we left more people had arrived, but the total was only ten or twelve max. And I had an amazing time. I sang six times. I never bumped into anyone. I didn’t have to raise my voice to speak to the person next to me, or dip my ear to hear them.

Now, that particular situation is rare, especially in Los Angeles. So, I know I cannot expect to find that too often. Which unfortunately means that I’m not going to be frequenting too many bars.

During the two minutes I was circling this bar tonight searching for my friend I noticed that everyone there seemed to be having a good time. People were dancing, talking and laughing. And I realized that I have no idea how they do it. I don’t know what’s fun about any of that. And that’s okay. Many of those people might not understand what I find so fun about playing a game of RISK with five people for three hours. Different strokes and what not.

If you were at my last two birthday parties you might wonder how I could have had fun since they happened at a bar that got pretty crowded too. Here’s how: 1. the bar I went to was much larger 2. There was an outdoor area and apparently that makes a difference 3. It wasn’t crowded when I first got there, so I was quite liquored up by the time the crowd formed 4. I hadn’t had this realization yet. Not sure what I’m going to do for my next birthday, but after discovering this, I’m going to be looking at a potential house party or something outdoors maybe.

So, if I know you and you’re having a bar party at a small place that will likely be crowded, I apologize in advance if you don’t see me there. But I gotta take care of myself and those situations do me way more harm than good.

Thanks, y’all!

Playful & Taskmaster and Me

I am of two minds. I have two very distinctly different personalities. They’re both very important, but neither one of them can drive my life well without relying on the other. I simply call them ‘Playful’ and ‘Taskmaster.’

 

When I was a kid I would often sit in my room and just daydream. I had no plans or responsibilities. I would just imagine stuff. Occasionally I would write out, draw or act out what I had imagined. My mom still has boxes full of notebooks I filled when I was a child. I miss those times.

 

Back then ‘Playful’ was full in control. I’m not even sure ‘Taskmaster’ existed back then. If he did, he mainly only existed to execute orders by others like teachers and parents. As I got older I accrued more and more responsibilities like most everyone else does. But I was never all that great at self motivation. Occasionally I would come up with an idea I wanted to execute and I would make it happen. But the older I got, the less frequently that would occur. I spent so much of my taskmaster energy doing what others told me to do (work, study, chores) that I never matured that side of me very much at all.

 

I became an adult who didn’t often do what I wanted to do. I worked for people for money in order to survive. I aimed my life toward being creative professionally, but I kept waiting for others to give me permission to do things. For example, I wanted to tour the country doing comedy. So, I auditioned for Second City & Mission Improvable. Neither cast me at first. And so I gave up on that dream. I didn’t search out other touring troupes or try to form my own. I just accepted that if they weren’t going to hire me it wasn’t going to happen.

 

I spent the vast majority of my time and energy working for other people and not doing much in the way of self motivated projects. When I moved to L.A. I had a great resume for an improviser/sketch performer, but I had very little to show in anything else.

 

As is the case with most people who move to L.A. to get into the world of HOllywood, I did not hit success right out of the gate. I realized that the only way to really do what I wanted to do (write and act for camera) was to push myself. So, I learned techniques and philosophies from books and interviews about self motivation. I started to do a few things here and there.

 

And it went pretty well considering. I have a YouTube channel. I got to be part of a truly viral video and I have an IMDB page with ten credits. I’m still not nearly as far along in my career as i want to be, but I am way further ahead than I was. The trouble was that while I was developing ‘Taskmaster’ I was very much ignoring ‘Playful.’

 

The playful part of me wants to do playful things like hang out with friends, listen to music for hours on end, binge watch TV, hike, go on trips and stuff like that. The taskmaster in my knows that when I’m doing that stuff I’m not accomplishing anything toward my career and therefore sees that as a hindrance.

 

And I realized that what had happened was I put ‘Taskmaster’ in control of everything. And I locked ‘Playful’ away in a cell demanding that he do things for me such as write and act without allowing him to play.

 

And I was miserable. I was yelling at myself for wanting to do the things that I love to do the most. And I realized that something had to change.

Now, I understand that both Taskmaster and Playful work for me. I’m the boss. And good bosses reward their staff for a job well done. They give their employees kudos, gifts, vacations and fun outings. A good boss doesn’t yell unless it’s absolutely necessary (which it rarely ever is), but instead encourages, guides and helps.

 

So, this year I plan on bringing balance to my life way more. I’m going to accomplish a lot while also relaxing and having fun. I need both. I’m fairly certain this will cause me to significantly decrease my worry and anxiety. How am I going to do it?

 

Aside from all the things I’ve been changing in my life (reading more, meditating regularly, breathing more, etc.) I will recognize that the two sides to my personality are not at all at war with each other. They need each other and balance each other out like Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, Stan & Kyle or Key & Peele. So, I’ve made a list of strenghts and weaknesses for both:

 

Creative Side 

Fun/nice/energetic

Gets scared easily

Knows how to relax

Not great at focusing on one thing

Finds new and creative ways to solve problems

Smiles a lot

Does not respond well to scolding

Likes to free write and be insightful

Encourages

 

Taskmaster side

Productive/organized/on time

Gets frustrated easily

Knows how to persevere

Not great at melding ideas

Executes actions that are repetitive or that I’ve done before

Can endure discomfort in order to accomplish a task

Needs structure and order

Likes to schedule and organize

Cracks the whip

 

My taskmaster side needs to chill a bit. It’s doing a phenomenal job, but it needs to remove the stick up his ass. And to be fair, that stick is there solely because I have placed outrageous productivity demands on him. I need to be the type of manager I love to be managed by. I will genuinely let go of the anger I get when I don’t do something I want to do. I will let go of the absolute need to get pissed off if my plans don’t unfold the way I want them to. Let it go.

 

My creative side needs to breathe thru the stress just a bit and realize that it’s best if we can restrict play time to happen when I need it to and not just whenever I feel like it. If I’ve got a crazy hectic day, there won’t be  much time for play, but I will recognize that and plan something fun in the very near future to make up for it.

 

My taskmaster side needs to realize that even though I do desperately want to change my life, that I will lose a lot of happiness if I deprive myself of too many things or yell at myself for not working hard or fast enough. My taskmaster side is a leader, an encourager and a motivator.

 

My creative side needs to realize that it’s going to be even more fun when my creativity coalesces into something more than just ideas waiting to be developed. We need the taskmaster to help us finish our books, sketches, screenplays, blog posts, etc. My creative side is awesome, but by itself it’s not good enough to make it happen.

 

So, that’s basically it. No matter the situation, one of the two sides of me is going to be better at it than the other. It is up to me to recognize when I need to play and when I need to work. I will encourage myself rather than yell at myself. I will try to have the most fun I can while still accomplishing what I need to get things done.

 

Realizing this was a true epiphany. In hindsight it seems quite obvious, but I never realized there were multiple sides to me. I saw myself as simply having flaws. But they’re not flaw, they’re strengths to be used at different times in different situations.

 

And that excites me for what I’m going to do with my life from now on.
Thanks, y’all!

2016 – Rich’s Greatest Hits

Was 2016 a particularly cruel year compared to other years of the past? For many of us, the answer is unequivocally ‘yes.’ However, I believe we can mine shiny pretty things from even the muckiest of mucks.

So, I choose gratitude and positivity. And in the spirit of such, I will tell you the highlights of my 2016. I don’t have the best of memories, so this won’t be completely comprehensive, but that’s okay. Let’s begin

1. I met the love of my life

Her name is Ryan. We met when one of my closest friends and comedy partner Rolland Lopez turned to me in the car after looking on OKCupid and saying, ‘Rich, this girl’s perfect for you.’ He wasn’t looking for a girl for me, but he recognized that it was the right call to tell me. I can never thank him enough. Ryan and I have been together nearly seven months and it’s by far the best relationship I’ve ever had. So thankful for her.

2. I travelled a lot

Between touring with Mission Improvable and Rollin’ In Riches I got to perform for and meet a number of amazing people all across the country.

3. I Taught Many People

I’ve been a teacher for many years and seeing a student leave my class feeling better about themselves because they have learned a bit more never gets old. I coached improv teams, individual actors and improvisers. I directed a sketch team, taught people how to rap, how to write and how to perform. In total it was easily more than 500 students across the country. I love my job.

4. I moved

My ex and I had broken up last October, but stayed living together til June. We said it was because of money, but it was mostly because of fear. I give her all the credit for catalyzing the actual move. She came in from out of town in May and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I agreed and finally made myself look for a new place. And we have both been much healthier for it.

5. I went home

Just got back from a seven day trip home to Texas where I introduced my girlfriend to much of my family and friends. Had a great time. Love it when I get to go home. Loved it even more since I got to show someone I love such a big part of my life.

6. I grew a brand

Rollin’ In Riches had a huge year of shows. We toured 13 cities and played a number of cool shows around L.A. I had a blast spending so much time with my partner Rolland. And it was so awesome to begin to see the emergence of a reputation in the kick ass improv community in this country.

7. I made stuff!

I released my first web series The Pastor John Heavens Show, created my YouTube Channel Wealthy Pastry Productions, shot four original scenes/sketches (one hasn’t been released yet), was the voice of a viral video called Gym Wildlife, performed in a sketch by the Hambone Group, was a co-writer and voice actor for a web series called WTFK with my good friend Akello, wrote a full rough draft of my first original pilot, played a major role in a feature film by Hollywood Shakespeare, released a bunch of podcast episodes for ‘Lost & Confounded,’ wrote and hosted a bunch of trivia shows with Nerdology and recently shot something I came up with that’s in post production right now that I’m really proud of.

I filled out most of my credits on IMDB and contributed several times to this blog. I sometimes fall prey to the habit of beating myself up for not being productive enough, but looking at this list I can see definitively that I did good this past year. And I’m probably missing a few things from that list that didn’t come to mind. Can’t wait to do even better next year!

8. I Grew New Healthy Habits

I workout more consistently. I meditate every morning (for over six weeks so far!). I read regularly. I eat at home a lot more. I say ‘no’ more. I consciously breathe more. I’m probably missing a few, but just based on this list, I’m super proud of myself.

9. I Changed My Mindset

I am prone to depression, anxiety, worry, feeling defeated, feeling unmotivated, etc. But in the last two years I’ve begun to work on all those. I still struggle with lots of things, but I have vastly improved. I understand I can only accomplish so much. I know there are times I need to do stuff and times I need to ask for help. I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to something juts because it’s offered. I don’t have to be scared of failure. Finishing something is now way more important to me than perfecting something. Nothing is perfect. I can control myself a lot more than I realized. I need to love & forgive myself like crazy, because I have to live with me. At 35, I feel way better about life than I have since I was a small child. And I can help myself thru the hard times and in some cases even change them.

10. I had fun

In addition to everything above, I also played with my dog a lot. I played board games, volleyball, tennis. I shared laughs over stupid bits, attended parties filled with fun people. I played music, sang karaoke, played video games and even just chilled out and relaxed.

Again, I’m sure there’s lots to 2016 that was good that I didn’t write, but it was a pretty good year. I did a lot of amazing stuff. Were there bad times? Oh yeah. Panic attacks, very strapped finances, arguments, cancellations, cruelty, celebrity deaths, Trump, etc. But I choose not to focus on those. I tried my best to learn from them and move on.

If you feel like 2016 just wasn’t your year, I encourage you to take the time to remember the stuff you are proud of. The stuff that makes you happy to remember. Dig the shiny pretty thing out of the mud and admire its beauty.

Here’s to an amazing 2017!

Happy NYE!

Thanks, y’all!