Why I went into debt and am in no rush to be successful.
And why your backup plan is holding you back.
*Proceed with caution: there are two or more swearwords in this post*
I hate my backup plan! I hate my backup plan the same way I hate my nose. I hate my backup plan the same way I hate listening to people chew. I hate my backup plan the same way I hate when people stand too close behind me in lines at the grocery store or the bank (isn't that the worst?).
I hate it but it's there.
But, like nose jobs, headphones, and taking tiny steps forward so that you become the person standing too close to the person in front of you in line, there are always solutions to deal with the things you hate.
I decided to say "screw plan B", embrace the low-point, and start from scratch with gusto.
Plan A was the plan all along, but having a backup, even just trying to figure out what in the world my backup was, prevented me from actually getting anywhere with plan A.
I've Known What I Want To Do For A Long Time.
I was in kindergarten when it struck me. I knew with 100% certainty what I was meant to be when I grew up. It was like I was put on this Earth to be this one thing. I would sit in my room and pretend with my stuffed animals that I had grown up to be this one thing. I would talk to my mom about how I would become this one thing.
I wanted to be a caterpillar when I grew up.
Goals and means of achieving them change and evolve all the time. While I don't really want to be a caterpillar anymore (I am open to it, though), I did figure out pretty early on what I wanted to spend my life doing.
When I was about twelve or thirteen I would spend entire days watching SNL and Kids In The Hall and any sitcom I could find through the static.
I had been in love with writing and in love with comedy as separate entities for a long time. But I remember the moment "comedy writing" hit me like a snowball to the face on a cold winter morning.
It was a beautiful summer day and I was inside in the cheeto-stained pyjamas I'd been wearing for a week re-watching SNL from the 2008 election days.
As with most big, unrealistic dreams, high school, cynical friends, and one particularly horrible guidance counsellor (looking at you, Ms. Edie) all brought me back down to Earth and assured me that my pipe dreams were just that, pipe dreams.
Having A Backup Plan Is Ruining Your Plan Plan
I got to work trying to devise a backup plan. Spoiler: I never really figured it out.
I spent the majority of my time planning, writing, and reading. A little of this with Cracked, a little of that with CollegeHumor, more than a few two-hour drives into Toronto for my Second City classes, bookshelves full of notebooks...highlighted and annotated copies of all my favorite comedians' books like Amy Poehler's 'Yes Please' and Tina Fey's 'Bossypants'.
At times it felt like I was doing really well, getting better, learning the process, and all that fun stuff. But I found myself constantly tripped up by plan B. Trying to pick a direction for my backup plan was the most bizarre and confusing time of my life. I was changing backup plans like I change bra sizes; Not that much, but kind of back and forth between a few.
I even failed a high school math class during that time! It's one of my greatest shames. I went on to tell that math teacher I was going to be a doctor. He laughed at me. See? confused.
I'm reminded of that Ron Swanson quote:
"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing." - Ron Swanson
Having an unrealistic dream is hard. I wasn't deterred entirely, but I always felt obligated to prioritize plan B and make it something people would like.
Many of my friends have struggled to figure out what they want to do with their lives. There are so many wonderful things you can do! You can be a vet, you can be a....grocery store manager...and probably some other stuff.
See, when you know what you want to do, it's hard to think of anything else.
Trying to pick from aaaallll that stuff I didn't want to do seemed nearly impossible.
So, naturally, I finished University with a useless degree, panicked, and took off to Costa Rica. It doesn't matter where you are in your backup plan. Having a backup plan can seriously fuck up your plan plan.
Starting Anything Is Scary.
Starting Over Is Scarier. Or Scary, Too.
All Kinds Of Starting Are Equally Scary. #Equality.
I love this quote by William Wordsworth that seems to encapsulate how simultaneously simple and impossibly complicated it is to just fucking start something.
"To Begin, Begin." - William Wordsworth
I extended my stay in Costa Rica, spent all my money, and when we left I felt like I had taken a few big-ass steps backward from both plans A and B.
I didn't know where we were going, what we were going to do, or how we were going to afford it. What I did know was that I had more encouragement than ever before in the form of the beautiful and talented Ricky. He wants me to start using Rick, instead of Ricky. The beautiful and talented Rick. Rick. Rick.
It seemed the perfect time to shed off the excess weight that was my backup plan. I had passion, a functioning laptop, and a couple grand to go before I maxed out my credit card.
We started this blog, I got a freelance writing contract, and I was writing my own stuff and reacquainting myself with writing and writing funny.
What I (eventually) realized is that I was never going to be ready. I could sit and read every interview with every comedian, every writer for SNL, and every "how to be utterly hilarious" book from every book store, but it would never be enough.
I deleted thousands of bookmarked pages, pinned for later pages, and notes upon notebooks about where to begin, where to go from there, how to do it all. And I just started writing.
You can buy this illustrated Amy Poehler quote from Zen Pencils. I have mine hanging by a big, squashy chair that's the perfect place to sit and figure stuff out in your comfiest coziest clothes. My dog stole a stick of butter off the counter one time and puked it up on this big, squashy chair. We had it dry-cleaned and it's fluffier than ever.
It was really gross at the time, though.
Embrace Being In Limbo.
Love What You're Doing. The Process Included.
For the first time in my life, I'm not worried about what's going to happen because what's happening is so cool. I lost my backup plan and now I'm spending my time doing exactly what I want.
It doesn't matter that I'm moving at a glacial pace, that I'm not publishing comedy anywhere, that I'm not moving to LA and trying to get a staff position on a sitcom. It doesn't matter than I'm crossing my fingers that my card goes through every time I try to buy something I don't need, definitely don't need, or most definitely need because it's a fuzzy throw blanket on sale if you buy 80$ worth of books!
I'm writing this blog, I'm making some money writing, I'm filling my notebooks again. I'm learning and enjoying the process much more than I was when it was do or die, backup versus tangible success point for plan A.
I'm nowhere near being successful. I'm not even really anything right now. When you're doing what you love, success is not a measurable, quantifiable thing that exists past your reach. When you're doing what you love, there is nothing lacking. Except for money. And fun, expensive things.
I could've saved. I could've started years ago. I could be going faster. I could be doing more. But I'm learning, I'm doing it my way, and I'm not limiting myself to one quantifiable thing that means I've succeeded. And I think that's pretty cool.
Like I said, starting and starting over are super scary. But so is spending your life doing things you don't want to do.
So, that's what I'm doing, that's why I'm doing it, and that's why it's all ok.
There are so many things we'll do someday. We'll monetize the blog, somehow. We'll have readers, at some point. I'll get higher paying writing jobs. I'll comedy write my way to the top! And maybe, just maybe, I'll be a caterpillar.
The thing is, we’ll get there.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope you found some use or motivation from it. I'm by no means qualified to say "it's never too late to follow your dreams" or something along those cheesy lines, but I can tell you that backup plans suck and if you love your non-backup plan plan you don't need one!
It's never too late to follow your dreams!
Oh, right. Not qualified. Let me rephrase that.
It's never too early to ditch your backup plan!
Shop a few of my favorite comedians' books. These are affiliate links, but they are also books that mean the world to me and I think everyone on the planet should read them! Plus 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', a book that, I think inspired my childhood dreams.