I have a folder on my computer called “TAL Pitches” where, since 2007 when I started listening to my now favorite podcast, I would sketch out different ways to get my "sociopath boyfriend story" recognized by a show as popular as This American Life (TAL). I never submitted any of them.
And then, last year, the show contacted me. They had heard my insane cliffhanger story on the RISK! podcast and invited me on to talk about my life face-to-face with Ira Glass. I jumped at the opportunity.
But after our sit-down interview (basically 2 hours of “on-air therapy with the country’s most famous radio host” that millions of people will listen to!!) and feeling like I did a terrible job, the doubts crept in. The week after that interview was extremely emotional and brought back a lot of painful memories. I kept saying over and over again to my friends “Millions of people are going to listen to this awful story. I am a comedian. This is so not what I want to be KNOWN for.“ I thought about pulling out a few times - calling TAL back and telling them to not air it. I was close.
It was my friend, fear, again getting in my way.
My wise sage of a friend, Katy, made some great points though. She said and I quote:
“These stories ARE THE F*CKING GEMS. THESE ARE THE MOMENTS THAT MAKE US WHO WE ARE. You are not JUST a comedian. You are a multi-dimensional artist and human being and you can explore all those sides and they will help you become a better comedian in the long run. Labeling yourself as a "comedian" does not mean you shut yourself off to other important creative experiences, which this IS.”
Everyone should have a Katy in their life.
It’s true though. Fear was the only thing holding me back. Fear of being known for something terribly un-funny. Fear, as a performer, of putting my story in someone else's hands - to edit as they'd like; tell my story as they'd like. But, if I'm being more honest with you: Fear of being judged by "the public" for a 5 year-long trauma that happened to me. A big bad (sociopathic) wolf dressed as a loving partner took advantage of me for a very long time and fear was saying "What if people will think I'm stupid for how I handled it? What if millions of strangers will think it was my own fault?"
Now that's some toxic stuff.
I preach vulnerability all of the time in my writing, in my teaching, and in my relationships - and here I was shutting myself off to this huge opportunity. (This American Life! Something I've wanted for 9 years!) I knew Katy was right. But damn, putting yourself out there is freakin' hard! Finally, I pushed forward and decided to let whatever was out there - get out there. And what better hands to be in than the producers of This American Life. I kept reminding myself, Ira Glass is not in the business of making his storytellers look stupid. They are the pros. I am in good hands.
"Sometimes, we have reasons to hold on to a lie: We are not ready to let go of the world that the lie preserves... The people the lie keeps close to us... And, ultimately, we release the lie from our hand... One finger at a time."
- Ira Glass
The past month, I've been online-battling anti-feminist internet trolls who are continuously calling me disgusting names in my YouTube Comments and making threats, all because Katy & I made a silly pro-feminism video for young girls. All because we put ourselves out there. Being a performer isn't always laughs and fun and support. Sometimes it's gritty and tough. I’m sure I'll have plenty of trolls disparage this performance as well. But these are the moments that make us who we are.
These are the "F*CKING GEMS."