Attending the Barbecue but getting Roasted instead
I wanted to share a story from my recent past. It's about perseverance, but with the twist of reality!
Five years ago, I was a junior in high school. It was time to look at schools for higher education. I knew nothing about college except for two things: 1) Harvard is the best school out there, and 2) I am not getting into Harvard.
After learning a little more about schools, I concluded that I didn't want to leave the state, but I still wanted to go to a good school. I had little interest in "shopping around", though. All the schools will tell you the same thing, and I was very discouraged from my shitty "guidance counselor", whose only advice to me was "don't waste your time applying to Northwestern". My "guidance counselor" was really the worst, and his lack of actual counseling put the college research on me and my mom, who just barely got through high school... decades ago.
Fast forward a while because that's not the story I wanted to tell today, I ended up choosing Bradley University. The reason I chose Bradley over the other schools we considered really boiled down to one thing. The one aspect that really appealed to me was Bradley's improv troupe, "Barbecue Kitten". I love comedy! I'm good at fast thinking, it's perfect! See, it's always a little thing that tips the scale in one direction, and for me, this was Bradley's.
BBQK had "open rehearsals" every Wednesday at 10:30 pm. I couldn't tell you what time any of my classes started, I couldn't tell you what days the cafeteria served the good food, Hell, I never knew when I was coming home for holidays! But guess where I was every Wednesday at 10:30 pm? The only thing I had perfect attendance on were those improv rehearsals.
After the first rehearsal, I made sure to find the main guy and shake his hand and introduce myself. I learned all the games quickly, since most were similar to “Whose Line is it Anyways?”, and at first, I rarely participated in the main games, being nervous among a large crowd and all. After the main games there were small mini games where people just think of funny answers for the given scenarios. I was always great at those.
Eventually, I found the larger games I really shined in, and as the semester went on, less people showed up, except for the ones truly interested in joining. Consequently, it was less intimidating to go up and it really let them see me. After a few months, I knew their names and they knew mine. Unfortunately, I noticed that the crew members were pretty chummy with each other and with a few certain attendees, but I knew that my time will come; I just have to keep proving myself and they'll approach me too.
I learned that the BBQK troupe were mostly Theatre majors and the people they were talking to were generally freshmen in the Theatre Department. So I knew what I had to do. I picked up a Theatre Arts minor. Why not? My mother directed plays, and if I ever want to perform stand-up comedy, I should probably get more comfortable with the Theatre. It seemed fun and I was already considering it anyways.
The first year of school ended and I figured obviously the troupe doesn't pick new members from the freshmen; you need to show at least a year of dedication.
Sophomore year started and I was a dedicated regular to Barbecue Kitten still. In fact, I showed up more often than most of the Theatre majors because they had rehearsals for plays. (Side note: I will go into my experience with the Theatre another time, I promise!)
I got more aggressive. I made sure to be in at least one game (sometimes two!) every rehearsal, and participating multiple times in almost all the mini games, where I always got big laughs and gave answers that were always a little more out-of-the-box than the others. I even upgraded my Theatre minor to a second major. (Don't worry, I'd still be a Psych major first!)
By the end of the first semester, a few guys my grade level made it in as prospects, and some even as full members! They totally had talent and deserved it, don’t get me wrong, but I was taken aback because not once did they ever talk to me, and I made sure to keep talking to them and sticking around after rehearsals.
I learned by overhearing their conversations that there were second private rehearsals for only the troupe and potential troupe members. And I noticed more people my grade level were talking about those private rehearsals. That only made me feel alienated from the rest of all the people I had wanted to get closer with. By the start of my second semester as a sophomore, more of my fellow sophomores who were prospects got in (or started as prospects), and the troupe got really chummy with a most of the freshmen. I felt like they were passing over me, like the dented box of cereal.
Now, don't worry, my reader, because I have chosen to share this underdog story for a reason. Remember, the lesson here is perseverance!
Throughout my first two years of college, I had attended nearly every open rehearsal and watched nearly every show they performed. It was the only extra-curricular group I liked and as I have shown, gave it my all. I valued every weekly rehearsal higher than even some of my classes. And I was even starting to talk to more of the Theatre majors outside of classes and stuff. I was starting to get that feeling of belonging within the Theatre Department and I knew that if I held in another semester or two, I'd get in for sure, even if it was out of sheer dedication, regardless of whether they saw talent in me! I could be the Rock Lee of Barbecue Kitten!
With all that in mind, I did the only sensible thing… I dropped out of Bradley University. Yeah, I probably would have gotten in full-fledged by the end of my Junior year, but that would leave me with only one year of being an actual member and among all new people than three years ago. When I thought about it, it would sum up to be three years of dedication to finally get one year of payoff, and I would be part of a troupe of people who were my grade level or younger, meaning that it would be of people who all got in before me and then feel superior to me. (I know I felt inferior to them for sure!) I wasn't really close with anyone, anyways so I would only feel more like an outsider, even after I would have got on the inside.
I persisted through two years of trying to get into a group I didn't belong in. I wanted it so bad! I fought for it every week! I thought about it every day! I think it's safe to say that being a Barbecued Kitten was my dream. But not all dreams are attainable. Sometimes you need to let go of your dreams, like Indiana Jones did with the Holy Grail. It was in his grasp, but he realized that sometimes you just need to let go.
So there's your twist: all that build-up, and then I quit. I wanted to share this story because it isn't like all the others. If it was a success story, then I wouldn't need to write it, and it wouldn't be interesting. I promised that this story was about perseverance though. Perseverance does not always mean seeing something through to the end. It means fighting through the waves as the tide gets rough. But on the other hand, maybe you are fighting the waves for no reason. What is your goal, The middle of the ocean? Sometimes the waves are pushing you back for a reason and the harder thing is to turn away from it; to stop pursuing a certain goal.
I was so saddened when I realized that I was never going to be a true member of the troupe. It took me almost two years to realize the truth. Obviously, it wasn't my only reason for leaving Bradley, but it was a large one.
Unfortunately, I cannot say something like, "and now I'm in my own improv troupe". Life doesn't work like that. But I am still pursuing other creative outlets (like this website) despite this huge pitfall. That's the perseverance. I am still looking for a place where I (and my comedy) belong. I learned from the whole BBQK experience not to force my way into anything either, because it won't turn out to be what I force it to be.