I think I want to quit stand up, but I am probably wrong.
Since starting stand up I have had men scream at me that I deserve to get raped, I have had men call me a bitch, cunt, and slut and I have had men clumsily kiss me against my will and then I threw up on them. Since starting stand up I am in a constant state of guilt and anxiety about being around human people socially and in big groups. Since starting stand up, I have been emotionally, physically, and psychologically exhausted. And in that constant state of unhealthy mental attitude, my self esteem is hovering around negative a bzillion. The stress of constantly failing at something I love so much has made my bulimia worse.
The problem isn't that I don't like stand up. It's that if anything I love it TOO much. Stand up saved/saves my life over and over again. I think it is the most beautiful and pure art form. I have never felt like I fit in before I started doing it. Ever since the first time I did stand up I felt like I was at home. And my heart is broken because I don't think I'm good enough to deserve it.
Every time I get heckled, lose a competition, fail an audition, it's just another message that I'm not built for this. I can write and work all day long, but at the end of the day I'm not naturally funny. My greatest fear is that comedy is an ingrained gift, an inherrent ability, not a just an aquired skillset, and that I just simply don't have it. I feel like I'm offending an art form whenever I go on stage. I feel like it's inexcusable for me to respect the beauty of stand up so much and then constantly go on stage and blasphemize the art.
I feel like being a comedian is like being a unicorn, something magical you're born. And I'm just a dumb horse with a cone taped to my head.
It's so heart breaking to even consider quitting. And I know that I can't be the kind of comic that fades out gradually because I would feel too guilty if I took a break or took time off and then went up and dissappointed an audience by being rusty. I try to think of the one audience member in the crowd who is having a horrible day, maybe got her heart broken, maybe needs to laugh. I can't let her down.
I don't think I can be a comedy club comic. I can't inspire confidence and boom with authority, bravado and charisma. I get heckled a lot. I worry that I'm just intrinsically unlikeable. Like it's not my jokes, it's me the audience detests. I don't think I can act. I'm already 26, not a size 0, short, and not pretty or loveable. I don't know if I'm smart enough to be a writer. So where do I belong? Where do I fit in as an artist?
But I don't think I can give up.
Recently I got an email from someone telling me how much my comedy meant to them. I keep trying to remind myself that if I bomb or get heckled or slut shamed or cyber bullied or if I get rejected for one show or job, even if 40 people in the crowd hate me and want me to kill myself, maybe one person loves me. And I love that one person back. And I should keep doing stand up for her, right?
I probably can't live without stand up. I think I need to do it.
But, lately I've been going up in characters, still doing my own material talking about anxieties and feeling like an outsider and depression and feminism... but from the perspective of a character because I hate being Barbara so much. I think I'm so unlikeable, unloveable, so offensively cruel that I ruin people's nights with my personality.
A long time ago I read an article by Charlyne Yi where she said, "If you never perform again no one cares but you." (SIC, I can't find the original essay.)
I know that if I quit, no one will care but me. Well, that's not true, a lot of people will be happier if I quit. (All the misogynists) But overall, me doing or not doing stand up will not affect the landscape of the art form whatsoever. However, it'll kill me not to do it. I'll diminish in power like Galadriel. And if I can never quit, then I can't take breaks, can I? That's not fair to the audience.
Why do I love stand up? Because it's fun for me to do? No. It is fun for me to kill, but I hate bombing. I love the writing aspect. I love laughing. I love performing. I love the feeling I get when I can make someone laugh really hard, like they can't control it. I love working and growing and developing my comedy voice like it's a magic power I'm strengthening. I love being able to take something horrible and sad and take the power away from it by writing a funny weird whimsical punchline. I love the jokes I've written. I love the voice I'm growing into. I love stand up.
I keep waiting for someone to tell me I belong in this art form. But that'll never happen. No one will ever tell me that. I have to want to belong in it. AND I DO WANT TO BELONG IN IT. But I don't know if I deserve to.