As I began reading through the SiP packet for UCS’s November theme, “Gamblers” my initial reaction was, “I am so not a gamber!” This thought was based purely on my grandparent’s love of going to the casino in Niagara Falls and my aversion to it as a teenager. I wondered why they would roll the dice and risk losing money, when they could buy something tangible and keep it forever. What was it that made my grandparents, Doris and Orlando, take trip after trip to the casino only to win $100 dollars on the slot machines and stop at the all-you-can eat buffet on the bus ride home? It was the excitement. The shake-up of their everyday lives. The thrill of the unknown. The way it re-shaped their sense of self.
When I reflected on gambling from this perspective, I heard a blazing affirmation from my heart. Kimberly Rossiter: you are such a gambler! Maybe not a gambler in the traditional “monetary/casino” definition, or in the adventure seeking “sky-diving/bungee jumping” kind of way (I prefer both feet firmly on the ground, thank you very much!), but I am a gambler when it comes to truth telling. To living an authentic life. To being the most sincere version of myself, even if that version can often times be brass or careless, or have red puffy eyes and snot dripping out of my nose from a tough morning of sobbing.
In 2007 I took one of the biggest gambles of my life. I packed up my apartment in Brooklyn, said goodbye to the safety and security I had found in New York over the past ten years, and headed to Chicago. I told everyone it was because I wanted to study improv and sketch comedy at Second City, but that was not what was really pulling me to the mid-west. The truth was, if I wanted to study improv and sketch comedy there were plenty of amazing training centers I could study at in New York. So why would I leave a great apartment, amazing friends, and even a full time job with benefits to go to a city where I would have none of this? Why would I gamble my safe existence on the east coast to try and find my way in a place where I didn’t have a job or an apartment, and only knew a cousin of a college friend and a boy I had made-out with as a teenager? Because I needed the rush of the unknown to shake up my existence. I needed to feel alive again, to learn if I would still be the same person in a new setting. To test out what I felt was truly authentic in my life, and challenge myself to let go of the things that were no longer working.
The basic lesson when improvising is “yes, and…”. Broken down to its purest form, it means you affirm what your scene partner has given to you, and you go with it. The same logic can be put into life. When opportunities are offered to you that feel risky, that feel unknown, that feel like you are gambling, more often than not the best choice is to be brave and to just say “yes, and…” go for it! Even if you feel silly or scared, if it involves putting your heart on the line, or risking what someone else may think, if you say yes and go for it, you will be changed. You will experience life.
One of my favorite quotes from improv and sketch genius Tina Fey hangs above my desk. It helps me when I am experiencing writers block, or when I am overanalyzing a scene or essay I am working on, but it works in other contexts as well. “You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute. And I’m from a generation in which a lot of people died on waterslides, so this was an important lesson for me to learn.” I think it is safe to say that Ms. Fey would add to that, “Say yes, and…”