Shaking his head at the lines forming behind us, the man checking tickets at the top of the Tsugaike gondola opened the gates manually. It was a classic, clueless gaijin (Japanese for tourist) moment. Without any idea how to check how many points were left on our passes, we’d ridden up clueless.
Turns out we hadn’t enough to pay for the ride or the trip back down; hence the gates that wouldn’t open. He came to talk to us, and given he only spoke a hair more English than we did Japanese, it seems a bit of a miracle that the confusing ten-minute interchange worked. After all the gesturing, cash, and multiple numbers on his calculator signifying prices, we walked out into the snow. I found myself wondering, how the hell did I get here?
This age feels soaked in information and riddled with choices, trying to decide what to do amidst so many options. What to do when so many things seem appealing? Who to go with? Will I be missing out on something better someplace else? How do I shake the routine that I love to find new and worthy experiences? Or, most relevant to our Japanese gondola experience, was Rachel’s offhand comment this fall: “Hey Dave, you should come with me to Japan this winter.” Anything that helps me make these decisions helps.
And strangely, improv has helped.
Improv theater people, like the rest of us passionate folks, probably argue that their particular passion is a key to the good life. Yet, they might actually be right, especially if names like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, or Seth Meyers mean anything to you (all people who got their start making up entertainment on the fly with improv). The first Rule of Improv, as elucidated by Tina Fey in her book Bossypants:
The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.
I’m not advocating you start the kind of ‘say yes to everything’ madness that happens to Jim Carrey in Yes Man, but if your life is anything like mine, it’s easy to find excuses and say no to things that seem hard, or potentially scary, or maybe difficult. Improvisation isn’t just a form of theater; the best part of life is that it’s unscripted. We get all these chances to fly by the seat of our pants. To take risks and see how it pans out. To see the potential in doing things like committing to a month of skiing in a place I’d never researched, where I didn’t speak the language, where I had no idea how to work the points passes. When people hand us the opportunity, we can jump in with them. As long as we do that mindfully, maybe those commitments can help settle the confusion of options crashing around us.
So how the hell did I get here? I agreed.
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