Look how far we’ve come.
We enter the improv stage; receive a one-word suggestion. This one-word suggestion keeps us grounded in the present, from there we may become anything we can imagine and create together - a couple that gives birth to an avocado, a family that discusses genealogy based on the appetizer dip they give birth to, a man befriends a crow and they enter a high altitude cage fight with a sloth.
We ask, “If this, then what else?” For example, if a person brings a tractor tire when someone needed a spare car tire, what other excessive and unhelpful response will they give? By the end of the scene, we may witness them joining NASA just so they can get their typically-tardy kid to school on time with propulsion-engine speed.
Improv teaches us to take one step at a time, trusting that the process will reveal the direction, building characters and laughter along the way.
I do not arrive to the scene knowing where we will end up; we do not plan our destination ahead of time. Instead, we start with a name, a feeling, a relationship, a character trait, and then with our powers combined, we build.
Joseph Campbell, writer and professor of literature, myth and the human experience, says, “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.”
If we become preoccupied with the big changes from the beginning, we can lose presence to the process and stumble our way through. I can become so concerned with trying to get where I think I’m expected to (or should) be that I can completely miss what is happening in my life at this very moment. Intensely scheduled and over-planned, I become preoccupied with ideas that are big and impressive, missing the small steps and invitations right in front of me that build up over time towards a meaningful life. I have wasted hours of my life planning for a future around grand ideas of who I would be, and often avoided being present to the person I was becoming.
Life is usually built in the small steps, the day to day journey towards an unpredictable destination. Life awaits in the mundane, the messy, the interruptions. It surprises in aimless conversations with old friends and bedtime stories with children and the monotony of dishes and laundry and bills. It emerges in rhythm and routine, in discipline and daily life. Small steps are what build parenting, generations in the family home, lifelong friendships, strong intimacy, and sustained growth.
Improv constantly invites me back into attentiveness, attention to the significance of the small steps.
When I manage to arrive to the invitation, the present moment yet again introduces me to myself.
Evey McKellar is a Level 4 Improv student, a writer and UMC clergy. She works for a nonprofit, lives in Dallas, and loves Cane Rosso.