I Improvised for Four Years — Oops, Now I’m Doing it Forever

Courtesy of Jordyn Alexander
Welcome to the inaugural class of '29. We've selected 29 graduating college seniors, entering the "real" world in 2018, to write about the state of their lives. What are their hopes, dreams, fears, stressors, failures, and successes as they leave school behind? We will be releasing new entries on a daily basis. If you would like yours to be considered, please email classof29@refinery29.com.
I arrived at college a card-carrying, deep-in-the-DNA perfectionist. I liked to know the facts, overanalyze my options and act with a painstakingly constructed plan. I also had a passion for improv comedy, an art form based in uncertainty, quick decision-making, and living in the moment. Yes, I too see the blatant contradiction here.
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During my freshman year at Indiana University, I majored in Biology and worked in a cellular research lab. You could often find me banging my head against the wall as I dissected yet another fruit fly. Biology wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was comfortably predictable. Looking to brighten up the hours outside the lab, I joined Full Frontal Comedy, I.U.’s longest running improv group. Suddenly, the unpredictable became routine. Every week I was thrown into unfamiliar situations. Practice covered everything from improvising ten monologues in a row to making up a song on the spot, aided only by an improv pianist. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified those first few months. “You want me to try things I’ve never done in front of people?” I’d often think. But here’s the thing: over time, improv made uncertainty not only familiar, but exciting. My ability to embrace the unknown allowed me to admit to myself that what I really wanted to do was pursue the entertainment media industry in Los Angeles (a.k.a.the least predictable, stable life choice possible for someone from suburban Indiana.)
Illustrated By Paola Delucca
Lucky for me, my years as an improv comedian have prepared me for the ambiguity of life as a real-life adult. I live by the golden rule of improv: “yes, and…”, which we use to say yes to our scene partners’ ideas and build upon them. I accept what life throws me and run with it. I now understand that trying something is better than inaction due to a fear of imperfection. There’s no such thing as a perfect life, just like there’s no such thing as a perfect improv scene. I’ve learned to trust myself and others; I know it’s all going to be okay. Something about going out on stage every other Friday night and being a total goofball taught me not to take myself so seriously. I have embodied so many unique characters on the stage: an overly enthusiastic plumber, a ravenous pumpkin, and Carl Jr. Junior, heir to the Carl Jr.’s fortune. In comparison, my recent real-life roles (“confident, young professional at a networking event” or “not-at-all-uncomfortable person at their co-worker’s intimate hula recital”) don’t seem so difficult. I know now there is no greater joy than unapologetically being entirely yourself.
As I face the post-graduation world, I am reminded of a quote from improv legend Del Close: “fall, then figure out what to do on the way down.” Well, look out below, world, because here I come, arms flailing. It might not be graceful. It might not be easy. But I will land on my feet.
Jordyn Alexander is a recent graduate of Indiana University with majors in Media Production and Germanic Studies. Jordyn is moving to Los Angeles soon to pursue a career in video production and a life of boundless curiosity.
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