A few weeks ago, we sent out a newsletter entitled Give fear the middle finger and do what you feel called to do. And we got the most beautiful email in response from Andrea Wetherald. We loved it so much that we asked her to turn it into a blog post for us. This is what she sent us!
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Two years ago, I accepted that a beautiful and exciting chapter of my life had come to a close.
The business I had spent 18 months trying to get off the ground had officially become “an opportunity to learn so much about myself...” (aka a big giant failure.) I was sad, embarrassed and looking for a way to spend all the extra time I wasn’t used to having.
While cleaning out my wallet, I found the two free passes for Steel City Improv Theater from an improv workshop for CEOs I had gone to during the Share Closet days. Kyle (my completely wonderful husband) and I used the passes to see a show called Fast and Slow Prov. It was SO much fun; we laughed so hard that we cried and our abs hurt the next morning.
It was much needed laughter during a tender time of transition.
I signed up for improv classes shortly after that, and it wasn’t long before I was totally hooked. I took all the classes I could take and auditioned to be on a team. I got accepted and started performing on a regular basis. I joined a couple of pickup teams, and later formed a sketch team that got to perform in New York City for NYC Sketch Fest! I currently perform downtown at Arcade Comedy Theater with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.
The thing about improv is that it’s so much more to me than making people laugh (or bombing horrifically in front of a silent room of strangers).
Improv is an intoxicating religion of support, listening, and following your fear. Improv is vulnerable — I’ve been doing this for about 2 years now, and I still feel a heart pounding rush of adrenaline before most shows.
Improv is terrifying.. but it’s also been an invitation to be my bravest self.
Del Close coined the phrase "Follow the Fear" and it has become a driving force in the improv community. In improv, following the fear means that as soon as you feel afraid to take a risk or make a bold choice to support a scene, that's EXACTLY the choice you should make. Don’t second guess yourself, don’t judge yourself or your scene partners — just follow that feeling and get out there!
Most of the improv scenes I've felt proudest of have happened when I had a crazy idea on the sidelines, and followed that terrifying feeling of jumping out on stage to add my idea to the world we're creating together.
In my comedy life, fear following has pushed me to try all sorts of bizarre character work to support a scene. It’s pushed me to audition for roles that are outside of my comfort zone- last month I auditioned for a role where I had to make a video of me rapping a script they sent me! (Yes, I still have the video: it’s completely humiliating and you can’t see it… unless I’ve had like 3 glasses of wine. In that case, maybe you can see it... but I’ll convert, change my name and move to Amish Country the next day.)
In life I feel like this saying has proven true to me over and over. In the past, my fear of not being liked caused me to bite my tongue when I really needed to speak up: I don’t do that so much now. My fears of judgement and failure have made me afraid to say out loud that what I want is to pursue comedy as a career- I’ve said that out loud to several actual human people at this point! My fear of being truly vulnerable has kept me from the closeness I needed with people who are important to me- I’ve been opening up more. I’m not saying that following these fears is always fun, but I am saying that I’ve never felt more fully myself.
When I start to feel afraid that all of my big, terrifying dreams won't come true, I think: GOOD. I'm glad I feel this fear- because that means I have no choice but to follow it! I’m comfortable with who I am, and I have so much less anxiety about what people think. THAT is a win, and I am so thankful. So there you have it: follow your fear, find your adventure, embrace your life with your whole heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea Wetherald lives in Stanton Heights with her husband, Kyle and their puppy, Farley. By day, Andrea is the Director of Marketing at Sequoia Waste Solutions, and in the evenings she writes and performs comedy with her friends at various awesome theaters around town. She loves hiking, bonfires, wine, Zumba, and any combination of those things if the situation calls for it. Andrea is also passionate about connecting people through sustainable fashion, laughter, and hugs whenever possible.