My favourite recent thing at work has been when one of us starts clapping for whatever reason and everyone else working joins in loudly. Just a big round of applause, because someone has finished cutting some cake or whatever.
I really like applause.
The world is on fire but I, for one, have been having a really nice year so far. I don’t really know how to reconcile the niceness of my life with all the horrific things in the world. I’ve been really mulling over writing a blog post for a week or two now but nothing I have to say is important on any grand scale.
It’s all just been nice.
It’s been electric blankets¹ and Lamington tea and various products from Lush and less takeaways and more red wine and deleting Uber to make a point (and drunkenly redownloading Uber because it was 3 a.m. and I was in Soho and I’d had much, much too much red wine and I didn’t know how else to get home) and gigging and feeling a whole new level of comfort onstage and feeling like maybe, maybe, maybe I’m actually a comedian, at least a little bit.
I have a theory with regards to the new level of comfort onstage. I think what happened was I reconciled² two distinct halves of myself. When I was home over Christmas I did a gig at Absolute Comedy, which was my first gig in Ottawa since I was made to do it for Grade 12 Drama³. I think since Ottawa Leslie would’ve never ended up doing standup and London Leslie had to, absolutely had to, doing a gig in my hometown settled the inside of my brain a little bit, if that makes sense.
I’ve referred a lot to “Ottawa Leslie” and “London Leslie”, as if those are two different people. I guess it makes sense that it feels as though they are, but I feel like this might be a major contributing factor to the persistent feeling of inadequacy that’s plagued me even throughout some of the best times in my life over the last nearly-four years. I am not unique in the journey I’ve taken; I’d say the grand majority of the people I know or have known in this city have come from elsewhere. Still, when I was making the move here it was insane to discover how much of my identity was based on my context, particularly because I’d spent so much of my adult life prior to my move here daydreaming about what it would be like to live in London. Then of course I threw myself headlong into the sort of life that has frequently left me pondering if anything is real or if it’s all just sort of a Life On Mars situation.
London Leslie does standup, Ottawa Leslie had only tried it once. London Leslie has become fairly accustomed to interacting with famous people (though admittedly still gets giddy about it), Ottawa Leslie is astounded and obsessed by the very idea of fame. Would be shaking for days if she unexpectedly crossed paths with some of the people with whom London Leslie has crossed paths.
Ottawa Leslie and London Leslie. It’s too easy to separate them. It’d be better, probably, to think of them less as location-specific Leslies, and more as Leslie, Ages 0-26; & Leslie, Ages 26+. If I’m going to separate Leslies I could, into endless phases, pre- and post-major life events, keep breaking myself down into smaller or smaller pieces. Or maybe I could just… not. If there’s anything that the ongoing project of reading back through my old LiveJournal has taught me, I am always ultimately the same person. I just evolve.
One thing I realised on the strangely therapeutic flight to Ottawa for Christmas (I wrote “plane ride” there, as though that was the best name for it) is how much pressure I put on myself about whether or not I’ve changed. Basically: of course I have, of course I would, of course I should. If I was the exact same person now as I was nearly four years ago that’d be worrying, wouldn’t it? As long as I don’t lose the nice things about myself (and I’ve had darker brain times and I do get curmudgeonly at work, but that is to be expected, isn’t it?) then it’s all okay. People like you, Leslie. People like you a lot. Evidently there is a lot there to like, even if you don’t always feel as though there is.
At the last Old Rope before Christmas Tiff was giving out notebooks to the acts performing then brought one over to me near the end of the night. That’s nice that she’s including me, I thought, not realising she’d written in it. I’d had a lot of red wine and I was having a lovely time and I was chatty, chatty, chatty, and I clutched my notebook to my chest because it just meant more than I could properly express.
Sweet, sweet validation.
And really excellent people.
In any case, I haven’t told you about that Ottawa gig yet have I? It was so wonderful, and so important. I had such an amazing array of people in the audience, such as my best friend Nidal and my great friend David, along with some friends of theirs; my parents; my beloved friend Marc, along with some of his friends; my former coworker-friend Roberta; my glorious actor friends Erynn and Andrew right in front of the stage; and a couple more wonderful people who I hadn’t seen in years (Danae, from high school, & Polina, from Grade 8). It was insane to me that so many people made that sort of effort to see me, and it mattered so, so much. One of my favourite moments of the set was when I was able to point out how an item on my list of Fun Ways To Surprise Your Friends inspired by real events (“follow them around reading them children’s classics… may I suggest Dr. Seuss?”), because it’s what I used to do to Nidal all the time in bookstores4 and, when I did so, Nidal waved. Nidal waved, and it was the first time she saw me do standup. I guess what I’m trying to say was it was just incredibly, incredibly important that she was there.
The aforementioned new level of comfort onstage really and truly kicked in on the day I got back to London5, when I did a gig around the corner from my flat jetlagged and a bit tipsy from drinking with a good friend I hadn’t seen in ages, and suddenly the stage was so, so fun. A comedian pal noticed it, too, and told me with astonishment in his voice (and has mentioned a couple times since) that that was the best he’d ever seen me, that he felt like I’d broken through something.
A lot of my goals for 2017 are comedy-related. Various small things. Because I started off so slowly (and I’ve started to wonder why it matters to anyone else, really, how many gigs we’ve all done, but I think that’s partially me being defensive) I’m now at eighty-eight total gigs. I’ve resolved to do at least two gigs a week, although this week I have three and the week after next I have four, and my big hundred gig mark is within sight. I don’t know when it’ll be yet. I’m excited.
And, of course, like anything, so much of it is about confidence. (Someone who has mattered Too Much™ once said the words “it’s all about confidence, isn’t it?” to me, and regardless of how much or how little I care about that person at any given time it still rings in my head. Yup, most things seem to be!) I could hear the confidence in my voice when I was home, given the context of Ottawa. Given the context of my wonderful, wonderful Ottawa friends. I could hear myself speaking, so certain of myself, and I was amazed. I’ve become so performative lately, and I’m really enjoying it. Like loudly applauding at work, customers glancing over to see what the commotion is and finding that we’re not at all embarrassed, we’re all just grinning like maniacs and enjoying the round of applause we’ve started because… god, I don’t know why. The only prompt for it I can remember was the cake being cut, and I already mentioned that one. Any little thing. I’ve been trying to believe in myself, though, and push my limits. I entered a competition recently. Only the second one I’ve ever entered, and a huge one. I had to do a ninety second spot at the qualifier last Sunday. It was weird and daunting and there were so many of us (and I believe it was just one of eight such events) and saying I doubt I’ll get through sounds defeatist but I don’t mean it in a defeatist way so much as statistically speaking I won’t. And that’s okay, because I challenged myself, and I’ll try again next year. The fact I did it is what matters.
The biggest and scariest thing I’ve done lately, weirdly, was decide to make myself a Facebook page. I found it difficult to come to terms with telling people that they should like me when I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to deserve it. But I have to remember that no one else thinks about me that much, as well they shouldn’t. People likely aren’t going “who do you think you are?” at me, and if they are then I’m not making anyone do anything. People make decisions for themselves. Anyway, it’s made my stomach hurt a bit, but then I remember feeling that way when I first started this blog. And the response has been really, really nice so far, anyway, so thank you to everyone who’s humoured me, or rather, thank you to everyone who’s believed in me. (The latter, Leslie. It has to be the latter.)
I’ve mentioned a couple times how I’m coming up on four years of living here. The exact day will be March 15th. I’ve been thinking about it a lot because my visa is for five years and then I can apply to stay indefinitely. The application fee is fairly hefty, so I’ve been saving money from each pay since the beginning of this year, been really reminding myself how few things there are in the world that are more important than carrying on this incredible life I’ve made for myself. Have been trying to be a decent adult and just be more on top of my finances, anyway.
The other day I woke up early, got things done, then found myself really wanting to buy a lipstick I’d been eyeing for a while. It’s not a brand that’s really sold in stores here, so I had it in my online basket and then had a cursory look to see if there was anywhere I could go to get it. I mention this just because I love that I did this: I went to Ware, Hertfordshire, to buy makeup. I don’t travel as often as I should, and while a tiny town forty-five minutes by train from London wasn’t high on my list, I hadn’t been there before and I wanted to do something different. I had a lovely time chatting with the lady working in the shop, I got some amazing things, and I hopped back on the train feeling happy, relaxed, and pleased with myself.
You don’t need to know that I own sixty-two lipsticks, but I thought I’d tell you anyway. Just because I counted my collection the other day. You’d think I have way more spare time than I actually do, based on my lipstick-counting anecdotes. Or, actually, the silly project I have to turn all the positive affirmations in my 2017 diary into nonsense. Such as…
It’s remarkable to me how little I’ve been hit by seasonal affective disorder this year. It’s usually pretty bad. At its worst it (in combination with impending life changes) made me feel entirely numb for some indeterminate period of time in the winter of 2012, but normally it exhausts me, makes it difficult for me to motivate myself, looms over me like a dark cloud and leaves me feeling astonished when the days get longer and brighter and I feel happy again. By all rights I should’ve bought a SAD lamp years ago but I still haven’t and, midway through February 2o17, I feel really good. Haven’t really noticed any low points. I’m sure I’ll feel better still when the winter’s over but I think I’ve also figured out a decent combination of staying busy and of leisure time, living in bubble baths and drinking tea, hanging out in my bedroom and listening to 1970s records.
On Monday I’m doing my favourite gig ever, again. Old Rope. Fourth time. I can’t believe I’m allowed to do this. I can’t believe I’m allowed any of this.
¹ My friend the extremely brilliant Cally Beaton, who I simultaneously know as a fellow comedian and a customer at work, ordered herself an electric blanket and was sent two so gave me the extra completely out of the blue, and it’s improved my life greatly.
² Oh, by the way, “reconcile” is a word I feel like I’ve been perpetually searching for and failing to grasp for about two years, so now I’ve got it I’m going to use it a lot.
³ I’ve just finished inflicting a lot of nostalgia surrounding the Grade 12 standup times on my friend Laura. As a human I’m nothing if not wistful. I found photos of a teenage Leslie onstage, and while she was not a pretty sight to behold and while her wardrobe choices were regrettable, apart from a Trogdor t-shirt that I wish I still owned, I’m happy the photos were taken with what was my first-ever digital camera, and that I haven’t lost the files over the last 13 years and innumerable computers. I might post them sometime, just because I can.
4 I never, ever thought I’d end up doing comedy back when I used to do stupid things like incessantly read rhymes to my best friend, but Nidal always made me feel like I was funny and I don’t think I would’ve considered trying it even after moving here if she hadn’t boosted my confidence so, so much.
5 It’s important to tell you, somehow, that in addition to my most recent trip home probably being my favourite trip home yet, it also ended off in the best way which was just me and Mom eating dinner and drinking wine and playing cribbage right up to the exact point when the cab turned up to take me to the airport.