“A Pledge to Never Grow Up” by Lara Henerson

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Disclaimer: I’m about to get all Peter Pan up in here…

I used to think that growing up happened like this:

On the morning of your twenty-something-ish birthday, you open your front door and find that someone has generously deposited a nicely tied brown paper package on your stoop. Eagerly, you open the package, and inside you discover a career, a house, and a family. What luck! They all fit perfectly!

You can imagine my disappointment when I turned twenty something myself, and found out that this was not how things worked. As it turns out, this is what happens instead:

You find yourself thrust naked into the adult world, with nothing but a tattered liberal arts diploma with which to cover your shame. Looking around in sheer panic, you find that all your peers have acquired briefcases and ipads. The pleasure they used to take in making up silly stories with their friends is now reserved strictly for happy-hour on Fridays after work, and has been drastically toned down. “It’s called growing up,” they tell you, all wisely nodding in unison. “You’ll catch up soon.”

“You’ll catch up soon.” The sentiment conjured mixed feelings for me. It was true, I wanted to get my sh*t together. I wanted to feel like I had a purpose, to be paid to do something I liked, and to become who I was meant to become. Yet somehow, the whole briefcase/ipad package didn’t feel quite right for me.

Predictably, this is where improv comes into the story. It was during this existential crisis that I first signed up for an improv class, with the goal of getting out of my quarter-life crisis and reconnecting to my authentic self. You may think it odd that when tossed in the tumultuous frenzy of adulthood, my first instinct was to grasp onto my inner child for dear life. But it’s no coincidence. I saw the people I know following a dreary path, and I didn’t want to join them. There’s nothing wrong with briefcases and ipads, but personally I wasn’t done with my crayons. So what if most people think that an adult playing with crayons signifies low intellect? I know it isn’t true. That’s just convention speaking. And if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that convention is often synonymous with conformity, which is a very limited way to live one’s life.

I’m not saying that having a 9 to 5 career job disqualifies you from having a soul. There are some awesome people out there who have managed to artfully juggle both of those things, and I commend them. Some people live to work, some people work to live, and some people dump it all into a blender and end up with a perfectly crafted organic smoothie. Maybe that will be me one day. At the moment I’m just focusing on one thing at a time. I live in the coolest city in the world, I am feeding my creativity, and I’m not homeless. All things considered, I’m doing quite well.

Through improv, I have connected with other people like me. People who want to revel in a world of infinite possibility. People who want to keep the tall-tales and improbable stories that children muster out of thin-air. Creative people, who don’t equate pretense with delusion. I have found my tribe. And together, I propose we make a pledge. A pledge not to grow up, in the conventional sense. A pledge to stay young and fresh and free, to create our own rules. A pledge to say “yes and” to life, on our own terms.

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