“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau
Cameron got let go (“restructured” in advertising parlance) a couple of weeks ago. And while we never could have predicted it when 2013 began, it’s quite possibly the greatest gift he’s ever been given.
When we met 15 years ago, Cameron was a bright young intern and I was a disillusioned senior writer.
“Don’t waste your time in this stupid fucking industry,” I said, even as I helped him put his portfolio together.
Not long after, I was fired (sorry, “restructured”), and Cameron was still unemployed. But I was totally smitten by this incredibly smart, incredibly funny person who, it turned out, was also incredibly anxious.
Slowly, I learned that Cameron had a deep-seated fear of crowds, strangers, going out in public, and pretty much anything that involved the unfamiliar.
For seven years he sank deeper into anxiety and depression. And yet through it all, his sense of humour shone like the sun through a summer storm.
Whether he was imitating a cheesy boy band video*, or re-enacting some bizarre thing that happened at work, I’d be doubled over with laughter.
“You should be a comedian!” I blurted. But almost immediately, I dismissed it. It was too far fetched, given Cameron’s fragile physical and emotional state.
Finally in desperation we saw a psychiatrist, who suggested Cameron learn improv.
I balked. Cameron couldn’t walk to the subway without having a panic attack. How the hell was he supposed to get up in front of strangers and be funny? But Cameron surprised me by finding the courage to enrol at Second City, and I went with him.
One day in Level A, we were learning “Make A Story” when the teacher pointed to Cameron. He looked down, shook his head, then threw up his hands in defeat and mumbled “Squirrel?”
Everyone laughed, and the teacher said, “See? The comedy gods gave Cam the word ‘squirrel.’ And it’s perfect!”
That was eight years ago.
The support and encouragement we received from instructors, the friends we’ve made, and the things we’ve learned have changed our lives completely.
I was going through some old files last night, and found a performance review from Cameron’s old workplace. It was during the dark days, just weeks after he signed up for Second City.
His boss commented on Cameron’s shyness and poor presentation skills, then made some notes for improvement, ending with the words, “Improvise. Take chances.”
Sometimes the universe is telling us something, but we don’t listen because we’re afraid.
One more thing:
A week before he was let go, Cameron put together a workshop. The theme?
We may not know what the future holds, but we’re letting go of needing to control it. And trusting that it’s in the benevolent hands of the comedy gods.
*(“Tonight” by Soul Decision)