"I have never wanted to be a dude more than right now,” I thought to myself.
One out of ten times I pee in my pants at the front door of my own house. The other nine times I come home bolting into my house doing a variation of the dance every child has the right to. I peed in my pants last week. Like a full on, I could not take my pants off in time peed in my pants. Only the people reading this right now know about it. Unfortunately, this isn't the worst thing that has happened. That rainy day tale is between me and what used to be my local Borders bookstore.
“Yeah, dipshit -- coffee is a diuretic,” the waiter at breakfast should have said.
“Here, have more water because I know our bathroom isn’t going to be available and I have personal joy in seeing your anxiety.” He surely thought all of this as he stared at me.
This imagined conversation started a chain of events that tested every part of the personality I had fought to create for the past 19 years. The skills used to survive the commute to Los Angeles have been thrown out of the window. I attached myself to a state of mind only Bear Grylls could relate to after the initial panic settled down. A third of the way into the drive, I regretted not using the bathroom. Halfway in, it was over. Completely over. I knew it was over. A mental blueprint of places I could stop and use the bathroom came into play and I started calculating correlations [distance able to run : ounces of pee dispelled from my body].
You need a game plan.
I took inventory of the contents of my car to see what could help me.
One water bottle.
Son of a bitch. This is what happens when you grow up without a penis. Limitations.
One soul on the verge of a urine-soaked breakdown.
I started surveying my surroundings.
One car driving in the left lane.
How upset would I be that I used my sweater as a makeshift diaper?
Oh god no, that is not happening.
What was the exact angle I could lift myself up from my car and slip my shorts off without anyone seeing?
Really? Is this a thing? Veto.
What is the probability that there are video surveillance cameras around my area and I would be on the evening news?
About 1 in 50 chances that there is a surveillance camera around here. Veto.
Where can I stop by and run in, given the chance I’ll explode?
The grocery store by UCB? The coffee shop across from the grocery store? No. There’s no way I would make it. Veto.
How badly would I have to stop at a store (Account balance: $10.27) to get a change of clothes?
I have $10.27 in my bank account. I can’t afford to buy dinner let alone a pair of pants. Veto.
What is the distance between the potential rest site and my destination?
Is it worth calculating?
Do I continue to my destination?
There. THERE IT IS. GOD BLESS THE DAMN ECHO PARK EXIT. I could run into mom’s work and PEE. I CAN PEE.
I parked my car in the lot and gracefully (cautiously) ran (limped) into the lobby of the hospital my mom works in. The parking lot was relatively empty, but at that moment all I felt were the eyes of TJ Eckleburg on me as I made my way in. It’s like everyone knew what was happening and they didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or help. I ran past those waiting in the lobby and at this point, no one existed.
At this point, I made a game plan and I accepted the fate. If I couldn't reach the bathroom, I would 100 percent sit in a chair and pee. Then I would wrap my jacket around my waist, buy a bottle of water from the vending machine, "spill" said water onto my lap, apologize profusely.
I'm not a "game plan" kind of person. I see the "job by 22, engaged my 26, career by 28, kids by 30, house by 32" type of idiotic and unreasonable game plan some people have encouraged me to stick to. Some convenient, pre-determined timeline so many people tailor around and think that is what it means to grow up. It's a full rationalization of being okay with a quarter century crisis -- refusing to grow up. Full Peter Pan mode.
I made it to the bathroom. I did the business.
I walked through those sliding doors, sat in my car, relieved. The paper has been submitted, five gallons of gas got me to school, debit card wasn’t declined, phone didn’t die kind of relieved.
That instinctual game plan (retroactively re-named Operation Vending Machine) was the most intricate game plan I have ever thought of. It was flawless and a part of me almost wanted to see how far I could take it. In that amazing moment of stress, I managed to map out every cause and effect that was possible. Done.
Shit. The improv class.
I took a second (several) to compose myself, then drove the five miles down the street to the theatre, barely ready to embrace what I thought would be my biggest anxiety attack of the day.
I watch improv. I don't do improv. Why am I here?
I told myself I would never get up on stage and try this seemingly impossible task of simultaneously being at the top of my intellect, funny, and entertaining, as well as accessing a complete archive of references to throw in now and then. Once I had released my frustration on my friend (through many “I hate you” mutters under my breath) who convinced me to take the workshop, I went up on stage, completely bombed the first exercise, and sat back down.
My teacher looked at us and said, “Okay. You did it. You’re still alive, right?”
Touche, handsome stranger, TOUCHE. I was alive. I didn't spontaneously combust, I didn’t pass out. I physically felt my throbbing, beating, anxiety-ridden heart break out of my body and collapse on the floor at one point, but it made it back into my body.
Growing up is change. Growing up isn't following that timeline someone else is throwing at you, it's being where you are right now and being present. It's responding versus of reacting; acceptance versus competition; value versus validation; independence instead of reliability; standards rather than expectations.
I scratched my entire philosophy of a game plan and focused on where I was right here and right now — the basis of improv: don’t think and be present. The second that I remembered to breathe on stage, I was okay. I wasn't bad. I was good. Okay, I wasn’t good, but I wasn’t terrible. My only goal was to make my teacher laugh at some point in the day and he did and I started engraving my trophy on the spot.
Note: Originally published October 3, 2013, rounding out my 20s.