Ridding myself of all worries and fear, I’ve decided to try my hand in improv. Thus far, I’ve successfully managed to muster up the strength to attend two classes. Both of which I’ve really enjoyed. This past Sunday, it wasn’t the usual class, this time it was a very vaguely described workshop, that was located in a different area as well. Something called “The Quest”.
“The Quest” was developed by the known, Del Close, in the improv world used to transform you or some hocus pocus. With little detail given, I was told the day and time it was to begin and direction to get there. Looking forward to a workshop and a solo exercise for 7 hours, I wasn’t quite convinced I should go. Besides, I’m not even an experienced improver.
Sunday morning I woke up early knowing that I had to be there by ten, but that little voice inside your head that tells you not to leave your warm bed and keep sleeping was yelling at me like a drill sergeant. It was a mixture of sleep deprivation and mostly nerves. I didn’t know what to expect and was afraid to find out. After a long convo and debate, I had chosen to commit. This is always considered the first step in achieving anything, so they say.
My day began once I made my decision. I traveled to a part of Philadelphia I didn’t know, made it on time, AND successfully parallel parked (which I’m awful at). Yay!
Part one of getting to the unknown, check.
Part two, actually taking part in the unknown.
Upon arrival a sign read ring to be buzzed in. My legs still had time to flee as I awaited someone to answer the damn door after waiting for what felt like an eternity (In case you weren’t aware an eternity is approximately 30 seconds) I was greeted by the instructor of “The Quest”.
Two hours have now gone by and I have managed to call inanimate objects incorrect names and learned about several pieces of jewelry owned by the other “Questers”. Now to the good part, the “The Quest”…actually as I’m typing, I’m now realizing maybe I shouldn’t delve into what The Quest is. It was a secret prior to experiencing it for a reason and I wouldn’t want to be one of those people who ruin the ending of a movie for you before you’ve even watched it.
What I can tell you is that it this so-called Quest, has helped me to be more mindful of who I am, where I am in any moment, and what I have the power to achieve. Lets just say you were given a task. The task has no rhyme or reason and was as simple as a single word. You were told to go out into the world and just be. Would you know what to do?
As humans we are so accustomed to putting order to things and try make sense of it all. We look for goals and completion and meaning. It’s very interesting how stuck or put off we are once we are expected to do something unexpected or provided with a task accompanied with no direction or no concise answer to a question. What this quest has taught me was to infer meaning into things in my own way. There is no right or wrong and that everything you do has some significant meaning or correlation in some other aspect of your life if you allow it to. You can develop your own world by engaging with the one we live in.
For example, I was provided with 3 single words, chosen at random. First word: Fire, second word: Silver, for the third I was able to select what I felt I needed to find most Brain, Heart, Courage, or Home (awfully similar to the Wizard of Oz, no?). My third word: Courage.
Immediately after, I was told to go out into the city for the next 4 hours to begin “The Quest”. Puzzling to everyone, I can see everyone getting worried and questioning. I was particularly fine with the direction given or lack there of. To just let yourself be. The idea is to go out and use these words to help you on your quest for self discovery. With Fire, Silver, and Courage written on baggage tags strapped to my iPhone, I set out.
Walking around Drexel campus, I began repeating these words in my head and then aloud, like a mantra, hoping something would jump out at me. It wasn’t for a few blocks that I had come across a Dragon statue. My initial thought – hey dragons breathe fire, cool. So I decide to walk over to it and begin reading the plaques surrounding the statue looking for something else to go off of. When reading I come across a list of sponsors and donators for the statue, but as it was written it was a list divided by Gold – Silver – and Bronze sponsors. My next thought – oh shit.
I was immediately amazed at how fast these “signs” has been appearing for me. Then, unfortunately, I did what that instinct of our likes to do, start to question it. (Doh! In that Homer Simpson voice) Why in the hell is there a dragon statue here to begin with, just so happens to be the mascot of Drexel, why? Who knows, but the dragon’s name is Mario, the Magnificent (there’s purpose to this in case you were asking). I also read the names listed under the Silver sponsors – Gertrude, Antoinette, & Anthony. So I’m standing there thinking, maybe I’m supposed to find a Gertrude, then I thought… wait, its 2016, no one in the state probably still has this name, so I set off to find the more common Anthony. Wondering where I would find this “Anthony” I continued to walk.
Maybe there will be someone wearing a name tag, or perhaps someone will come up to me and say “Hi, my name is Anthony, I’m here to help you on your quest”. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I had come across a Silver dragon (my second word) facing a certain direction in which I proceeded. Walking through crowds of people, observing. I walked by two women standing next to some a-frame sign, trying to read what it said without getting too close, so they wouldn’t want to sell me on anything, I could see it was about the Bible. I personally am not one of religion and tend to shy away from those who preach about it. I then thought about what seemed to be the only direction provided by our instructor before setting out, which was to gravitate towards your words and then try flowing with the opposite of them and see how it feels. Having that in mind I thought about my first word being fire and thought – hell. In my mind that would definitely be the opposite of what they’d be trying to preach about, but I still decided to pass up that conversation (trust me this is all relevant).
At the corner of my eye I could see this kid eating (not a child maybe late teens or 20s) and wondered if he could be Anthony. He was sitting by himself, which was odd to me as I had just passed a bunch of couples sitting on benches and crowds of people huddled together. My brain said go over and talk to him, but my feet kept moving. It was that nervousness I always feel before I do anything I wouldn’t normally, and that’s what I was walking away from. I got about a half of a block away when I thought about my third word, Courage.
I turned around and walked back to him. What I hadn’t noticed the first time passing was that he had been sitting next to a statue with an Eagle atop and Lions surrounding it. What a coincidence (there is no such thing). Lions when I’m attempting to find Courage. Well I approach him and without really thinking of the best way to disturb a man while he’s eating, I go “You wouldn’t happen to be Anthony would you?” How creepy of me, yes, but I kept it going. He quickly said no and gave me the oddest of looks and asked if he was being recorded. Lets pause here – he was sitting by himself and it did seem odd, but it all made sense once we began speaking – he was a truly shy person, which I thought I was, but nothing compared to this level. I convinced him I wasn’t a weird YouTuber or anything just an oddball “wanderer” looking to not be so introverted (not sure if that made him feel any more comfortable). He was not my sought Anthony, but he was a high school student in his senior year, looking to go to college for Zoology. Interestingly enough I’m talking to someone who says he has a particular interest in carnivores and I was brought to him by a lion (try explaining that one).
The intense aroma of onions coming from his subway sandwich was making me all the more uncomfortable while I was searching for the next word to say. I had realized I hadn’t yet asked him his name. He replied with Desmond, Desmond O’ Donnell. Quite an interesting name he explained it was Irish – which happened to be the weekend of St. Patrick’s day. I asked if he may have celebrated and he said he hadn’t, but he did attend a party the night before with a few people and a fire. Hold the phone, did he just say fire? Holy hell.
I tried to calmly ask about that without seeming like a psychotic pyro and he explained that he always has get togethers with a bonfire. I couldn’t help but smile. So maybe just psychotic at this point. To avoid making it any more awkward, we parted ways and I continued on my quest.
You might be saying okay total bullshit, but I tell you no lies. I was just as astonished maybe even more-so because it was happening right in front of my eyes. At this point I didn’t have too much to go on, so I went wherever my feet took me. Crossing the street I could see a small family, parents and a young girl with a flower crown around her head, she had been holding a single flower and it fell in the street she was so frantic that she had dropped it, I ran to get it for her and she looked up with the happiest eyes and said thank you (trust me, still relevant). After about 10 minutes of walking I decide to ask someone where the National Museum was, it was where Desmond said he worked, so I thought maybe I should continue on with the same “lead” and on the topic of animals. I had asked this jogger, but he given these impossible directions, so I figured I’d skip that for now and followed along the Schuylkill River. Mind you I have no idea where I’m going and am now faced with a fork in the road (literally).
Do I go left up a bridge or right and continue down the river. I was drawn to the left, it may have been the repetitive bicycle symbol I’d been seeing. Looking over the railing of the bridge, I had stumbled upon a dog park. Interestingly enough I was searching for animals and I had found some, the best kind.
Not really knowing where to go and being quite exhausted I decided to watch the dogs play from atop the bridge. Oddly enough I see this short dog, which I assumed was a terrier, with what I thought was a silver patch on her side. It was really getting to me as I watched her play, I had to know what this was. I waited to find which person the dog had belonged to, she just so happened to have been sitting next to a girl with Silver hair. Now it wasn’t grey hair because she wasn’t old, it was a younger girl with purposely dyed hair, go figure. So I finally made my way down the bridge and had been speaking with the owner through the fence.
“Excuse me, is that your terrier?” By the 2nd time she finally acknowledged me and said “Yes, this is my Frenchie” – Apparently I’m not too keen on my dog breeds because I had really thought it was a Boston terrier. I had asked about what I thought was a silver patch from afar and she then told me that there is no patch, her fur had been shaved due to an allergy test. She had mentioned that she had just moved and the trees here had been getting to her. I found it very interesting seeing as how, just a week or so prior I had gotten an allergy test done and was told I was allergic to Silver Birch trees. That second word really crept up on me. I thanked her for sharing and went on my way.
A block or two later I had stopped to Google a Boston terrier because I had been so embarrassed that I could get something like that wrong. I read as far as Boston terrier an american bred dog, to have looked up to none other than a guy in a white hoodie with an american flag printed on the front walking two Boston terriers. Rufus was on of their names, I remember because he had taken a liking to my leg. I’m sure you’re finding it really hard to believe me now, but I swear, I’m not lying.
Still stuck on the word Silver, I came across this chain linked fence that had caught my interest because of the way it was linked, so I decided to follow that and see where it took me. I had seemed to be straying further and further away from where I started, which was making me a bit weary. Waiting at a cross walk a car drove by with a little girl in the backseat behind the passenger side with her head out the window staring at me, was too wearing a halo of flowers around her head, the same as the other girl in the street. I figured it had to be the right way. I began seeing signs for an exhibit for King Midas The Golden Age – I had began shying away from the Silver fence because I was so drawn to the Gold signs. At this point my exhaustion turned into starvation, where I encountered a conversation with the a Pretzel factory worker. He was captivated by the chain I had been wearing (a coin I had kept from my Denmark trip) where we began talking of all the places we’d like to visit. We then exchanged names. Micah, a profit from the Bible.
That wouldn’t have anything to do with the same Bible I had been avoiding earlier would it? Nah, it couldn’t be. My next stop was a restroom I had to wait for, in which another girl had joined me in line. Discussing the wait, I had noticed on her right wrist was a bracelet looking watch with a character printed on it, which just so happened to be of Yoshi, a dinosaur from Super Mario that can spit fireballs (ahh there’s that relation). Mario the Magnificent and Super Mario. Dragons and dinosaurs. Mythical characters and profits. My head is just all over.
Pretty much drained of all energy and battery life, I decided to head back to meet up with the rest of the group. On the way there I was distracted by a live band playing at a tavern remembering it was St. Patrick’s day weekend, I decided to take a detour and check it out. I had managed to stand in front of the door of the pub to listen in, but the lack of talent didn’t really hold my interest. The detour led me to pass a café with a dog logo, but I was reluctant to go in. I had been followed by dogs and dragons all day, I was a bit afraid of what more I could find at this point. Continuing to walk, a book store on the corner captured me and peering in the window, I saw a book titled The Firebrand and the First Lady. It was a feminist book store. A firebrand is a person who is passionate about a particular cause. To be honest, I’m not quite sure if there is a relation. Perhaps there isn’t one. Maybe there isn’t really a relation to anything that had happened to me this day. It’s quite possible I wanted to see a correlation, so I created one. I don’t know for sure.
What I do know is that I sought out to find courage that day and used two other words to help me find it. I was shown how courageous I can be when I don’t hold back. I was given cues with the symbol of a dog. I also know that all of this brings me back to a memory I have of watching a childhood show and whenever I was fearful of something I would chant “I’m a big brave dog”. I had made mentioned that line only but a few months ago. Prior to that most of my life had changed and really took a turn, when I decided to move out on my own, which led to a series of other positive events, like my new career, which all started when I had adopted my new dog. Using her as strength and motivation I was able to suck up the anxiety I had of the unknown. It has all led me up to this very day, when I was even encouraged to start with improv. What I find even more interesting is that just 24 hours before this day I had written a post on Facebook asking if anyone would like to make a movie. An old friend of mine, I hadn’t talked to in years replied with, “can it have dragons?” I responded with, “as long as they’re in your mind”.
“The only way to predict the future is to create it” – Abraham Lincoln
P.S – In case you hadn’t figured it out,
none of this was an example.