On Permission

by robinhardwick

For a lot of my life I was terrified to do a lot of things. Write, perform, speak, be social; I felt as I didn’t have the permission I needed to go forward. Permission from who? Well, obviously from some imaginary nebulous source that grants people the ability to pursue their dreams and wants!

I remember the first time I saw improv comedy in college. I was amazed and enchanted. But, no that wasn’t something I ever had permission to do, or even try. Not only was I scared, it didn’t even seem in the realm of possibility, ever. It wasn’t until eleven years later that I even dared to take an improv class.

I didn’t even release anything I wrote to the public until 2007, and that was because I started writing a recap blog as a goof. In 2007, I was twenty-nine years old.

I suppose everything regrets the stupid things they did in their twenties. It’s also easy in hindsight to kick yourself over what you should have done. Of course going back in your life with the knowledge you know now is something we wish for. I try my hardest not to let my mind wander into the realm of you’ve wasted so much of your life, you could have been successful now, why was I so scared to do everything for so long. The permission I was waiting for would never come.

The people I saw doing what I wanted to do creatively had the social capital, the “cred”, the perceived confidence to do what they do. They seemed to be given the “go ahead” from the universe that allowed them to pursue what they wanted, and despite their actual output of work being judged by critics, there was no question in my mind that they were “allowed” to be doing what they were doing. They were accepted members of an exclusive club I would never breach.

I know this is bullshit. I know I was creating some sort of social schema that was only in my mind. Yet I still can’t get over the idea that I don’t have the permission to pursue what I want, to put myself in social situations that I want. I now have to literally say to myself “You have the permission.”

I have the permission to see a comedy show, mixer, art opening, improv audition by myself if I want to. I am expected to be there. The performers sell tickets for money in exchange to be a part of an audience. It’s an honest-to-god straightforward transaction. I pay the money, I have permission to be there.

I have permission to attend a social event to which I was literally invited (albeit on facebook along with hundreds of others) but that is the social contract of invites. Someone tells you to show up somewhere because they want you to show up somewhere. Amazing how that works! Yet I still wait for some big permission slip to fall from the sky, signed by God or whomever, to actually make me feel like I deserve to participate.

I have an urge to contribute creatively to the world. Part of it is self-ego fulfillment; I want someone to laugh, think, smile at something I write produce or say. I feel so urgently about this because I spent over a decade on the sidelines looking in. I have the permission to produce a show,  rent a theater space, put on a show, and tell people to come. People have done it and failed, and then they’ve tried again. I have the ability to do this, and no one would stop me. In fact, I am sure many would encourage me! But I can’t get past this wall of permission.

I’m terrified that time is running out for me. Sure, I’m thirty-five years young, so the world is at my fingertips. Chuck Palahnuik didn’t write his first novel until he was thirty-six, which was the insanely brilliant and successful Fight Club. I’ve held on to this notion for a long time. But then again, I am thirty-five years old. I only have a year.

’m trying my hardest to push through this. I am an adult who has made my way in the world better than most, actually; I own my own home, hold a job in which I am a top achiever, and can move through the basic elements of adulthood pretty easily. But I don’t just want to end up with the same  fate as Llewyn Davis (spoiler alert) at the end of Inside Llewyn Davis, who just settled on existing. I want to contribute creatively. I’m realistic in that I may not write a New York Times bestseller, or have my own column on a major website, but it is realistic that I create something locally: a reading series, sketch show, or some sort of creative endeavor.

I know that I do not need to permission to write things for myself. I can sit up late at night, filling my google docs with scripts, stories, and ideas. But there’s no such thing as a writer “writing for themselves”. I have permission to tell people to come to something I create, to ask for an audience. I have the permission to create something that contributes to the comedy/creative/literary scene. There aren’t actual mugshots of me on every theater door saying “warning! keep this woman out.”

Still, a  physical permission slip falling from the sky would be nice. That would definitely be a positive sign from the universe.