Laugh in the face of the unknown

An improviser’s lesson on embracing the spontaneous beauty in life

I’m a planner, a perfectionist. I need things to go a certain way. This is funny, because none of life’s great moments ever seem to abide by the rules of the “plan.”

For years, I was lucky enough to be a member of Don’t Tell Anna (DTA), Xavier’s improv comedy group. I wanted to be in it so desperately as an incoming freshman, having heard about it from my brother, a 2011 alum. All my dreams came true when I was picked for the group. Improv has taught me so many valuable life lessons: Always say yes. Contribute. Support your teammates. Don’t be selfish. Take risks.There are no mistakes, only opportunities. If you fail, try again. Amazing and rewarding things happen when you do.

Like improv, life is both challenging and incredibly rewarding. It’s a terrifying thing to improvise — to stand on stage with no plan, no clue as to where the scene is going to go. But it is the most rewarding experience when you look your scene partner in the eye and jump together. Sometimes, it goes perfectly, sometimes it turns out differently than you expected and other times it fails in ways you never imagined.

Xavier, for me, did not turn out the way I envisioned for myself as a freshman. Things changed and so did I, sometimes in beautiful ways, others in challenging ways. But I have learned that teamwork and love, and those who act out of love and selflessness, rather than simply preaching it, is what really matters.

Meredith Francis is the former Campus News Editor at the Newswire and is a senior English & Philosphy, Politics and the Public major from Louisville, Ky.
Meredith Francis is the former Campus
News Editor at the Newswire and is a
senior English & Philosphy, Politics and
the Public major from Louisville, Ky.

I have learned that negative things –– cruelty, apathy, lack of compassion –– are simply not worth it. Like in improv, negativity only dampens what could be a beautiful experience. So I choose to say, “Yes, and,” and take the frightening but exhilarating leap into the unknown, holding the hand of a trusted partner. In my time at Xavier, I have learned and firmly believe that humor and beauty come out of the unexpected.

There is one night that reflects my experience at Xavier. After holding auditions my sophomore year, four of us from DTA decided to hang out after a stressful night of debate about who would join the troupe. My friends Chris, Greg and Bobby piled into a small, musty basement, sitting on folding chairs, discussing everything from relationships to politics to comedy. As Chris made me laugh and Greg and Bobby got into a comical debate about politics, I kept saying how I needed to get back and study for a Spanish quiz. But Greg said, “Come on, what are you going to remember 10 years from now? That quiz, or this conversation?” I stayed, and the four of us had an amazing talk until 3 am. (Also, Greg, I remember the quiz. I got a B+. Good, considering the hangover.)

That night was one of those moments where you feel a connection with other people on a very fundamental level. No matter the topic, in having that conversation I felt invigorated as a human being – like no matter how stressed or isolated I felt, these were my three friends and we were in it together, if only for one fleeting moment of beauty. That night was unexpected, unplanned and improvised, like so many great moments are. Life can be inexplicably and unexpectedly beautiful.

So, like we “whoosh” in DTA to start a new scene, I’m about to begin a scary and exciting adventure. I have a plan, and the perfectionist in me feels anxiety over whether it will work out. But the improviser in me looks to the future with exhilaration, with a need for the humor and beauty that will emerge from the unknown.

Some thank you’s are in order: Thank you to the entire English department and the PPP program. To my Newswire staff, thank you for making me laugh and embracing the 10 p.m. crazies. Thank you to Xavier Police and Lt. Bill Smith for the Police Notes each week. Thank you to my housemates, Alana, Camie and Alex – you all are my home. And thank you to my hilarious fellow improvisers (past and present) in DTA for making me leap even when I wasn’t ready.