Part 1 can be found here.
So, about hope.
No Shame’s #1 enemy is graduation— it already took my “new” core group. I knew I’d graduate soon, so I worked on No Shame harder than I did on my English degree. I rid us of the $1 admission fee. I reached out to other organizations. I introduced post-show Cards Against Humanity games. I brought us to the student org fairs, created an official email address, and upped my weekly contributions to two pieces each show. But I had to do one more, more terrifying thing for No Shame: I had to make friends. I couldn’t be the shadow I once was. I had left most of the people from high school behind, and I couldn’t afford to do that here, especially since I asked for a lot of time and energy from the new generation. CAHN! answered the call— so did Tristan Roeder, Jacy West, and Michelle Nguyen. Our voyage was in the middle of the storm, and her captain kept forgetting to show everyone the map. I took so much on, and was so bad at communicating my plans, that learning to trust people with my baby took a while. This was a group I could trust.
Last semester, we had 8 board members. We fought with each other a fair bit. We all sacrificed our irreplaceable free time. And, after all this, the best way I can thank you all… is to put you on the list. Here’s Something I Lived To See. In my six years, from the days when Room 172 was packed full, to the days when it was only two of us laughing with each other; there was no show ever better than the 30th anniversary. Months of hard work resulted in a reunion that brought No Shame’s best work— and best people— for a grand celebration. I performed my Guided Meditation amongst them, and for once I didn’t feel like a poser amongst the alumni. I was there at the 25th anniversary. Because of me, No Shame got to see its 30th anniversary. The Era of Nick had drawn to a close.
The Era of Nick had drawn to a close whether I wanted it to or not. I developed osteochondritis dissecans in my left knee. Two surgeries lay in my future. To accommodate for these upcoming procedures, I had to take this final semester of mine online, in La Grange. And I wasn’t the only one leaving too early. The stress of running No Shame, and its diminishing returns, caused other board members to drop out as well. More medical problems rose up, and I left the Fall 2016 semester early. It was like 2014, with my neck problems, all over again. This was the limit for my parents. Until graduation, I was not coming back to Iowa.
No list could help me here. In this monologue, I revealed that I have a rather large ego. When I’m not suffering suicidal depression, that is. And I’ve had genuine friends and genuine loves before college. But No Shame is the first thing I loved more than myself. No, it was myself. Its artistic failings transformed into my moral failings. Even when guided by the capable hands of Zach Steil, No Shame became my life’s work, and it was little better off than it was in 2013. I saved LATTE; why couldn’t I save No Shame Theater?
Speaking of LATTE: Felicia Pfluger visited me while I recovered from surgery. We began the catching-up process. LATTE has been her life these past few years. Its stresses combined could not outweigh her joy in running it. I asked her how LATTE was doing, and we talked about it, but then, in the middle of conversation, a revelation came to me, as if in burning, miraculous letters across the dark clouds in the heavens:
I DIDN’T CARE.
I hadn’t seen a LATTE show in years. The bridges I hadn’t crossed, I had burned. What I did care about were the people in LATTE. Hyperactive newcomers in 2010 that became bonafide stars in 2017. New kids bringing a galaxy of characters within them. I don’t know if Felicia Pfluger is any happier before or after LATTE. But she abandoned any future she might have had to help me save the theater troupe. That was what mattered now. It was never about theater, it was about how the theater changed us. How the theater compelled her to visit this disheartened, lost kid, recovering from surgery, wanting to know if he had ever made a difference.
Here’s how No Shame changed me. I didn’t become a better leader. I’ve always just wanted to write, even as it began to feel more like work. But now I know the truth. I want to write with everyone. Creating a skit with a partner, through the Docs part of the No Shame email, were the highlights of my last year in Iowa. It’s the first passion I found, possibly ever, that didn’t feel like work. I could express myself without shutting myself away from the world. I don’t need to wave a No Shame flag to enjoy TJ’s wit, or Tristan’s bravery, or Jacy’s spirit, or Cayla’s energy, or John’s inquisitiveness, or Zach’s determination, or Michelle’s honesty. I just needed myself. I needed love for myself first. Every single one of us here is greater than any theater group. I can’t recall anything I’ve given more love to than No Shame. So I’m sorry, darling, but it’s time I saw other friends. It’s not you. It was never you. It was always me.
There. I did it. The one thing I’ve never been able to do at No Shame: Speak from the heart.
That’s not true. If I’m honest, I’ve spoken from the heart maybe too many times. No, this is the one thing I’ve done that I’ve never done before: I learned to let go.