Thirty years ago I went to a improv class with a friend of mine. During one of the scenes she and I and a couple other girls were pretending to be old ladies at a bus stop. I don’t know what transpired as far as plot – probably nothing as improv is like that and we were 12. I do remember that the other three girls seemed intent on being center stage and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. So I became a supporting character – holding on to their arms to help them to the bench, nodding my head in approval of whatever they were saying. Of course, it wasn’t my specific intention to do this. It was just the role I fell into. When we were done and the instructor gave us notes, he mentioned it. He talked about how rather than fight to be noticed, I took the more necessary step of supporting those who were. Without my action the scene would have just been four preteens pretending to be old ladies fighting for the spotlight.
Not much has changed in 30 years. Even while I push my ideas out there, occasionally fight for the spotlight, more often than not, I fall back into a supporting role and get the jobs that need to be done. Maybe I’m not forceful enough. Maybe my ideas aren’t good enough, though I have a hard time believing that. I’ve been told me how great some of my ideas are and how well I presented them and how I should do more of that. But no one follows up on my ideas, when what I am asked to do is the day-to-day get it done tasks, when the culture is to not change, even in a time of change, well it’s hard to find that motivation.
I want an environment that fosters that growth, encourages it, with more than just words. I’m OK with being a supporting character. I may never be the star at work. And I realize that often it is the work I do that keeps things going – and there is a certain satisfaction in that. I guess what I want, just like I wanted back then, was a moment, just a small moment, to shine.