Part 1 can be found here.
When I was in the hospital, I started a list. I made a list because, in that dark period of my life, I made plans to quit much more than No Shame. So I created a note on my iPod: “Things I Lived To See And Be.” It details all the wonderful things that made up my life since Spring 2014… things I found only because I lived.
There are two list items I want to share with you. In Spring 2015, things seemed to have turned around. We had a core group again. My writing had improved, inch by inch, with each week at No Shame. And when I graduated, I was certain that the trio of John Denato, TJ Green, and Cayla Kiene— otherwise known as CAHN! — would take my place. From that blissfully stressful time, only two words made it onto this list: “Praise Edinger!”
One night that Spring, I was the only board member present to run the show. So I declared a coup and a dictatorship, creating Nick Shame and installing the rally cry of “Praise Edinger!” for the event. It was funny back then. The joke seems to have extended its original run.
Here’s my secret: I still find it funny. I love Praise Edinger. In the past few years, I would shudder and groan when someone brought it up. Not all my best performances are on the stage. I don’t do well with improv, and I build up each of my skits with a fair share of notes and drafts. So on that night, when all the other board members suddenly couldn’t attend, I turned around the situation by doing something absolutely crazy to me: making it up on the spot. I reached deep inside, and I found “Praise Edinger!” On my planet, “Praise Edinger!” means hope.
I needed a lot of hope in the last two years.
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 30thanniversary. 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.
To be concluded in Part 3...