two rules: clever, not stupid

blog, i have just experienced an epiphany: i, like John Green’s Will Grayson, live by two rules. not nearly as drastic as his “shut up, and don’t care,” but easily just as ridiculous.

1. don’t be stupid.
2. be clever.

i know what you’re thinking. “seriously, Chelsea? you should really consider condensing that list to the ONE item that it is.” but hear me out.

i had this epiphany in the printer room. as i was waiting for my print, i was thinking about how i would need to tell my coworker why there would be pages missing. i thought it would be clever to say that they had been “eliminated from existence” and i was working out the wording of this particular bit of cleverness, when i realized that i was working out the wording of this particular bit of cleverness. you wouldn’t believe how much time in my life is spent working out the wording, and the general presentation of bits of cleverness. which lead me to also realize how much time i dedicate to not being stupid.

so first, and this is the most important one: don’t be stupid. i don’t mean, book-learned don’t be stupid. anyone can be book-smart and still be a moron. i mean don’t say or do anything that could be perceived as stupid. don’t show insecurities, or weaknesses, or ignorance. in fact, don’t enter into situations you don’t know much about… well, ever.

and second: be clever. at any time you can possibly think of something clever and/or witty to say, say it. if it’s not clever or witty, it’s probably best unsaid. and since it’s a little weird to be a mute, this means that most things i say have to be, on some level, witty or clever. this means most things that come out of my mouth are “tried and true” or are rehearsed in my head (granted, a quick rehearsal, but a rehearsal all the same). “tried and true” statements are things i’ve said before and have gone over well. most things i say are just a slightly tweaked version of a “tried and true.” everything else gets a quick once over in my head. i always had something clever to retort. i never needed to pause long enough to be perceived as stupid.

the really crazy bit is i’m actually not as big on my two rules as i used to be. once upon a time, before entering social situations, i would think of the stories i might tell. and i would think of all the different reactions people could have. and i thought of all the clever things i could say to each different reaction. if people only knew that i was just saying lines. a moment to think about it wasn’t thinking, it was a timed pause. their honest reactions were just my cues. a laugh – say this. challenge my remark – shoot back with the counterpoint.

one of the major problems with thinking of every possible reaction someone could have to whatever you say is that you’re never surprised by anything. no conversation is original cuz you’ve already played it out in your head. after a while, conversation gets VERY boring. it’s no wonder i’ve always had a small group of friends. it’s only after a while of rehearsed conversations that i ever feel comfortable enough to be “spontaneous” and go improv.

now, again i say i’m not as big on my two rules as i used to be. but then it’s very easy to “not be stupid” and “be clever” on the fly when you’ve already been doing it for over 10 years. in other words, i’m not as into them because i don’t HAVE to be into them. nowadays i can coast on autopilot.

and for the record, just because i’d had my epiphany about cleverness, doesn’t mean i didn’t walk right up to my coworker and spit out my clever line, executed with the timing that only years of practice can provide. it was an epiphany, not an inspiration.

however, i have been inspired to try very hard at VidCon, the biggest social event i’ll be involved in all year, to leave my rules behind. from Thursday night to Sunday night, for 72 hours, i’m going to put my script away, not even “improv,” just say the genuine thoughts that come to my head. no flash rehearsals.

so… i’ll let you know how that goes.

((NOTE: ironically, since the universe never misses the chance at a good laugh, the preview function for my blog isn’t working. i almost ALWAYS find mistakes while looking at the preview view. what this means is that i can’t properly do the editing that keeps me from looking stupid and occasionally allows me to seem witty and clever. classic.))

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