This coming Thursday, I turn 27 years old. It’s not really an official milestone by any means, unless you consider that to be one’s unendorsed entry into your late 20s. (Longtime readers may have noticed that my attempts to be introspective can be quite stilted, so bear with me.)
As a classic rock nerd in high school, turning 27 means outliving a fair percentage of the artists I grew up listening to. In a weird sort of way, I looked up to Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, and Jimi Hendrix; in the next few months, I will surpass them one by one. Even artists I discovered in early adulthood have been affected by “The 27 Club”: blues legend Robert Johnson, Chris Bell of Big Star, Pigpen McKernen of The Grateful Dead, Mia Zapata of The Gits. The fact that Amy Winehouse died last month at the same age of the aforementioned rock legends temporarily put me on edge, if only because the troubled “Rehab” singer graduated from high school one year before I did. Until her sad yet foreseeable demise, my reference point was Kurt Cobain, 17 years my senior but a tormented guiding spirit to an entire generation.
If I sound ghoulish, it’s only because the 27 Club marks the last vestiges of pure, unbridled youth and our surrender to adulthood… or so it seems. We’re now four or five years removed from college; nobody is holding our hand anymore. We never got see Janis Joplin with cellulite or Kurt Cobain with male pattern baldness, and for karmic reasons maybe we should happy that we didn’t. They lived their short lives in excess and paid dearly for it. Of the names I mentioned above, only Pigpen died of natural causes. The responsibilities of adulthood are not pretty, but they’re inevitable.
With my 27th birthday this week, I am marking a second moment of transition. On Sunday night I had my last class performance at iO Chicago, the climax of a 16-month journey into the basic concepts and assumed structures of long-form improv. My seven-week run with Ladies & Lumberjacks (our chosen team name, long story) is something that I am immensely proud of, and I will miss working with my friends and peers very dearly. We worked exclusively together for four months —the duration of the last level is twice as long as the others— and we formed a very tight bond, not unlike brothers and sisters. Between losing my job and dealing with a terminally ill parent last summer, improv became my reason to wake up in the morning. To say the experience was fun is an understatement; iO was a liberating thrill ride and the most consistent morale booster I’ve ever had.
With that said, I am segueing myself into the next chapter of my improv career at the Second City Conservatory. As I mentioned last week, I have orientation on the 28th and my first class is Labor Day weekend. Like iO and the Second City basic improv program before that, I will share a class with 15-odd complete strangers with similar interests and we will grow to become a cohesive unit, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to take the ride. Fittingly enough the conservatory program runs for exactly one year, and if all goes right my graduation will coincide with my 28th birthday next August. My job situation is still in limbo, but my confidence overall is in resurgence. This will be my year, and for the first time in a long while I’ll be pulling the reins.