You Flipped the Script

A flipped tennis court, with a man hanging on for dear life

Imagine this:

You are on stage trying to look out at the audience, but the spotlight blinds you. As you stand there, you realize that you can’t remember what comes next.

A spotlight blinds you

“Uh, what’s my line?” you ask, to which an offstage whisper answers, “Get a job.”

Phew, okay, you can do that. You go through the motions, sit at the interview table, sign an offer letter, and the play moves along for a while more until, once again, you forget. “Err… Line?”

“Buy a house,” the voice prompts.

Keys are offered to a couple

Oh, that’s right. You find a big house on set and settle in, flashing your new keys at the audience. You fill it with Ikea furniture and that one armchair you still have from your college house. You are miming mowing the lawn when you hesitate.

“Psst,” you whisper out of the corner of your mouth, “Line, please!”

“Get married.” You get on one knee. The audience seems to enjoy it. They mouth along to the words in their predictability. The next time you forget your line, you stop.

You don’t even have to ask this time.

“Have kids.”

You don’t move.

The voice hisses it at you again, but the next line doesn’t feel right.

You shape your own, hardly believing the words that come out of your mouth.

“I’m going to move,” across the country. To save the sea turtles in Costa Rica. To study Russian in a city named Новосиби́рское водохрани́лище. You’re going to quit and figure it out as you go.

Your adlib surprises Grandma in the front row. Others laugh nervously.

They think you’re joking.

Excitement bubbles up in you, even as your fellow actors shoot looks at each other, what do we do now? A few of them play along while others throw up their hands, stalking offstage to complain to the director. By now you have gone completely off-script. 

Does this seem like you?

Are you writing the script of your own life?Click To Tweet

People will keep trying to tell you what to do next. What will make you successful. What you can buy to make your life more enjoyable.

Buy a nice car.

Live in a big house.

Get married.

Have kids.

Nobody makes you do these things, but they are the voices from stage right, telling you how the script should go. The script is not inherently bad, but some of the lines feel unnatural to you. An actor performs best when he or she says a line with conviction. He’s practiced it. She owns it.

Yes, and…

Once the script is flipped, you are improving. The first rule of improv, any drama teacher will tell you (mine with tattooed eyeliner, shawls draped over her shoulders, and a cackle that made you love her) is that you must reply with ‘yes, and…’

You might tell me, “Wow Mechanic! You write a globally recognized, award-winning blog,” (Remember, improv can be fantastical) to which I might reply, “Yes, and Anna Kendrick asked me for my autograph last week.”

When most people learn about the concept of financial independence and people retiring in their 30s, they respond with “No, because.”

No, because I’m bad with money.

No, because I have kids.

No, because it means eating rice and beans.

No, because I’m not an engineer or a doctor.

That’s not you. You’re a master at improv. You flip the script.

A flipped tennis court, the player hanging on for dear life

Yes, and I can take control of my money. (Your drama teacher claps in delight)

Yes, and I can save more.

Yes, and I will dream big. 

Yes, and that script was not written with me in mind.

So when it’s time to take a bow, you have made the audience gasp in surprise. Some even stood up and left. But no one can deny that you made the show your own. You adlibbed and improved and sang and danced and joked and cartwheeled across the stage. You made the show come alive. And when the curtain closes, you won’t read what the critics wrote, or hear a standing ovation, but that is okay.

You were the star of your own show.

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    1. It’s quite old! We’ve made so many variations that it’s easy to forget how old it is. Thank you!

  1. This was beautifully written and such a wonderful way to illustrate how financial decisions are YOURS alone and shouldn’t be dictated by others!

    1. Thank you! There are so many cultural norms that it’s hard to know which to just follow along with and which to reject, because rejecting them can be painful. However, money is one area where you should absolutely dictate what happens!

  2. LOVE IT! Fantastic analogies. You had me getting flashbacks to my improv and theater days. Let’s flip that script (and I might flip a table while I’m at it…just for fun 😉 ). Thanks so much for writing this – I really enjoyed it.

    1. I love that you did improv and theatre! Yes, flip those tables too 😉 I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Yes!!! Nothing beats being the star of your own show! I suppose it’s that intersection of achievement, reaching your goals, finding your passion… finding yourself!
    Your post was entertaining and well written. It reminded me of the Robert Frost poem about finding one’s own path, the one less traveled. Taking the easier road gets you there faster and more safely, but there is a certain fulfillment about going the harder route. Thank you for reminding me.

    1. Yes, all of those play an important role. I’m glad it made you think of the poem, I can definitely see the relation. Sometimes the more difficult route gets us to where we actually need to go!

  4. And here I thought mechanics weren’t inherently theater arts types, only to find such fitting drama geek analogies. Who knew?

    Beautifully rendered – sometimes you have to write the play you want to act in. If you get lucky, it becomes a “Hamilton” type success because others can relate.

    1. I don’t think much is inherent– I think most is learned. If a mechanic wants to learn to dance, they can! If a math whiz wants to learn to write, they can! If a writer wants to learn computational physics well… good luck. Just kidding, they can too! 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoyed this piece, it was fun to write.

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