Hello to the New and Goodbye to the Old

It’s time for that obligatory year end wrap up post. And yes, I know we’re already almost done with January but I was traveling and then subsequently dealing with the gnarliest case of jet lag I’ve ever had for a week. Anyway, now I’m feeling well enough for some reflection on the past year.

This was the year, of course, when SYED ended and I quit my job. Adjusting to a new lifestyle was difficult as I mentioned here.

I took one more shot at love with Clara and it ended painfully but permanently. There will be no more on again off again romance. Someday I might talk about what happened. But for now, just know that it’s all for the best in the long the run.

I realized my parents are getting older. My father broke his pelvis when they were on vacation. Luckily, he recovered pretty quickly and when I went home a month after it happened, he was able to walk again. Still, I don’t know how much longer they’ll be around and that scares the shit out of me.

Speaking of work, I’ve had to learn how to be poor again. Ok, maybe not poor. But I made a comfortable living at my job before and I had to adjust. No more going out for dinner and drinks whenever I wanted. Do I really need to buy that shirt or video game? What’s the cheaper brand of beans? Maybe I should get Veuve Clicquot instead of Cristal. You know. Stuff I haven’t had to think about in years.

But thankfully, my former coworkers and friends have been looking out for me. They’ve thrown me work when it’s come up and it’s what’s carried me through the year. I’m eternally grateful for them and also that I have the skills to pay my bills.

I discovered that I’m more resilient than I thought I was. After the book proposal didn’t sell, I went back to my literary agent with a new take: a self-help book instead of a memoir. She loved the idea so I’m reworking the proposal and hopefully we’ll get another shot at selling it.

I’m also working on making SYED into a movie. That’s been a wild ride that I haven’t written about until now. Read about it here.

I’ve realized that I need to put SYED behind me in some ways. Of course I’m still working on projects about it, but I came to the decision that I need to close this website down. I already turned off comments on the original blog. But I want to shut down this new blog as well.

I’ll still be blogging and I hope you will read at GregoryTung.com. It will be more like a regular blog. I don’t want to work within the SYED framework any more. Sure, I’ll still write about interesting scary things I do, but I want the freedom to write other, more experimental things.

Something that sort of goes along with that is the status of Go Scare Yourself. While it’ll always be something I want to do, I just don’t know if it’s in my near future. I have other things I want to accomplish first. Maybe if someone wanted to work with me it might happen. But for now it’s on hold indefinitely. Thanks to all who were interested in and supported the concept.

2012 started out amazing, got really, really bad and started getting better. 2013 is looking pretty bright. I’m not sure if it’s bright enough I gotta wear shades. Maybe use my hand to cover my eyes. Or at least squint a little.

Run for My Life

Over a year ago, while SYED was still going on, I found about this 5k Zombie Race called Run for Your Lives.

It sounded like a great idea: a 5k obstacle course with people playing zombies who are trying to grab “health” flags from you. You start with three flags and if you lose them all you “die” but really you just don’t get to finish with the distinction of being alive.

Perfect for SYED so I signed up immediately. This was August of 2011 or so. When I got the confirmation for my registration (which was $60, nothing to sniff at) I noticed it said October 20, 2012. What?? Over a year away??

I emailed the company to try and cancel but they said there were no refunds. No refunds for an event over a year away. But they had no problem charging my credit card. Plus, SYED would be over then, what would be the point?

That was one of the first times I realized how much impact the blog was having on my life. Was I just going to revert to the same person when it was over? I really didn’t want that to happen. So I did nothing about it.

Flash forward to present day and the race was suddenly upon me. I assumed it was somewhere relatively nearby but unfortunately it was at the Vail Lake Resort in Temecula, 110 miles from my house! ONE WAY!

Driving 110 miles in LA is the equivalent of journeying the length of the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon. I left at 6:30 am to get to my race which was at 9 am.

I parked in a dirt field with hundreds of other cars. Then I had to hike about a quarter mile to get to the race area.

The race course looked like it was setup on the fire roads in the hills (you can see in the photo above). There were various tents set up for checking your gear, first aid, changing areas and more.

After getting my time chip, bib and free t-shirt, it was already almost 9 am. I dropped my stuff off at the bag check and headed to the start area.

The start area consisted of three long chutes (named affectionately “appetizer”, “dinner” and “dessert”) into which we were herded like cattle to the slaughter. We waited around for about ten minutes when finally a gate at the end was opened and we were off amid a cloud of fog injected into our faces.

The course started off with a brutal hill for about a quarter mile. I mean, seriously brutal. I hadn’t really warmed up but I managed to jog up it. Only me and two other guys seemed to be running it and they gave up halfway up.

I saw the first zombies at the top of the hill. I blasted by them like a zombie dodging God and thought this was going to be pretty easy.

The race description said there were different paths to choose but where I saw a fork in the road, people where coming down toward me in one direction and away from me in another. So I headed where the people were going away from me.

Still nobody was running. The first hill wiped them out already. I passed by a couple more zombie areas and then I realized how tired I was. I could run ten miles easily but having to accelerate and cut back and forth to avoid zombies was something else entirely. By the time I got to the next zombie area, I was about to collapse.

I ran straight into a zombie and instead of trying to dodge her, I said, “I’m to tired for shit!” She broke character and laughed but still grabbed one of my three flags.

After that area, even though I didn’t want to, I had to stop and catch my breath. After a few moments, I was off again.

The zombie areas began to have obstacles with them. First there were some hills. Then there were hills with water trenches. I lost my shoe in the first water trench and had to go back for it. When I put it back on, it felt like it weighed ten pounds.

When I went into this thing, I thought being alone would be an advantage. I would be able to move faster. But the way the zombie areas were set up, if you went by yourself you were basically the bait. All the zombies would go after you. If you went with a group, the zombies would be spread out. Divide and conquer. So I started sneaking by behind other groups. And yes, I may have used a tired chubby girl as a screen at one point. No, I didn’t feel bad. IT’S A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, PEOPLE.

The freakiest obstacle was this zombie house that was a mini-maze. I got inside and it was dark and smoky. Then some guy yelled out, “OH MY GOD FUCK NO SHIT GOD FUCK.” He sounded genuinely scared. Like “this isn’t a game anymore” scared. And that freaked out the guy in front of me so bad he just stood there. What was going on?

I pushed past both of them and then felt a strange pain. It was an electric shock. That’s when I saw there were wires dangling from the ceiling. Holy shit. I ran further in and was shocked again. It was actually kind of painful. There’s something about an electric shock that is so disconcerting. More so than a needle or heat or blunt force.

The next obstacle to me, looked like barbed wire hurdles. I am 6′ 3″ so maybe that’s why. It was four single lines of barbed wire strung across at two foot intervals. So naturally I started hurdling them. That’s when one clipped my shin and I sort of got caught on it. I eventually got my foot out that’s when somebody screamed, “You’re kicking the barbed wire on people!” That’s when I saw people were crawling UNDER the wire. Whoops! My bad! BUT IT’S A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE.

I’m not sure where I lost my second flag. But I was damn sure I wasn’t going to lose my last one. As I neared the home stretch, there was a zombie that was going to get my flag. There was no question about it. He had the angle on me and I was pretty tired. He reached for my flag and out of sheer survival instinct, I slapped his hand aside. Pretty hard. I felt kind of bad about it but I blame my jungle cat-like reflexes. Plus IT’S A ZOM- okay.

There were a few more wall hurdles and then a giant ramp that lead to a slide down into a tank of water. I hate water. Especially gross muddy weird water that hundreds of people have been in already. But I went for it because it’s been awhile since I’ve really went for anything. It was predictably pretty gross. But at least I did it.

There was another crawl section but to leave no doubt, it had a sign that said UNDER. Why didn’t the other one have that?

One last gauntlet of zombies and I was done. I had one flag left. I was still alive. Was I proud of hiding behind people, bouncing barbed wire off someone’s head and slapping an innocent zombie? You’re goddamn right I was!

Overall, it was pretty fun. The locale was a kind of boring. Like most things in LA, it was just brown dirt hills. If there were trees and grass it would’ve been nicer. The zombies did a good job although I was kind of annoyed they had a mix of slow moving and fast moving zombies. You have to choose damnit!

It would’ve been a lot more fun if I had some friends with me. That was the biggest takeaway for me. If there’s a zombie apocalypse, you don’t want to be alone.

The next day I decided to look up my time. I thought it might be decent since nobody seemed to be running. Much to my surprise, I found out I won my heat, get 10th overall for the entire race (8000 people over the day), got 2nd in my age group and 6th out of the “alive” finishers. Not bad.

Recognition

A couple of months ago, I planned a weekend trip to San Francisco. I wanted to get together with my Bay Area friends to celebrate my birthday.

“It can also be a pre-book release party too!” one of my friends commented optimistically.

When that didn’t look like it was happening just yet, the last thing I felt like doing was facing my friends with no good news. I was seriously considering canceling the trip. I ran through scenarios of what I could do. Could I just eat the charge for changing the ticket to another date? Maybe I could tell everyone I cancelled but go up and just do something by myself? Or tell everyone I became deathly ill?

In the end, I decided to go because I didn’t want to. If I learned anything from SYED, it’s I clearly don’t know what’s good for me. Like George from Seinfeld, I had to go against my instincts.

So I went. And I ended up having a great time.

My mom was in town and even though we’d just had a huge argument over my long, arduous, battle of attrition to become a writer (I mean, it had been SIX MONTHS for God’s sake, why wasn’t I rich and famous yet?), we had a great birthday dinner of delicious Korean BBQ with my sister.

The next night, I celebrated my birthday with my friends. Another delicious dinner of the Thai variety this time. Then lots of martinis and a vegan cheese steak at the end of the night!

It was a great weekend and I needed it more than I realized.

And there was this moment, when I was having a coffee in a café south of Market, waiting for my friend to pick me up. I saw someone in the corner of my eye walk up to me.

“Greg?” I looked up at him. He was Asian and I stared at him, trying my darnedest to place him. Was he from college? He looked too young but he was Asian so who knew how old he was. Some random job I had? Where?

“You have a blog. Scare Yourself Every Day?” he asked timidly.

My face immediately turned red but I grinned and said that was me. I was pretty surprised. I’d never been recognized from my blog by a complete stranger out in public before. I mean, it’s not like nobody read my blog but the world is a big place and I was 350 miles away from LA.

I invited him to sit down with me. Turned out he found my farewell video on Channel APA and read my blog. He was a college student and just happened to be doing a project at MOCA just a block down the street. We chatted for a few minutes before my friend called and I had to go.

It was such a small thing but it was nice little reminder that the book wasn’t why I started SYED. And even if the book did happen it wouldn’t be the best thing. The best thing was changing my life and sharing that experience with people in different parts of the world who enjoyed and were inspired by it.

A week or so after I got home, I was on YouTube and noticed a new comment on my farewell video. I hadn’t had a new comment on that video in awhile and was excited to see what sort of gushing praise it said. When I checked it out, I was greeted with this:

“this was the boringest 3:19 minuets from my life !!!!!”

Ah… there’s nothing like unabashed adulation.

Almost Anderson

When all the press for SYED began happening way back in March (it seems like a lifetime ago), my life seemed like it was going to change. All of a sudden, I was getting emails and calls to be interviewed for this or that. I was on the phone with a movie production company. A real one. I was getting a book agent lined up. All the pieces seemed to be falling in place.

When a producer from Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show called, in a way, I wasn’t even surprised. Not because I expected that. It was the last thing I expected. But for some reason everything was coming up Greg so why wouldn’t Anderson Cooper’s producer give me a call?

The producer raved about how much she loved the concept of my blog. She said they wanted me on the show. “We would fly you out next week. Can you go? We thought you could do something scary with Anderson. We’re going to send you an exclusivity contract because you know, people remember the first show you’re on. How does that sound?” Um… fucking amazing? I didn’t have time to be terrified. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I obviously couldn’t pass up.

The contract was sent. I didn’t want to get my hopes up but of course I did. And I didn’t want to tell my friends but of course I did.

A national talk show. This would talk SYED to a whole new level. Wouldn’t the publishers come knocking then? And Hollywood?

But then, all of a sudden, something didn’t feel right to me. I felt as if everything was going to fall apart any second. And sure enough, a few days later, the producer contacted me and said she wasn’t sure about next week. Possibly the week after. But they really wanted me on.

Then the next week, she said they were having scheduling difficulties and asked me to keep in touch with her. At that point, even as a newbie, I knew that it was all over. We exchanged one email after that and I haven’t heard from her since.

I was disappointed but I had other things going. Then one by one those things kind of fell apart. And here I am. I’m no worse off than I was before March. I’m not even the same. I’m better. Just not as much as I thought I’d be.

I still think about what it would’ve been like to have been on Anderson. I can’t imagine it would’ve been anything less than awesome. But it didn’t happen so I just have to deal with that. Another disappointment in a long summer of disappointments.

But at least my disappointments are bigger than I’d ever imagined they could be. I never thought I’d be typing a post about how I was almost on Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show.

Now I’ve just got to work on those pesky successes…

Book Update

So some of you may have been wondering what happened with the potential SYED book. I would link to the post I wrote about it but I’ve taken it down for now. Things are tricky these days. I’m used to just writing whatever the hell I want and not really worrying about the consequences (other than you know, humiliation).

All I’ll say is what I’ve said before many times in various ways: life doesn’t go as planned. I used to say that I believed that things happen for a reason. But the more I thought about that, the more I realized how sort of wrong that was. While it’s a great consolation for people who maybe didn’t get the dream job they went on three interviews for, it’s little comfort to the guy who’s wife is dying of Stage 4 breast cancer.

My new outlook on life is, “shit happens.” Things just happen. Fate is a roll of the dice. You try to stack the odds in your favor but in the end, you’re babbling, drooling baby to the cruel mistress of luck. Things just happen. You can’t control them. But you can choose how to react to those things. That’s what you can control and that’s where your power lies.

I thought I was at the point in my life where I could tell people the story of how a confluence of disappointments brought me to where I was. How this thing led to this thing led to me writing an SYED book and living happily ever after. But I’m not quite there yet. I thought I knew where I was going to end up but I don’t. There’s no happily ever after. You can be happy but life keeps coming. These are lessons I need to keep learning.

With the book, I thought it was going to be one thing and now it might be another. I know I’m being maddeningly vague about the whole thing but I think it’s best to be, for now.

Just know that it’s not over. I’m not going down without a fight. And I hope one day you’ll see my name on a bookshelf in a bookstore someday.

Or at least, the 99 cent bargain bin.

A Companion

My friends have been hounding me to watch Doctor Who for awhile. They told me it was right up my alley and I’d love it. I finally got around to watching it a few weeks ago and they were right. I love it. It’s just such a rich and expansive world that is so easy to lose myself in. The last time that happened for a TV show was probably The X-Files which I had an unnatural obsession with in college.

If you don’t watch Doctor Who, here’s a brief primer for the series. There’s a guy called The Doctor who travels through space and time in a space ship that looks like a police call box. He goes on various adventures and saves the world (and other worlds) time and time again. Periodically, he picks up somebody to travel with him for awhile.

While they are women for the most part, they’re not called his girlfriends or lovers. Simply “companion.” This is because the relationship is not really physical but about a guy who is really lonely and enjoys sharing his crazy experiences with somebody.

That concept of a companion has been hitting home recently. When I quit my job to give writing a real shot, one of the important factors was I didn’t have a family. If I did, I’m not sure I could’ve given up a cushy job to chase a dream while my family starved. But since I had no one to answer to except myself, I could go ahead and become poor again without feeling a sense of obligation to people who depended on me.

Besides that, I just thought it would be easier to do this alone. Being in a relationship is hard enough but add to that the stress of my random, floaty lifestyle now would make it too difficult to handle.

But it’s lonely. And lately I’ve been thinking it would be nice if I had somebody in my life going through the same experiences as me. Because right now, all of my friends are pretty advanced in their lives. They have good jobs. They have families. Houses. Hell, I barely know anybody who’s single any more let alone unemployed and trying to pursue a creative career. Having somebody around in the same boat as me would make things easier. Less lonely. Keep my spirits up.

I’m not saying trying to be a writer is the same as traveling through space and time. And I’m certainly no Doctor but it would be nice to have a companion to ride around in a call box with. Or maybe I should just get a dog.

Life after SYED

I’ve gotten a few emails from readers asking where I’ve been and how I’m doing. I didn’t realize that it had been over two months since my last post. The truth is, I’ve sat down more than a few times to try and write a post but I never knew what to write about. So I’m just going to write whatever’s on my mind. As a result, don’t expect great literature and do expect a great deal of rambling.

I wanted to have big news to share with everybody when I finally did write something. Really big news like SYED was being made into a movie or a book.

While there have been some promising things developing in those departments, nothing is concrete and I haven’t been paid for anything. I’ve had a hard time getting excited about these developments as a result. But I’ve been working a lot on these projects. Doing a lot of writing which is good.

I don’t want to talk to specifically about what’s going on because, as I said, nothing is definite but also because I just don’t think I should. At least at this stage.

Just know that I’ve got some amazing opportunities that came out of all the press my blog got when it ended in March. They could turn into something huge or nothing at all. I’m being wary about the whole thing.

I can’t let myself enjoy any of it. Not yet at least. Once I sign on a dotted line somewhere I’ll feel a bit of relief. But of course there’s more work to be done after that.

The experience of writing these things has been tough. It’s draining because I’m not just going over this year of my life but my entire life. Thinking about things and reliving moments. Some moments that haven’t been that great. And really coming to terms with some things emotionally.

Then this whole time I’ve been dealing with some personal issues that have really challenged me. It’s basically the worst time for these issues to crop up since I have to buckle down and do work. I’ve been handling them as best as I can but I’ve dipped into bad habits again like not treating myself well. While I’ve gotten over the hump, I’m still trying to right the ship.

I feel like in some ways I’ve regressed to my life before SYED. I don’t go out very much or do anything new. Not because I’m scared. Well, that’s partly it. But also because I can’t let myself. I feel like I should be working all the time and not having fun and spending money from my rapidly dwindling savings. This is probably not healthy but it’s what I’m doing.

These past few months have been the scariest time in my entire life. I actually have an opportunity to make my dreams come true. How often does a chance like that come around? It’s put up or shut up time and that’s fucking frightening. I’ve placed an enormous amount of pressure on myself to get it done while simultaneously fighting all the self-sabotaging I’m doing along the way.

But I am getting it done. I’m pretty happy with the work I’m producing. So that’s something. Probably more than I’m giving myself credit for since I’m so results-oriented.

I still go to yoga. I try to have lunch with Nate and some of my former coworkers at least once a week just so I have some human contact. That hour or so where I can chat and laugh has turned out to be a surprisingly important to my well being.

I still have plans for Go Scare Yourself! I hope to start working on it after I finish these projects. I still really believe in it and want to get back in the scaring myself business.

A second wave of marriages is happening with my younger friends. The ones in their mid to late 20′s. It’s kind of a weird feeling to see that. Sometimes I think about if I’ll ever get married. I still don’t think I will. I’m not opposed to it but I just hate all the baggage that goes along with it. But I’m pretty sure you have to be dating somebody first before you can get married. At least, that’s what Dr. Phil says. So I really don’t need to worry about that now.

My family has been surprisingly supportive. Well, I’m not surprised by the support of my sister. But my mom and dad’s support was a bit unexpected. It’s mostly because they see there’s a real possibility of something happening which makes sense I guess. Part of me wonders what they would be like now if I didn’t have those possibilities. But I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’d rather have their support than not.

That’s pretty much all that’s been going on in my life. I’m really touched that some readers would reach out to me and ask how it’s going. Because I still care about them. So to them and anyone else who wants to know, it’s going okay.

I’m Ready for My Close Up

The last bit of the whole Mortified experience happened on Saturday. For the documentary, they were conducting interviews of all the participants which included yours truly.

I was pretty nervous for the interview but I had a few different interviews under my belt in various forms (camera, phone, email, IM and Skype) so at least I wasn’t going to be in completely new territory. However, this was definitely going to be the most involved interview so far with a camera crew and such.

I was scheduled for the first slot of the day at 11 am. The location was a house in Woodland Hills. I got there early (of course) and they were still setting up. I chatted with Neil, one of the Mortified producers for awhile. Then they asked me to sit in the chair where I’d be interviewed so they could set up lighting.

It was a small crew: Neil, the cinematographer, the director and David, the other producer.  But still, it was strange to be have these people run around to set up all this equipment so they could film me. I could see how years and years of this could fuck with somebody’s ego. This was a low budget indie documentary and people were still asking me if I was ok, did I need anything, I was being such a great sport etc. I can only imagine how much catering there would be to a big star in a hundred million dollar movie.

But I was nice, polite and eager to please as my Chinese upbringing taught me to be. Finally, everything seemed to be set. The director was going to be asking me the questions. He was sitting by the main camera. There was another camera operated off to the side by Neil. I was mic’d up and ready to go.

When the interview began, I felt calm and then as I began talking, I could feel myself get really nervous. Then I went back to a semi-calm state for most of the rest of the time. They asked me a lot of questions about SYED which they found to be really interesting. There were questions about my Mortified experience in general and then about the night when they filmed my performance.

They also brought up Angela, the newbie I had talked to because I thought she looked really nervous. I was kind of surprised by this. I realized that Angela might have been mic’d up or they just saw me talking to her and wanted to know more about it. Or maybe Angela had brought it up in her interview.

Then they asked me to give the introduction to my Mortified piece. For some reason, I got really nervous. I was trying to figure out why and I think it was because it was almost like they were asking me to perform something. I was ok with talking candidly on camera but for some reason the performance aspect freaked me out. I managed to stumble my way through it but it was pretty awful.

Then it was over. I asked the director how I did and he said I did an amazing job. That I was really “well spoken.” I never would’ve guessed somebody would say I was well spoken but that just drives home one of the big lessons I learned from SYED and that’s you be the person you want to be.

It’s crazy to think about the progression of the Mortified experience in my life. From one of my readers commenting that I should audition for it to being interviewed for a documentary about the show. I’m so happy about it because so many of my SYED experiences have been, to use a military term, Fire and Forget. One offs that are great and all but ultimately aren’t as rewarding as something like Mortified.

The movie comes out at the end of the year. I’m sure you’ll be hearing all about it on my blog. If I don’t wind up on the cutting room floor. In which case I’ll be telling them all to go to Hell.

Mortified One Last Time

A couple of months ago, when I was still working at my old job, I got a call from David, one of the producers at Mortified.

He told me they were shooting a Mortified documentary. They were going to film shows at five cities. He asked if I would be interested in possibly participating in one of the shows. Of course I agreed immediately.

A few weeks ago, he finally confirmed that I would be in the last show they were shooting, here in LA. I was excited and nervous. It sounded like a lot of fun. I had three shows under my belt already. If you recall, I performed at Mortified three times, once in LA then in SF and Berkeley. So the nervousness had less to do with performing and more to do with the fact it was going to be filmed for this documentary. It was such an honor for them to ask me to do this. They obviously thought my piece was strong enough to be in the documentary. I didn’t want to let them down.

I hadn’t read my piece in nearly 7 months.I read it twice out loud yesterday before the show. That was all the practice I did.

I headed over to King King in Hollywood at 5pm. We were asked to arrive at 5:30pm to be around for shoots if they needed it. I discovered that out of the six performers, two were brand new. They followed them on their journey from casting to showtime. I thought this was a great idea.

It was nice that it was the same venue I had performed at the first time. It made me feel a lot more calm. I saw David right when I got into the club. Though the venue was the same, I noticed immediately that things were very different.

The last time I was there, there weren’t very many people around. The band, the producers and some employees of the club. This time, there were a lot of people running around. There were at least three people with cameras. Various crew people. And just a bunch of people doing other things. It was a bit overwhelming.

David took me over to meet the other performers. I recognized Lorelei from the first show that I did. The others I had never seen before. The two new girls, Libby and Angela were a study in contrasts. Libby had a theater background and seemed quite calm about the whole experience. She was also mic’d up and had a camera person following her around. Angela was a regular civillian like me. As such she was nervous as hell.

After talking with everybody, I wandered around the venue. Went outside for a few minutes and when I came back in, I noticed Angela sitting by herself at a table, intently studying her notes. I knew exactly how she was feeling because I was there before. Not that I’m an expert at performing but I was 1/10th as nervous as I was my first time.

So I went over to her and starting talking to her. I gave her some of my insights about the experience and told her that she was going to do fine. I think it helped calm her down a bit. She seemed more relaxed and thanked me for talking with her. It’s good to be alone sometimes before performing. I found I like to be alone right before I do it. But we were over two hours away and being alone too much, I think you can get sucked into a hole and get into your head too much.

It was strange having people with cameras running around filming stuff. I tried to fly under the radar. One time I was reading over my piece in a dark corner of the club. I looked up and someone had a video camera pointed at my face. I quickly looked back down and tried to ignore it.

I was feeling fairly calm about everything until I finally looked at the program to see when I would be reading:

First?? I was going first?? Mother of God. This freaked me out. Going first is pretty tough. The crowd is not warmed up or drunk yet. If you fuck up, you screw it up for the rest of the people after you. Going first is the second most important position next to of course, going last. I was flattered to be the lead off hitter but like I said, scared shitless.

I tried to tell myself I would be fine. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my piece was perfect to go first. It was light and funny. Kind of like an amuse bouche. I thought back to my other shows and how well they went over. That helped me calm down a bit.

Next, a photographer grabbed me to take some quick portraits outside. This was bizarre to me but luckily the photographer kept it casual. She didn’t ask me to pose. She just talked to me and snapped some pics. She was also kinda hot and told me I was very photogenic. Hmm.

When people started lining up outside, the nerves began ramping up. Nate and Caity were coming to the show as was my bug-eating friend Chrystine. I saw them in line and chatted them for a bit before going back inside. That was very different than my first time because I could actually hold conversations with people before the show. The first time I couldn’t concentrate on anything.

Then I was standing off to the side of the stage, just like 7 months ago. Only this time, I was going to go up right after David was done giving the introduction.

He gave me the signal and I was off. I realized that I was much more nervous than I thought I was. I had to worry about hitting my mark on stage and adjusting the microphone. I also had taped my pages into my actual journal, a request from the producers so it looked better for the documentary. But I was unfamiliar holding it.

I launched into my piece and everything went fairly well. I stumbled a couple of times and blew through a few sentences. But I was also more expressive in some parts than I had in the past. The jokes hit pretty well, but not as big as the first time. Overall, it was a very uneven performance. Higher ups and lower lows.

One thing was that David said he wanted the readers to look up as much as possible when reading. This was a lot different than what he normally tells us which is just bury your nose into your paper. That made it more difficult and the first time I looked up, I realized they had turned up the lights in the crowd and I could see everybody. Before I was pretty much blinded by the spotlights. So that was a bit freaky.

Then it was over.

When I walked off stage, I looked at David and felt like I had let him down. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to do an awesome job for the documentary. David reassured me I had done fine. I wasn’t so sure but at least it was over.

The rest of the show went well. The crowd seemed a little disengaged for the second performer and part of the third. But she eventually got them going. Then Shaun, the last performer before the intermission did an awesome piece that got the crowd fired up.

The second half of the show went even better. Then it was curtain call time which was the best part. When David called my name, I felt like I got a few extra cheers. I just love standing on stage with all the other performers. It’s such a bonding experience to go through and it’s nice to stand there together and get some applause.

It was such an amazing night. I still have to be interviewed for the documentary in a few days but it felt like a chapter closing in my life. Mortified has been one of those rare, life changing experiences. It’s always one of the things I list when people ask me, “What was the scariest thing you did for your blog?” It taught me a lot about myself. Showed me I was capable of more than I ever imagined.

But like I said, I think the Mortified chapter is over. If they ask me to read again, I don’t think I would unless they really needed me. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me, but at a certain point, it feels weird reliving those past moments. Especially when they weren’t particularly great. I think it’s time to close the book on that awkward 12 year old kid from New Jersey.

Tell Me Your Scare Yourself Stories!

Hello everyone!

Have you been inspired by Scare Yourself Every Day?

Or just have a great story to tell about yourself confronting a fear or living outside your comfort zone?

Then I want to hear about it! Please submit your story (using the form below) for my upcoming community site Go Scare Yourself!

Your story could help others get inspired and start scaring themselves!

There’s no guarantee that your story will be published but I will let you know either way. Thanks so much and hope to hear from you soon.

- Greg

[contact-form-7 id="77" title="Go Scare Yourself"]