Yesterday, we attended the memorial for our friend Mike Enriquez, an amazing performer and the Nicest Guy on the Planet, whose life ended too soon last month after a year-long fight with cancer. It was so nice to be in a room full of old friends and loved ones, who were all grieving, yet laughing in celebration of the joy Mike brought to our lives. The speakers all were amazing, each one making me laugh loudly and cry uncontrollably. It was a beautiful tribute. The theatre was packed, videos were shown, and we all did a jello shot together in his memory. It was a loving tribute.

There was lots of talk about the love of the improv community and the "families" that we create within in the community, and it really got me thinking about how lucky I am. For those of us who moved away at a young age (21 for me) to go to "the big city" to chase our dreams, it was all at once scary and exciting. We left the safety of our hometowns and our parents and siblings to chase our dreams. Sometimes we would only get to go back home once a year, if that. Any city can be a lonely place, so it was such a comfort moving to Chicago into a community where agreement and group mind was not only admired and encouraged, but taught. When trusting your partners on stage, you form bonds with them off stage, too, and little families are formed.

For me, I was blessed enough to move to Chicago with friends already in place, and I went quickly into a class structure, with whom I performed for over a year. My first (and only) IO team was lucky enough to be together for a year and a half, and when that fell apart, my group KOKO came together. KOKO was and still is one of the best things that has happened in my life, thanks to Sammy Tamimi, the mastermind who put us together. KOKO was composed of 6 women and 2 men, and we dominated Chicago for a while, under the direction of Abby Sher. A few years later, the 2 men and one of the women left the group, making us 5 women strong, and we were unstoppable. The best improv I have ever performed was with this KOKO. I became a better performer and person working with these women. Even more special, is that off stage, KOKO became my family. I don't know what I would do in my life without my best friends Rebecca Hanson, Megan Hovde and Andrea Swanson...the 4 of us helping each other not only in times of grief and pain but also joy and happiness. I can spend all day with these women, and it will only feel like a second.  They know me in and out, and we are always there for each other.  In fact, at the memorial yesterday, the 4 of us (and Fuzzy) all went together, so we could be there for each other. In the lobby, a friend of mine said "I hear that KOKO is still going strong" and, although we haven't performed together as a group in years and years and years, I said to her "Always, always. KOKO is together forever."

Of course, through my improv world, I also gained my family family, my flesh and blood family, my one true love--my husband. It really was destiny that I moved here when I did, cause 4 short years later, I started dating the man of my dreams. How lucky am I that our lives brought us both to the same place, with the same goal, though from different worlds. My life hasn't been the same since, and every day with him is the best day of my life.

I think the biggest talent that I have in life is that it is very easy for me to make friends. I love people, and I am fascinated by the journeys and paths that people travel and how it affects who people are. I have been in Chicago for almost 12 years now, so my family is quite large, and it extends well beyond the improv community. I am blessed with SO many friends, all of whom I love so very dearly. I don't know what I would do without them. I talk a lot about how I am ready to leave Chicago and explore something new (and live somewhere warm), but the truth of it is, Chicago is my home, and my heart lies with my friends and Chicago family. It would be devastating to leave them. Some of my friends have taken the leap and moved away, and I still remain close with them, so no matter what happens in any of our lives, and if Fuzzy and I eventually move elsewhere, I know we will be forever bonded.

But not everyone can stay in your life all the time. Lives change, and people grow apart. Priorities change. People pass away.  But every person who has been in my life has given me a special gift and hold a special place in my heart. At Mike's memorial, it was like an improv Time Machine. So many people from all walks of my Chicago life were there.  Each was a happy reunion, under a sad circumstance. For those people I hadn't seen in 8, 9, 10 years, etc, it was like not a day had passed. All that needed to be said was just a look, a hug, a kiss on the cheek, or a nod of acknowledgement of life and how painful and beautiful it can be.  I've been out of the improv scene for several years now, but in that room, in didn't matter. We were all one big family.


Didn't realize you moved away so early! That was ballsy but expected for you, I guess! While I could never in a million years (maybe two million) live in Vicksburg again, I only moved to Madison and can appreciate your starting over (on a smaller scale, obviously.) I also met my husband totally by fate here (in a bar, asked random man--4 years later hubs--to pretend to be my boyfriend so that terrible man would leave me alone.) Anyway, good for you. Chicago is fabulous and I'm sure a fun place to live (except btw about Dec and April. Brrr.)