I was in a situation last night that I’ve been in many times before – surrounded by comedy sharks. “Comedy shark” is not a derogatory term. It describes a person who does not let an opportunity to make a joke pass them by. They voraciously attack any incongruity, absurdity, self-importance, righteousness, and flip it into a joke. Of course, not all of the jokes work, but if the pace is swift enough, a lot do. That is a fun evening.

I love being around comedy sharks, because I love to laugh. And I contribute too, though I usually feel slow – the opportunities pass by, and while I’m going “umm…” someone else has grabbed it.

Then the check came, and I let them all decide how to divvy it up. I don’t like to be parsimonious, or to seem parsimonious, so I just agree. Which is fine. Ten bucks here, ten bucks there, it’s not going to break me. I’d rather have harmony.

Then today, I was mulling it over, and realized, my god, I’m passive! And I’ve been passive since early childhood. And being passive has led me to situations where I feel dissatisfied. Not always, though – sometimes being passive has led me into wonderful relationships with more active people which would otherwise have been acrimonious.

I used to pursue an acting career, and being passive scuttled that. I waited for the phone to ring – I saw my career as dependent on others, rather than as something to build. I saw it as dependent on my talent and training, when any idiot watching TV or going to the theatre knows that isn’t the only thing, or even the main thing. Being active is cousin to being persevering.

I work in a place noted for its brilliant people. A standout characteristic is not that they seem to quickly know the answer, but that they work at knowing the answer, they grapple with the problem until it’s solved. For hours – starting early, working late, over weekends.

I know! It sounds horrible! But they are at the top of their field, and admired by all. There may be smarter people who lack that will or ability to keep going, who don’t make it here.

Anyway, if you Google “how can I be less…” or “how can I be more…” you’ll encounter a well of dissatisfaction and sadness. I don’t recommend it. Just made me feel like a sick person, which is not how I typically feel.

I’m starting an improv class tomorrow (at UCB) and maybe I can tease out some of the strands of this mental state, even at this late-ish stage of life.