I’ve been called a lot ( a lot) of things over the years. Growing up I didn’t really fit into a stereotypical “friend group”. I wasn’t in the popular/prep group (though I had many friends so my parents always believed I was). I wasn’t a nerd, theatre kid, goth, skater, etc. I had friends in many of those areas, but I definitely did not fit into any of those boxes. I was unique to say the least.
I can remember kids growing up who I’d categorize as “class clowns”. Kids who made teachers, subs, the entire class break out in uproarious laughter. That wasn’t me. Sure, my friends and I had lots of giggles. And yes, we talked a lot and were boisterous. But class or larger groups were not the place my humor took root.
Somehow along the way, I became known for making others laugh. I’m not sure when it happened: I don’t even remember it being like this in college—no, those friends would say all I did was talk about going to Africa. 😳🙄
Perhaps it’s linked to confidence. As I grew and shifted and became comfortable in my own skin, a lot of hesitancy and such fell away. So maybe, just maybe, the wit and silliness that had always been present was allowed to shine through. I can remember clearly the first time I felt really, really funny. Sure, my family has laughed with me (and rolled their eyes) for my whole life. But I mean the first time other people thought I was funny. ::cue memory sequence à la 90’s teen drama tv::
The year was 2013. The place was a southern Indiana retreat center. I was a part of a fellowship program for New Professionals in the field of youth work (shoutout to The Journey). I knew no one. And while most people who know me would think this wasn’t an issue, new environments where I don’t know anyone really, really gives me anxiety. I become “super quiet Shannon” (I know, no one sees her often). But I was paired with someone for a role play, and all we did was laugh. It was easy to make other people laugh. And I was just being me. Mind. Blowing.
Fast-forward over the years and I found that more and more people found me funny. Some of that was thanks to the wit instilled in me from my dad, some from my mom’s “secret” silly side, some from the craziness of my sisters. But a lot of it was just me being me, completely and honestly. No longer afraid of what others thought or how I’d be perceived. Refreshing. I’ve found in other groups I’ve been a part of recently that folks find me funny. I especially notice it over Zoom. People see my face more so than they might in a meeting or gathering, and I forget that. So my quirky faces and side commentary aren’t as easily hidden. I’ve had professors call me out in virtual class, friends send me texts during meetings, and folks laugh alongside the humor I impart (generally on purpose). In a recent activity for a grad school class, we were told to write affirmations for the others in our group and drop them in a pail to be a “bucket filler” for them. Every single one of my cards talked about laughing, or humor, or being funny. I was in awe, because that’s not how I view myself. In talking with a dear friend recently about my antics in dating she said, “is he funny? I feel like whomever you end up with has to be funny”. That’s right, they have to match what I bring to the table, or at least appreciate my humor. It’s also been common place to receive lots of “haha” texts (of varying lengths) or 😂 and 🤣 emojis.
It’s weird to see myself this way. I love it: I love to laugh, and love to make others laugh as well. Perhaps it’s a hidden gem that I bring to the world.
I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter: it has made the world human and lovable, despite all its pain and wrong.–W.E.B. Du Bois