Deep conversations with new friends tonight taught me about accepting the dark side of ourselves. I'm generally a cheerful, optimistic, idealistic and romantic creature--but the flip side of that coin (the dark side of the moon?) includes anger, judgment, a toxic level of perfectionism, and sometimes, depending on the emotional trigger, a seething, explosive rage. Things I'm not proud to admit.
As we grow older and become who we want to be, there are still a lot of obstacles that get in the way. In other words, you have to push through the shit. You have to have faith that you're going to emerge on the other side, better, brighter, deeper, stronger than you were before. And still be vulnerable and courageous enough to plunge back into darkness, and start the cycle over again. Because we only grow by moving--even if it's trudging--back and forth.
The actor and award-winning playwright is also an indigenous rights activist. "I think humor is our most powerful tool when it comes to actually creating some type of social change," she said.
If social change starts at the individual level, maybe we need to make light of our darkness, to truly accept ourselves, and therefore, transform society? Nakkiah says, "If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?" The world is a better place if we can all laugh together.
Lui talks about how her comedy comes from a dark place, as I'm sure many comedians can understand. See how she reacts to a news story about a 10-year-old indigenous girl who recently committed suicide, speaking of how it struck a chord with her own demons:
"I was this fat, average little kid who was very brown and was called 'Abo' every day of high school. I remember just thinking, this world has no place for me. And I wanted to write and to act and I just thought, that's never going to happen. I was a kid. Thankfully, I had this amazing family around me who did instill hope and who pushed me and always raised me up and gave me a lot of opportunity. But I thought, that kid wanted to kill themselves and that kid thought about it every day. And this is from someone who's had a very privileged background, and that was very much linked to my racial identity."
Because of her own deeply painful experience, coupled with the news of a stranger's suicide, Lui now has the luxury of perspective. She is able to use that perspective to create meaningful comedy that contributes to conversations around institutional racism, sovereignty and recognition.
"One of the questions I had to myself was: how do I actually make people care about Indigenous stories? And humor does that. If you can get someone to laugh with you, you can get them to care about you and caring about someone is the first step to listening about their story and for their story to mean anything." (see Nakkiah Lui's full interview here.)
There's a lot to unpack here, and I'll likely write about this topic again.
But for tonight, I'll leave you with Lui's thoughts about the grey areas between what we hope to believe, what we actually think, and the light-hearted stories we tell to balance our dark realities.
She talks about a play she wrote, "Kill the Messenger," that touches on institutional racism in an aboriginal community. She describes it as "very funny, as if to say, don't worry, rich, theater-going white people, your $60 ticket tragedy comes with a side of hilarity." The light, and the dark. Both required, to spark change.
"I know what it’s like to hate. I know what it feels like to feel desperate … I thought I had it all figured out. That empathy and stories could change the world ... but it’s so much more complicated than that."