Welcome to This Is Me Thursdays! To read other posts in this series, click here. If you want to be involved, please email me for more details! Today, learn more about Paula Skaggs, someone I connected with back in 2008 when were were on a journalism trip in high school!
First of all, I can’t believe that was 12 years ago. How?! Paula is such a gem of a person, truly. She’s so smart and kind and funny and hilarious and honest and herself. Honestly, I think she’s such a wonderful person and I’m honored to have her be part of this interview series. Visit her on personal Twitter and Instagram, as well as the Instagram and Twitter for her account called Paula Eats Lean Cuisines, and let her know you saw her post here!
This Is Me: Paula Skaggs
Share a little about yourself and what you’re up to these days.
I’m a writer, comedian and podcast host in Chicago. (Originally from the home of the country’s 2nd largest Trout Statue in Minnesota!) I’m a Features Contributor for The Onion, I write Lean Cuisine reviews over at @PaulaEatsLeanCuisines (Instagram – Twitter is @PaulaEatsLC), I co-host the comedy podcast Being Earnest and I wrote on the Chicago-based TV series Hello It’s Hobert. I also perform live comedy around the city or, most recently, around my apartment, to my very mean cat and my growing collection of wigs.
What does life purpose mean to you? Does it really exist for you/all of us, or is it just some pipe dream?
I think to me, the idea of life purpose is something that’s continually evolving and growing, which is a good thing. As we learn about ourselves and the world, as we collect new experiences and relationships, I think that our vision of what our purpose is alters to reflect those lessons. While the core of our life purpose may stay the same – whether that’s to help people, to share stories, to bring joy, create the world’s largest rubber band ball, whatever it is – the methods change. Sometimes I like to think of all the things I’m working on now that I didn’t even know were possibilities a few months ago. For me personally, I try to focus on what brings me joy in the moment and what possibilities feel good and exciting to pursue – even if they weren’t paths I necessarily have initially considered, there’s a reason your heart is being called to those now, even if they seem silly or completely off the map of what you thought your path should look like. We all have a purpose, but you have to be willing to have pointless adventures, hit some dead ends and embarrass yourself in order to find it. Someone much wiser than me once said if you’re not having fun on the path to the top, what makes you think you’ll enjoy it once you hit it?
What motivates and inspires you in your life?
Is it cheesy for me to say my friends? I love Chicago with my whole entire heart, and I feel so grateful for the comedy community here. My friends are always working on really exciting, cool, fun projects and pushing themselves and experimenting – while also being so deeply supportive and kind, in good times and bad – and it’s really inspiring to be around that kind of bravery and talent. There’s something really special about surrounding yourself with people who are always down to collaborate, to help you, to have 3 am brainstorming sessions in a diner, and I think that’s the best motivation out there.
Is what you do now what you always imagined doing? Why or why not, and what have you learned because of that?
Kind of, yes! I’ve always known I wanted to go into comedy, and on the really hard days, I try to think of how excited 11-year-old would be Paula to wake up every day, and how even some of the problems I struggle with most are things that I’d be grateful to be dealing with when I was just getting started. I think that in very public industries, it always feels like there’s kind of this timeline to success you’re supposed to follow – like, you HAVE to be doing xyz by the time you’re 25, you HAVE to be doing this other thing by 30, etc. – and I struggle sometimes with putting that out of my head and focusing on my own journey. (Because as a kid, I always assumed I’d be full on starring on SNL by the time I was 21. Unrealistic goals!) Basically I’ve learned that the path isn’t linear and that your story is completely your own. Also that progress happens so slowly, that sometimes you don’t realize what you have to be proud of until you really take a hard look back!
What’s something you desperately want other people to know or realize that may help them in their lives?
If it doesn’t bring you joy, it’s not worth it. I’ve done a lot of writing and a lot of performing over my time as a comedian and again and again, I’ve found that the things that I’m most proud of aren’t the things that were most “popular,” they’re the things that made me laugh and excited to work on it. Also – this is a big one – focus on your own shit. There are a lot of gatekeepers in every industry – editors, producers, agents, etc. – that are looking for very specific things, and if you base your definition of success off of what makes it through them, you’ll be really disappointed (and a lot of your work won’t see the sun for a long time). Instead, find ways of getting your own things out in the world – start your own blog, make your own videos, whatever it is. It doesn’t matter if you have any experience or if you’re learning it on the go. Heck, a group of us here in Chicago made a full-on, 8-episode TV series (Hello! It’s Hobert!) and we’d never done anything like that before. It took us 2 full years to finish – we organized our own writer’s room, learned to run camera equipment at our beloved CAN TV, learned things like “script supervision” and “screen make-up” and I’m so proud of it, and I learned SO much along the way.
How do you define belonging and connection, and how have your definitions changed over time?
I think it’s finding a group of people who you feel most yourself around. You don’t necessarily have to have the same vision, the same ultimate goals, but it’s a group of people who will show up for you – physically, emotionally, virtually – and who at the end of the day, even if you make mistakes, are going to love you and have your back and call you out when you’re being a complete asshat. This to me has been so incredibly valuable, as a creator and more importantly as a person. People aren’t steps on the staircase to success and creating strong, deep connections with people you love is one of the most important things you can do.
What’s something you make sure to do every day/week/month that helps you practice self-care and self-love?
I think that quarantine has honestly been an amazing lesson in figuring out what’s my definition of self-care, and what’s the definition the Internet says it is. As much as I’d love to be the kind of girl who can’t WAIT to take a 3 hour bath surrounded by candles and think about my feelings, that sounds like my literal hell. Instead, I’ve found that creating something every day just for me is crucial to my happiness, whether it’s writing or a dumb little piece of clay food (a weirdly relaxing hobby that I’ve taken up recently?), exercising that part of my brain helps so much. Also, in no particular order – RuPaul’s Drag Race, crying to my poor, sweet mom and my boyfriend, to-do lists and copious amounts of coffee.
How do you define success in your life and/or business?
I think that all of our definitions’ of success is constantly evolving, and it can be really hard to realize that other people see you as successful. I think if you’re happy, if you’re creating work that you’re proud of (whether it’s for 2 people or 2 million) and if you’re excited about the work you’re doing, that’s a great way to look at it. (That and having 50 million Oscars.)
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you so much, Jessica! I’m honored to be a part of this!
Photo courtesy of Paula Skaggs