Jessica Michelle Singleton

Usually I try to come up with some snazzy, artsy, punny title for my posts. You know, something that has a vague allusion to the subject I’m writing about, something a “Writer” *hair flip* would do. Not for this one. It’s important to me that right off the bat, we know what we’re dealing with.

Jessica – or JMS, as I (never) call her, when I want to make her sound like a battleship – is so many things to me. I told her at…let’s check….11 PM last night, when I wasn’t quite drunk but was starting neatly into my cups, that I had to write about her, that it would kill me not to. That wasn’t the alcohol talking. It’s the fact that she’s phenomenal.

I went to school with Jessica. She was a year ahead of me, and I had transferred from a different high school after my sophomore year, so we only got a school year together. I’m not sure exactly how or why we crossed paths, but we got along immediately and became friends quickly.  We’ve kept in touch since.

She had a dream, and it was… well, to be honest, a daunting one. She wanted to make a career as a comedian, one of the hardest artistic professions to not only break into but do well at. It’s a profession that very often doesn’t take women seriously, and Los Angeles is a city that I absolutely love but fucking eats the souls of those not ready for it. I know. I moved there when I wasn’t ready for it.

When I turned 21, I moved to L.A. with two friends and no plan. I was going to be an actor/writer, I thought to myself, with six middling theatrical performances and a handful of questionable short stories under my belt. I even got headshots done. Did it matter that they were taken in a mostly abandoned warehouse by a man with half a dozen cats, arranged by a guy who ran a softcore pornography website as a side business? Not to me. I didn’t even see it when my friend said that one of my pictures looked like someone had just told me my pet had been run over by a car.

I was going for, I don’t know, pensive? It doesn’t matter. I didn’t become an actor/writer and my sheer unpreparedness for the city left me chewed down to gristle. The distance from the only home I had known, financial concerns, an unsupportive woman and, ultimately, myself left me broken. I moved away, defeated.

Jessica didn’t give a flying shit. Or maybe she gave all the flying shits. Either way, she moved down with an idea of how difficult things would be, discovered first hand the reality that it was so much more difficult than she could have imagined, and she endured it. With the storm that raged inside her continuing to roil and churn, she pushed it back and let sheer force of will keep her there, keep her fighting for every minute she could get on stage, every single person she could tell a joke in front of.

And she made it work. She has been making it work. She’s made a full-blown career out of it, doing a mind-boggling amount of shows each year, a cross-country tour, an international tour, radio shows, television pilots, YouTube sketches. She’s partying with Brian Regan in Las Vegas.

She came home for her high school reunion and did a couple surprise performances. I caught the latter of the two, the fourth time I’ve been fortunate enough to see her perform live, and she absolutely slaughtered the crowd. Just killed it. In a scarce three years, she has gone from doing fifteen-minute spots for nobody headliners to headlining shows with an hour and a half of solid material and hosting tours.

She’s a woman who had a dream, a horrendously difficult one, and spat in the face of adversity, wrestled that dream into something that not only supported her but brought genuine joy to others, and continues to make it work for her. The opportunities continue to flow her way, due to her hard work and her talent.

Professionally and artistically, I respect and admire her a great deal. She is doing what I meekly tried to do and continues to pursue her dream ravenously, with a fervor and talent that leaves me dazzled. It was a pleasure and a privilege to see her give an audience so much, so gleefully, striding across her element with a confidence I haven’t felt in over half a decade. She’s a hero to me.

And if it was just that, it would be enough, but she’s still so much more.

Jessica has been an invaluable friend. She’s that rare breed that won’t bullshit you, but also understands exactly what you’re going through and empathizes. Empathizes, which is much more difficult to do than sympathize and is typically much more emotionally taxing for both parties involved.

There is parental resentment. There are creative struggles. Most critically, there is trouble with mental instability, something I’ve come to learn recently is shockingly more prevalent than people are comfortable discussing. She talks about depression and bipolarism in her sets. She mentioned it in the first (and only, so far) guest post I’ve had written for my blog, which you can read here. Fun fact: That was written exactly one year and two weeks from yesterday.

I have texted her drunk, and not, at 3AM or 3 PM, wracked with angst and insecurity and desperation, and she has walked me through some storms. She is patient and guiding, despite the distance, despite anything else, because she gets it. She has been supportive and encouraging, and I will always, always be grateful for that.

Three days ago, I caught her warm-up set at an open mic comedy show. Afterwards, we had an opportunity to catch up some, and I expressed how proud I was of all that she had accomplished and was continuing to accomplish going into her high school reunion.

“Mine’s next year,” I said. “I’m 27 years old, and all I’ve done is write three books that don’t sell for shit.”

“But you’ve written three books,” she said. “Do you have any idea how crazy that is? What you’ve actually done?”

It’s so easy to discount every aspect of my life and get into a rut where I feel like a failure. Like I haven’t done anything. Like I’m not doing anything. At several critical moments since I’ve met her, Jessica has been there to gently pull my head from my ass. She has reminded me of the positive things that I have, that I’ve done, that I am. She’s been there, a thousand miles away, while I’ve wept and railed against the world, and she’s made me feel okay and normal when I was anything but.

I love her to death. That my first novel is on her bookshelf is a deep moment of pride for me. That we are friends is a shining diamond in my life.


Jessica Michelle Singleton. Beautiful. Loyal. Intelligent. Raunchy. Wild. Hilarious. True.

You can follow her on Facebook here, check her site out here, and follow her on Twitter at @JMSComedy. Also, just Google or YouTube her or some shit. She’s funny. You won’t regret it.

Life Was Simpler When I Was Dying

I went to bed on a Wednesday night in May last year, not long after my birthday. I had the next day off, so I was a little high, a little drunk and I planned on sleeping in the next day. Instead, I woke up around 9AM, violently nauseous. I ran to the bathroom, hurled up what I could and staggered out of the bathroom. Was I hungover? Seemed like it.

One of my two roommates at the time, Matt, was getting ready to head down the hill. He knew I was sick, and I debated staying home, but I really wanted to see the new Star Trek movie. He agreed to drop me off at the mall and I walked up to the theater with a body that feeled ten times heavier than normal. I bought my ticket and a soda and sat down.

I threw up twice more within the first 30 minutes of the movie.

I don’t know if you’ve ever vomited so hard that you sat, back against the wall with your legs tucked against your chest, crying in the handical stall of a shitty theater bathroom but let me tell you, it isn’t ideal. At this point I thought it was the flu or some kind of food poisoning I got from the seafood I had the day before. Only one thing to do in that situation: sleep it off.

I left the theater, Star Trek thirst unquenched and walked down the escalator. One of my former bosses was walking by and waved to me. I didn’t notice. She told me later that I looked blue (physically, I mean. Not sad, although I was that, too) and she thought I was fucked up out of my mind. I mean, kind of. I had no idea.

I cabbed it back to my house. I barely remember the ride. It must have been around 11, 11:30. Matt swung back by. He had been to the gym and was no prepping for work. He could tell I was seriously ill. Let me tell you something about Matt: I firmly believe that he has zero respect for me at all. He’s always first to shit on me, has never congratulated me on an accomplishment and never had my back in a fight. On this morning, he was so worried about me that he made me soup while I was laid out on the couch, hesitated leaving and called our other roommate out of concern. It was serious shit.

I spent the next 9 hours fucked up. I was in and out of consciousness on the couch. My phone was untouched on the floor. I had two cups next to me. One was full of water that I could only sip out of because anything more triggered vomiting (and I was dry-heaving pretty well on my own at that point) and the other, disgustingly, was reserved for whatever phlegmy spit I could muster. I had no concept of time or self beyond pain and suffocation.

Around 9PM, I found myself in the bathroom yet again, trying to find something other than stomach bile to bring up. My throat was so raw that I was spitting a little blood. My other roommate, RJ, got home. He had tried to call me twice, neither of which I had noticed because I had practically forgot I owned a phone. He knocked on the door and said, “What, you’re too good to answer my phone calls now?” I told him I was spitting up blood. He asked if we needed to go to the hospital. I told him I didn’t know.

I walked, poorly, out of the bathroom. I was pale, he said. RJ used to be an EMT and he sat me down on the couch, my prison for twelve hours, to take my pulse. He couldn’t find it. “We’re going to the hospital.”

They checked me in at the hospital. The triage doctor, who had a particularly active cold, was a huge dick who disbelieved the seriousness of my situation and blamed my low blood pressure on the equipment. RJ, God bless him, argued that no, something was very wrong with me.

I was in the emergency room from 10PM until 4AM, with RJ by my side. My blood pressure was 80 over 40. My temperature was 103 degrees. My heart was going three times the rate it was supposed to. I was almost completely dehydrated. My magnesium and potassium levels were almost nonexistent. My body was shutting down, and that’s when I got the news: I had septicemia. Septic shock. Blood poisoning.

I knew it was bad. That is bad. Shit. But it has levels, right? So I asked the nurse, “How bad is it?” and she looked me dead in the eye.

“Well, you could die.”

I looked over at RJ, RJ looked at the nurse. I let out a laugh that was a few pitches higher than I’m proud of and laid my head down on the bed and struggled not to cry, tried not to panic.

After 6 hours of fluids and tests (“Maybe it’s a UTI that went septic. Nope? Okay, a kidney infection? No? Huh. Well. This is, uh…hm.”), they admitted me eaaaarly Friday morning.

I spent four days in the hospital. I had multiple IVs in me the entire time. The saline was constant until I checked out. The magnesium wasn’t so bad. I opted for potassium pills every two hours because turns out liquid potassium burns like a motherfucker when it’s being pumped into you, a fact no one told me until I was writhing in pain on my gurney while my roommate (hospital, not RJ or Matt) shit on the floor.

I couldn’t piss until Saturday. Didn’t have the fluids in me. My blood pressure and temperature didn’t even out until Saturday night. I slept like shit and finally asked the nurse to give me some percocet so I could even try. Saturday night I got moved into a different room, one with a window and the first sunlight I had seen in three days. The doctor told me, “Wish these things opened up more but some lady tried to kill herself jumping out of it, broke both of her legs.” He went on to tell me that he had no idea what happened to me to put me in septic shock but it seemed to be under control. Prescribed me some medication,  let me check out as soon as I showered and felt up to it.

So there’s the bare bones of it. My brush with death. Once it looked like I was going to be okay one of the nurses told me, “Hey, man. You were hours away from dying. If you had waited until the next morning to come in, if you had made it, it would have been weeks in the ICU, minimum.” Several times while I was in the hospital, I thought,  “Hey, it could be worse” and then immediately reminded myself that at that point, worse was dead.

Now, you find out certain things when you’re on your deathbed. Like who gives a shit. Turns out, for me, it wasn’t many. Word got around on FB between my friends and I. I mentioned how serious it was. I texted some people to tell them I loved them when things were still looking shaky. A woman I care about very much but who was on the outs with me texted me to make sure I was going to be okay. The girl I loved and knew for years? Not even a text.

I would come out of delirium to find the last people I expected there to make sure I was alright. Seriously. These were people I cared about a lot but was by no means close with. They brought me thoughtful gifts. Superhero writing materials. Books to read. A flute. They kept me company.

I cannot express to you the emotions that come from not getting love and concern from the people you expect it from and then getting it from people you never expected. That’s a rough ride.

Now, here’s another thing I didn’t expect. Dying gives you a sort of perspective on life. What matters and what doesn’t. The things you haven’t finished or haven’t done. The words you wished you had said. The people you want to see again. I left that hospital with a sense of zen that lasted for almost three months. I stopped worrying about money, relationships, where I was at in life. It eventually crept back in and wore me down, but I was so content. Euphoric. It was beautiful, truly.

I didn’t expect that and when the shit started piling back up, I didn’t expect wishing I could be back there. It suuuucked. It hurt and I was exhausted for a month afterwards because of what my body went through. But people worried about me and gave a shit and things were much more clear-cut.

“Things were so much simpler when I was dying” is a tweet I sent and there’s a macabre truth to that. It sucks when you have a birthday where nobody shows up, like this year. Especially following a birthday party for a friend where a hundred fucking people showed up. That sucks. And it’s hard not to long for waking up and seeing someone unexpected who cares about your well-being.

These are weird feelings. They come and go and stay gone longer than they linger. Honestly, if I should take anything from it, it should be that zen perspective I got upon walking out ibto the sunshine and not the cascading disbelief that came with the bill for $22,000.

I almost died and it taught me that I don’t want to die. That I love love and I love life and I love people even when I hate them because over a decade of retail work demands it. It taught me attention is addictive, especially when it distracts from a lack of accomplishment. It taught me that if you live one life, you can sometimes find more in less.

It also taught me not to get septic shock, because that shit sucks hard.