A co-creator and co-star of the television hit series “Broad City,” the very funny Abbi Jacobson sets out on a solo road trip between New York and Los Angeles after the kind of traumatic breakup that rearranges the heart. Jacobson records the trip in her new book, “I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff.” Interspersed between the book’s sharp essays are her hand-drawn illustrations and sweet internal musings full of symbolic sighs, loud proclamations about her Jewishness and, yes, the poignant regrets of the title.
Jacobson’s first stop at a bed and breakfast in Asheville, North Carolina, comes after her idiosyncratic take on love. “Being out of control in love is glorious,” she writes. “It’s the feeling I wish for everyone, the unleashing of joy. The dual-skydive of glee into this unknown world of possibility. It’s the closest thing we have to magic. But being out of control in heartbreak…? I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone.”
Jacobson’s first lesson in traveling alone is not to stop at a bed and breakfast. It’s a haven for couples—a place that encourages people to look dreamily into a lover’s eyes over pancakes. It’s also a place that is too friendly, too upbeat and ultimately too intimate for the broken-hearted. While eating by herself does not make her feel empowered or like Samantha of “Sex and the City” fame, the episode conveys a key theme of the book: somehow, some way, everything will be OK.
And mostly it is, as Jacobson’s very humorous inner narrative unspools across America. Her thoughts are frequently amplified by the fact that she is a woman traveling alone. She observes that a man taking the same trip is “viewed as a cool loner,” while she, a woman by herself, is seen as pathetic. Jacobson is also the anxious type. For example, she conducts frequent self-styled “sleep studies” in hotels across the country. These are exercises in staring at the ceiling or hugging a pillow as her insomnia continues throughout the night. It’s an hour-by-hour diary of how painfully neurotic and even funny it is not to be able to sleep.
But there is nothing pathetic about Jacobson. Her wisdom is born from heartbreak, vulnerability and her own brand of slapstick humor. In Santa Fe she can’t help but feel it’s more like a movie set than a real town. Despite her reservations, she declares she’s in town “to light my life up in a new way, the way ‘Broad City’ did my creativity.” In Utah she has a quasi-spiritual experience in a wheat field at midnight. “The stars out there, out west, are different; they’re brighter and bolder, and they make you feel that the world is so much more than you ever could have thought, that maybe you’d only been focusing on a tiny little corner.”
Jacobson hits her stride in Arizona. In Sedona, she sleeps in a camper, where she’s taken in by the red-rock scenery and the freelance spirituality floating around the place. A skeptic, albeit a hilarious one, she consents to having her aura cleansed. The session is not what Jacobson anticipates. The cleanse, she writes in large capital letters, is unexpectedly transmitted to her by a computer. Things get intense when the human reader invites Jesus into the room. Midway into the session, Jacobson cries when she realizes the woman is “exposing what I’d been holding on so tightly for so long. This part of myself I’d been trying to hide, the thing I avoided communicating to anyone: that I might be right back where I started, unlovable and unable to love. I felt truly alone and might stay that way.”
Things get intense at the next stop in Jerome, Arizona—a favorite vacation spot where her mother and her mother’s sweet boyfriend, Don, went antiquing. It’s a personal detour for Jacobson as she broods over the way she treated Don as an “angsty teenager who never gave him the time of day.” Don died suddenly in 2001 of an aortic aneurysm, and she makes up for her adolescent behavior in a touching tribute to him.
In Palm Springs, the final stop of her journey, Jacobson has her second epiphany. It is a hot day at a packed hotel pool. A woman approaching 60 jumps into the pool and fearlessly pushes through to swim laps among the crowd. Jacobson sees the woman as a version of herself, and she compiles a list of wishes for future Abbi. Among them:
“I hope that I’m content, that there isn’t anger within those freestyle strokes.”
“I hope my life is full of joy, full of adventure, full of love.”
“I hope I still have a voice, a platform, a medium in which to express myself.”
After spending time with Abbi Jacobson, it’s apparent she’s here to stay.
Abbi Jacobson will be appearing at the Chevalier Theater in Medford on Wednesday, Oct. 31. Find more information here.