This past weekend was rejuvenating in a way I did not expect. This little idea that I, at many times, did not think would happen actually did. And it was beautiful. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, alumni from Shelton High School got together to put on a musical theatre review show alongside a musical theatre intensive for current students.
Being back on that stage, with those amazing people, reminded me of where I need to be. Watching those awkward, unsure, and somewhat skeptical students gain confidence and try so hard to perform what they had been taught was breathtaking. That is the beauty and the magic of art. God I hope they are allowed to just be, and don’t get torn down by the empty and the jealous.
Music and theatre have always been what has felt right to me, that and writing. I am never more at peace than when studying, practicing, and performing. The nostalgia of this past weekend has also brought up all of the memories of the awkward, shy, and beaten down Emilie of that time. I had absolutely zero confidence. I had not only learned, but been taught to embrace, shame. I was lucky that I had teachers in my life who saw my spark and believed in me, but it took me many, many years to see that myself.
Now, closer to thirty than to twenty, I am confident in my talent in a way I never have been before. I wish I’d stumbled upon this heavy freedom sooner in life, but I will take what I can get now.
And I also know how fragile it is. Despite being aglow from the experience, one cruel and careless comment from a community member in the show was enough to douse my light for quite a while. Enough, even, to produce a few tears in the privacy of my car on the way home despite my deepest wish to be resilient and unaffected. When will I ever be enough? But I recognize that those words and those feelings are not me, and are not truth. Even though they sting.
While I know it is unavoidable, my wish for these children is that they will not be crushed by unconscious cruelty. My wish is that they will never be told that they cannot do it because they are not good enough (because a paying career isn’t often the same as doing what you love). My hope is that they will stick to what brings them peace. And even when they don’t, and they are beaten down, and they doubt themselves, that they will be able to look back at this victory and remember that tiny feeling of freedom, and it will be an anchor to them.