The other day I was laying on my bed and listening to my musical theatre playlist, which is like 28 hours long. Because its so long, I don’t really get to hear every single song each time that I listen to it. So when “A Way Back To Then” from [Title Of Show] started to play, it was a mixture of “holy crap I forgot about this song!” and “holy crap I miss being little!”
The song is from the perspective of a Heidi, who, in the song, talks about the type of pure bliss she experienced as a child and how she’s spent her whole life looking for that same feeling. And I realized that I’ve been doing the same thing.
When I was younger, I was this extremely weird, loud, self-assured little girl. I didn’t care what anyone had to say and I did whatever the hell I wanted. I played vampires and werewolves out on the field during recess. I mixed prints and wore those outfits with light up sketches and justice fuzzy sweaters. I made friends with everybody and simply ignored the people who didn’t want to be one of them.
I was truly a little powerhouse, ready to take on the world.
But somewhere along the way, that changed.
I think it was somewhere in middle school. Little kids are great, but once we become preteens, we are some of the most vicious humans alive-especially to each other. I entered middle school a chubby, frizzy haired, fun-loving little girl. I was Tracy Turnblad on steroids in a place that was already foreign and disadvantaged to me.
As the years progressed in middle school, I lost my sense of self. I made good friends and bad friends; I started feeling sad about the people who didn’t want to be one of them. The little girl who used to be happy and giggly, fun-loving and care free, became obsessed with controlling the hair and losing the weight. She became mean and cold-hearted, she became anxious and angry.
She became everything she never wanted to be.
High school started, and the first two years were lost to the same thing. I was still mean, I was still incredibly combative with people I didn’t like and who didn’t like me. I gained major trust and self-esteem issues, and feeling all sorts of things I didn’t know I could feel. All of my problems amped themselves up and I lost even more time to things that, in hindsight, didn’t deserve as much as I gave them.
Only recently, at the start of Junior year, did I truly stare myself down.
I made new friends, good friends. I got rid of the people who weren’t good for me, and left the people I wasn’t good for. I reorganized myself, started writing things out and figuring out what I wanted. I kept up my grades and tried my best to get out of the hole I dug myself into last year. I tried to make the crappy situations I was in just a little bit better, and when I couldn’t, I let them give me a good reason and a good push to quit.
But, in what I now guess is the end of my Junior year, I still haven’t found the complete feeling that Heidi was talking about.
Eventually, in the song, Heidi reveals that being amongst this group (the other characters in the show) and working on this musical/show, she’s finally found it. That blissful sense of purpose and place.
The closest I ever got was NSLC. In New York, surrounded by people my age who dreamed of the same things that I did and worked toward the same goals that I had. I felt like I was walking on air. Every hardship I faced at home in my own theatre department made it worth it if it got me here. Every person who hated me back home, every conflict I had ever gotten myself into, every tear I shed for something so stupid to others but so meaningful to me. Being there with people I adored (and still do, even if we don’t talk as much) gave me such a good feeling, and a true sense of purpose. It gave me everything I was missing at home, and gave me the courage to create it.
So, sitting here presently, I have again felt that sense of purpose, the sense of place. And now, I’m just searching for it again.
I’m working toward feeling the joy I had when I played “Cupcake Wars: Sandcastle edition” with my cousins at the beach or became an archaeologist in the backyard with my little brother. I’m working toward the feeling of place I had when I performed on a stage with my elementary school friends, in a bird costume and with a british accent. And I’m working toward the sense of purpose I had in co-writing and directing “The TrageDIE of Community Caesar” with the best people in the world, who couldn’t stop laughing and singing every single time were were together.
The work hasn’t gone unnoticed. In some ways, I’ve put together some part of the whole. I’ve connected some of the puzzle.
In the multiple face time calls a day and the past thrifting adventures, sleepovers, and loud nights my best friends and I have shared. In writing and taking pictures, for the blog and for myself. In being in new shows and working on short films.
I’ve found those sentimental feelings. They’ve found themselves in the little things.
And one day, the little things are going to come together and make it feel complete. Make me feel complete.
I’m finding my way back to then.
I hope you find yours.