In Memory Of “New”

This May, I attended my sister’s high school graduation. It was very much like my own grad, two years ago. Most of the girls wore long, sparkling dresses, and struggled to fit dark blue caps and gowns over their beauteous hair and attire. The banquet spread was delicious, the speeches went on forever, and the dancing lively. It was all very familiar, though as different and new as the group of graduates were from me and my cohorts, two years ago.

As I listened to the 50 or so graduate speeches, amidst picture snapping of the familiar grads, I was reminded of my former self. The young girl who thought she was so very mature and grown up. The seventeen-year-old whose blue gown barely fit over the hoop skirt of her handmade, shiny purple dress. The young woman who gave a speech, which everyone praised, but that she herself did not even fully understand the meaning of then.

Oh, that girl. That dear little girl in the purple dress, clutching a red bible, and smiling haply. Where did she go?

Down the path of the hopeful to the little university she felt was so beloved. Through various first and second year university classes, where everything began so crisp and new that September and ended in bitter exhaustion come December. She began so gladly that first day, with hopes higher than the university bell-tower, for everything that had been, and mostly, all that was to come.

As grads recited speeches, I remembered her, in that eager anticipation, light of heart, and faithful spirit. Grads talked about their college, university, and job plans so solidly, as if knowing exactly what the road of post-secondary would bring. I remember talking like that, too. But really, everything was just a cloud of new, unknown, unrealized hopes and dreams back then.

I remember making my first schedule, utterly overwhelmed by course IDs, and fitting times and days together. I pronounced the professors names–Dr. Such-and-Such and Mr. So-And-So–imagining how good my first impression would be in their eyes. I bought books early, of course, planning to do pre-reading to make the course load lighter; all the while, I wondered what the classes would actually be like.

Eventually, it all set in. The schedule was up and down at first, but with a few weeks, I relaxed into it. Surprisingly, I found myself on a first name basis with most professors, though not all of my first impressions went as smoothly as I had dreamed. Not so surprisingly, I laboured over reading right till the bitter end of that first cold semester.

I shudder to think of some of the miserable days of my first semester. Cold nights traveling home, the staggering exhaustion, and the fear over getting things right. The deep and utter loneliness I felt. These were the not so good days I never bargained for, but surely received. 

Yet  now as I look ahead to my third year, I wonder where those first weeks and months went. Part of me believes I’m still that anxious freshman for the time has gone so quickly.

But the other part knows it can’t be true for the knowledge I have now. I look ahead dismally to the September leaves, knowing exactly what next year will be like. There’s nothing new or exciting about being an upperclassmen–you’ve already done the semester thing four times and the pattern gets old fast.

I’ve learned the rhythm of classes. In two years, I’ve mastered the beats, the rests, melodies, and crescendos of student hood.

Now, as I think on it all, I realize that I long for the new, in all it’s misery and brightness, once more. There are things I wish I could do over either for regret or just the pure joy they brought because there is something beautiful about the new. There is something lovely about having to get to know something, to learn about it, and come to cherish it. I guess that’s why we buy new clothes and trinkets, make new friends, and enjoy the passage of milestones like graduations, university, new jobs, marriage, and children. 

The new of university, I realize, is mostly gone now. Things may still change a bit as each year is a slightly altered song yet the newness I long for is that of freshman hood, when everything is kindly new for a few days of bliss. I know I won’t get that back.

Yet in my almost-upperclassmen-wisdom, I’m certain there will be other shades of new. Newness comes in seasons and I’m sure to experience a thousand more.

I appreciate the beginning of a journey, in all it’s excitement and uncertainty, much more now as I long again for that season of spring, knowing it was good to me. But I suppose there is beauty in the summer, the fall, and the winter as well. The middle and the end are just as important as the beginning for without them we could not see the results of our journey.

 

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On Growing Up

Today marks a year since something big changed for me.

Actually, a lot of days are like that, really. So much has changed since I graduated, now almost 2 years ago. Even in the last year, there’s been so much change. So much growth.

I used to dread change. When I was twelve, I recall journaling about how much I hated it when things and people changed. But how little I knew then.

One of the characters in the play I’m writing tells the protagonist that he plants new flowers every year. The flowers change every spring. They both grumble and gripe about changes throughout the play, but by the end they concur that change is good, otherwise there’d be no variety and possibly no flowers.

That’s how I see it now. Change leads to beauty. Greater beauty. Greater life, even.

But growing up is so weird. Because you can’t see it coming, no matter how hard you look or how big your imagination might be. The days ahead in my mind are still blank calendar squares with only words, at the very most, of what that day might ensue. I find that I can often imagine what I might do on a day, but when I think of what I might learn, it is impossible. I suppose that’s why I have to learn it.

And growing up is weird because there’s just some ways in which I stay young forever. There are some ways in which we never really grow up because we never stop learning.

And the feeling of growing up is strangest when I look back on all the things I’ve done and seen and changed from and wonder where the time has gone.

Two years ago, I was completely unaware of who I was and what I wanted. I lacked in specificity and I believed lies. One year ago, I saw that lack of awareness and specificity and all of those lies and wanted to change. Today, I’m different–not perfect–but I’ve grown to embrace more of those traits that I wanted so desperately last year.

Why am I writing these words? Perhaps you think that this post seems to have no flow or point or purpose.

Perhaps I’m writing it for me more than for you. Perhaps I’m writing just because it’s good to write and it’s beautiful to recall.

Perhaps because I have to write.

I’ve always had to write, it would seem. One of my first ambitions was to be a writer. As a little girl, hearing The Little House on The Prairie novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I dreamed of having thick books with glossy covers that held my name at the bottom. I used to cherish my time in bed before falling into slumber. I’d write stories in my head except I’d say them aloud in silent whispers to account for my lack of paper.

And now I’m writing a play. I think I told you that a few paragraphs back. I never thought I’d be a playwright back then as a six-year-old and maybe I’ll never be a very good one — the writing and revising process isn’t easy.

And there’s so many things I never thought I’d do or be or see or realize. So many things I said I wouldn’t. So many things I said I couldn’t. So many things I just never had the imagination to think of.

And I’ve been learning that what you say you won’t do, you likely will do anyway; the things you say you can’t, you actually can do, if you take the ‘not’ out of the phrase, and your imagination will never hold the beauty that in reality, God’s plans hold for you.

Because God has a sense of humour, He is persistent, and He knows how to create beauty that is beyond beauty itself.

So Friends, I’m embracing change, at 10 PM on a Sunday night, a week and a half away from the end of my semester, when I should really be getting ready for bed.

But I can’t go to bed. Not yet. Because there’s so much to write and read and think about. (And also cinnamon buns to eat momentarily… )

These are my ramblings of today. You never can tell what tomorrow will hold though.

This is what growing up looks like for me.

How have you experienced change lately?

On Choosing Theatre

“So are you glad that you became a theatre artist?” he asked me, settling down in the seat which happened to be next to mine.

His question took me by surprise. He was my professor in first year and he’d learned many of my struggles and problems with choosing theatre. But I was still taken off guard. I just hadn’t thought about the choice in so long; it had become so routine, so mundane, so natural to me.

Yet I’d been mulling my choice, whether I realized it or not, over in my head this past Christmas and in the weeks since the break, too. My holidays were wonderful, but I was very much out of the “theatre loop” and I began to wonder what the heck I was doing all over again. Most of my “back home” friends are working and others are studying to be engineers and nurses or planning to go to law school post-degree. Where does theatre fit into all that? I wondered. I know that I love it, I know that I can do it, and I even know that God loves it, but is it really valuable to others? What’s the point?

It was hard to wake myself up that first Tuesday morning of school. Besides feeling burnt out from the last three semesters and the recent summer, the question of why we do theatre still rumbled in my head till it was sore.  Really, I was asking: Am I valuable? Is what I do needed? And if it’s not, why do it?

I resisted, at first. I refused to be excited. Every semester, especially the last, has left me strongly disappointed. I refused to feel that disappointment again.

But that first week took me by surprise. And so did the next. I was filled with absolute joy in the presence of what I loved. My classes were amazing and inspiring and much more than I could have asked for.

The truth is, in my state of resistance and bitterness, I began to love acting like never before. It became exhilarating once again, in more ways than ever. My play. My acting class and the scenes I’m involved in. Voice & Movement. They brought me the excitement I’d lost hope in.

This all came back to me as I answered my prof. “Yes. I mean sometimes I’m not; sometimes I’m just tired and worn out, I guess. It’s work. But we’ve been doing Meisner and these Lindy Davis exercises and I’m playing Sister Aloysius in Doubt and Much Ado is a challenge but it’s fun and well, I’ve never loved acting more.”

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But is love enough? That’s the question I pondered next.

Does loving something make it valuable, useful, or right?

I’m definitely an advocate for doing what you love with your life. I believe in following your own dreams and not the ones someone else’s. But still. It can all be a little disheartening when other people’s dreams seem to be so useful and important and you’re left feeling like a joke. What then?

I’m not trying to play the martyr here. Theatre is hard, but I realize I won’t get burned at the stake for it. This isn’t Shakespeare’s time when actors were below slaves in status, or something like that. Yes, theatre and art are socially acceptable vocations, but sometimes I feel a little lost in the dust, as others, I’d assume feel, too.

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“We’re the messiest of them all,” the aforementioned prof has said before. Often times, he’s right. We get dressed up and walk around campus doing photo shoots. We take classrooms apart so we can rehearse or fill them with camera gear for a promo video and clean up just in time for the next class to start. We make people sweat and quicken heart beats when we swear and kiss people we’re not married to and portray lots of conflict on stage. We put humanity, in all it’s flaws and horrors, on display for the world to see. And it isn’t always pretty.

Plain and simply, I find theatre valuable because I love it. I do it because I love it. Frankly, I don’t have to justify that.

I believe in its value for a lot of reasons. It teaches us to have empathy, both as actors and audience members. It is art and it allows for creation, which I believe is very biblical. Last but not least, people love entertainment and people like me who study BFAs in Acting provide that. And really, this list could go on but it won’t for now.

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I get a lot of reactions on the answer that slips out of my mouth after the infamous student question, “What is your major?” That sounds fun! and Cool! or I could never do that! and What’s that like? are among the top. One person laughed out loud when I told him, but that’s a story for another time. Lots of people ask me what I intend to do with it, too. I tell them I want to be an actor.

This isn’t a pity party. As another professor says, we all have choices; it’s just silly to say we don’t. Thus, we honestly can’t complain about a lot of stuff because 95% of it likely stems out of the choices we’ve made. I made the choice to study theatre a year and a half ago. I continue to make that choice day after day. And I can make the choice to quit at any point.

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I suppose what I’d like for you to know is that choosing theatre can be great. It is for me, at least. Choosing what you love, I think, is best. Do it, if you can. No matter what it is. What you do, whatever it is, has value because of Christ. He created everything good in this world and has an intention for it. So go out and do it. Choose what you love.

So yes, I’m glad I chose to be a theatre artist.

What about you?

A Time For Silence

In our culture, silence is a rare thing. And in my life and the lives of many other students, it is hard to come by.

I’m go, go, go all week with a maximum of 7 hours of sleep a night, if that; these are often my only hours of contemplation. Weeks go by and I realize I haven’t read my Bible and I’ve barely prayed, except on the run.

Sunday comes. Sunday is my Sabbath, at least it is supposed to be. This semester, I’ve mostly committed to not working yet it’s hard to get my mind out of ‘the mode.’ All week, I long for Sunday and imagine all the beautiful things that are going to happen. But when I get there I’m too exhausted to do any of them. But at the same time, I’m too used to being stimulated to completely do nothing.

These ‘symptoms’ are merely the result of a busy and full life. I’m not complaining. I know many others put up with such a lifestyle and I don’t think that busyness is completely unhealthy. Certain aspects of it are, but life should be full and hard and even, exhausting.

Yet there is a time for silence, I think, that is often forgotten. Often trampled on. Often dismissed.

We say we don’t have time. There’s this and there’s that. A meeting to get to and an exam to study for, lunch to make and oh, look, there’s people to talk to. I often adopt the attitude that it’s best to plough through and get everything done; it’s best to use every minute, right?

Last Saturday, after a full day of rehearsal, I plopped down on a cushioned sit in the cafeteria, and sipped coffee for twenty whole minutes. In silence. No computer, no phone, no lines, or books. Just me and God and my thoughts.

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My mind was far from silent. A thousand thoughts raced through my brain.

I thought of the many drafts I’d made for this 20 minutes between rehearsal and driving to the next event. Singing practice, playwriting, Voice & Movement exercises, and blogging were among them. None of those are bad things. Actually, I generally enjoy all of them and doing any might have eased my stress later on.

But as I sat, I breathed in. And out. And in again.

And as I sipped, I appreciated the richness of the caramel I’d drizzled in the coffee and the warmth it emitted on my hands.

I enjoyed the people getting their dinners and meeting friends. I like to watch people. I’m an actor, a writer, an observer, an artist — sometimes I forget that. The silence reminded me again.

Visions formed in my head. Visions for my play, for my acting, for future writing projects, for fun.

Memories met me where I was and I laughed by myself in the caf.

I could feel the cuff of my coat and I saw it’s red reflection in the mirror and I remembered that I was wearing my favourite hat. All that made me happy, little and small as it was.

I dialoged with God a bit, too. Sometimes I forget to do that because it’s so loud and I forget He’s there.

Work is excellent and I highly encourage doing it hard. But it’s equally good to find silence from time to time.

Silence revives the soul. It reminds us who we were and who we love, what we do and how to do it.

So as you embark upon this week, I encourage you to find times to be silent. I promise you your mind will talk and so might your Maker.

With Love On Valentines

I’m a sucker for Valentine’s Day. I always have been and I’m pretty sure I always will be. And I’ll shamelessly admit it to anyone who asks or doesn’t ask.

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When I was a kid, Valentine’s cards were the very bestest. Every year, Mom would let us pick out a package we liked and then we’d spend beautiful hours picking the right ones for the right people and writing their names out, usually on February 13th. And then I’d bask in the multitudes of Valentines I’d receive myself. Each one had a special memo and picture, just for me, I felt. Some were even home made. And the more I received, the more affirmed and loved I felt. It was absolutely glorious.

Now I’m a university student and although the idea of making Valentines for treasured friends still appeals to me, I didn’t write a single card this year. Now I’m at the age where friends are either going on dates or complaining over their lack of a love life or ranting on the stupidity such a day. And I received a total of two Valentines cards this year.

I spent the day at school, though I didn’t have classes. Instead, I spent an average day in the life of a theatre major; I shot a promo video for my upcoming play, postered campus for the said production, and I worked on set pieces, for, you gussed it, that show I’m in. I didn’t do anything totally out of the ordinary, for me at least. And to be honest, the fact that it was Valentine’s Day didn’t change a lot of stuff.

But still, it was Valentine’s Day and I spent it with people.

I laughed and did silly stunts and commiserated with friends. We talked of first meetings and became giddy over the silliness of things that were once serious.

I worked with people. We finished tasks and we helped each other and smiled at the fruits of our labour. It was hard work, but the presence of others eased the pain.

A friend and I traveled home together. Both exhausted from fighting terrible bugs and a long week of school, we shared the week’s ‘gossip’ and beauty and giggles.

And I see the people, from my window, running to catch busses or trains or getting in their cars. I see them walking. A man carries flowers as he strolls down the sidewalk. A couple walks a pair of German shepherds who can’t seem to get enough of each other.

There are people. All around us. Walking, working, laughing, learning. Loving.

Tonight I spend an introverted, university-ish night, reading Chekhov and rehearsing lines. But family drifts in and out and I’m reminded of the people and love that comprised my day.

There is love all around. Valentine’s Day is just a glimpse of that. A reminder.

Yesterday, my mom recalled what I’d said to her when I was a disappointed and disillusioned seven-year-old, who didn’t receive as many Valentines as her sister had: “I don’t see what’s so special about Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day isn’t special. I don’t know why people said it was special. There’s no family. There’s no dinner.”

I beg to differ now, with my once disappointed self. Valentine’s Day is special, whether it’s spent with flowers and dinner or as an ordinary school day. It can be special, if we spend it with those around us and choose to see the world with a window of love.

I realize I’m being a bit poetical and aarie-faerie here. I realize also that those kind of words don’t often mean much to all people.

But think on this. The roots of Valentine’s Day are in a man called St. Valentine. He was a martyr to love, specifically the God-designed institute of marriage. He died for what he believed, for a noble cause, for a relationship and heritage that still breathes joy today.

It is a legacy. A passing down. Of joy, family, friendship, love.

We were created in the image of God and made for relationship. Whether we are married or single or love or abhor the sticking tradition of Valentine’s Day, that is the truth.

The day is nearly done now. There’s about three more hours of this day when chocolate is expected and secret admirer notes are acceptable.

Yet I encourage you, to embrace Valentine’s Day, for all it’s worth in the short hours that remain. I beg of you more to take hold  of the attitude of sacrificial love that inspired it. Most of all, I call you to love people and in loving people, you love Him as well.

Found

The idea came at a bus stop, and I pounded it out in my notebook in the bus seat. Seven days and five drafts later. I had my idea for the simple assignment for Playwriting class–a scene with a reversal.

In Voice & Movement, our teacher takes our word of the moment at the beginning and end of class. She writes them down. My word that morning was “found.”

Found my scene, my inspiration.

Found peace in class that day. Joy in writing. Friendship when a classmate and I hung out in between class.

Found creativity and passion while crafting in the costume shop that Friday. Slowly, carefully I began to create a mask to wear in my play. Drew a design, picked out jewels and fabric and ribbons, and glued it all together.

Found fun over the weekend. Out for dinner after rehearsal one night to celebrate a friend’s birth. And out for another one the next.

Found work this past week as it all piled up. Quizzes, crew calls, rehearsals, journal entries, voice lessons. I found sweat and tears, sickness and exhaustion.

And finally, this weekend I found rest. Piled into bed at 8:30 PM Saturday night, a long day of rehearsal behind me. Only meaning to go for a short nap, I proceeded to sleep for 12 hours.

Sunday morning found me giddy on sleep and ready for a happy day. The bright July borrowed sun welcomed me. Church found me ready for worship, songs floating out of my mouth, and mind ready to receive the message. Friends, old and new, found me afterwards. I found joy all over again in an afternoon with friends, laughing and getting to know each other better.

This has been the consistency of my past week and a half. Simple days of hard work and little joys. Days of waiting and worrying and wondering as well, no doubt. Yet happy hours of peace and prayer, trickles of laughter and inspiration have found me in these first weeks of the new year.

You find me here today, anticipating another week and crazy days ahead. Yet content, somehow, to be who I am and find the future.

Because I’ve found beauty in the little and love in the great. And my Jesus has found me.

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Today

Today is a Thursday.

Beep. Beep. Beep. I rise early. My door knob, the shower faucets, and the kettle are the first things I touch. Somehow, I feel awake, even at 6 AM.

I arrive at school ahead of schedule. I wait, sort of do some homework. My scene partner comes. We work with another friend. We sit knee-to-knee in the theatre, she whispers us our lines. You see, we’re not allowed to look at them just yet. Not today, anyway. Our Acting prof calls it Meisner or one of his techniques, at least. So our friend feeds our ears words and we go back and forth with them, reciting, strangely, beautifully.

Today, I go to chapel. I sit in the front row of the balcony for an easy get-away. I sing with the others and it is lovely and I listen to the speaker. But I leave 5 minutes early for class, to beat the rush.

Today, I arrive at class early. I change my clothes. Chat with a friend before class starts and eat jello for lunch. Today, other friends arrive and we ask each other questions about our Christmases and compliment new hair cuts.

Today, is the first Thursday of the semester. We have Voice & Movement. There are thirteen of us and one brilliant teacher. We all sit in a circle on the floor.

Today, we breathe, we learn, we discover. We write a bit, reflect, and then we talk. There’s a sweet intimacy that pervades the room and I’m happy and comforted by the time I leave.

Later today, I finish my homework in the collegium. Playwriting homework. It’s easy, but I’m distracted.

Today, I grab a mug and attempt to open a package of hot chocolate mix. A friend I hardly know is making tea, and then he offers to bring me a mug full of milk for my hot chocolate.

Today, I see many people. Many friends. I help lead youth group and we talk about evil and lies. I’m reminded of my thoughts in Voice & Movement and I smile.

Today, I drink from cups that others have filled. There are many because my life is very full. And I am so grateful for today.

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What was your today like? I’d love to hear about it!

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Recap & Dreams

2013 was a roller-coaster.

First year second semester didn’t pull me by the ear lobes like my first had done. It was stagnant at first; difficult, strange. I had to grab it by the neck and make it what I wanted and needed. I did just that. In the words of my professors and friends, I transformed in my art and I think also, in myself.

Summer came much too quickly. I put acting aside for a while, on a shelf though, to be found again, come September, no doubt. Core requirement books piled on my desk and for six weeks I devoted my time to completing courses in Old Testament, Self-Defense, and Human Kinetics.

June brought my first article to publication. One I’d worked at since January. It began as a tiny proposal forced from my hands. I never thought my first attempt at a magazine submission would lead to publication, but it did, somehow, beautifully.

My first real job, as a cashier at a Thrift Store, came and went. July and August were filled with long days and hard work, dust, unfriendly voices, interesting objects, and weird comments. But there was love and joy and peace and satisfaction there, too. And for those things and the lessons learned, I miss it every day.

Last semester boomed along. I played a small role in my first university play. I took hard classes. My professors pushed me and I pushed myself. And I forged friendships like never before. There was beauty and life, but at the end, I was burnt to the core.

More. There was always more. More to do, more to be, more to learn. It was exhausting.

My holidays have been quite the reverse. School flew away and I nearly forgot the little homework I did have.

I spent a lovely four days with a friend and her family, relaxing and celebrating the new year. I had a beautiful Christmas, filled with Christ, family, and sweet things. I’ve had a wonderful holiday, seeing fabulous people and creating to my heart’s desire. In everything, I’ve learned more about myself and the person I want to become.

And now, as I sit and think on January 3rd, I am hopeful. All of what happened, both the good and the bad, makes 2014, a new year, brighter to my eyes. Because we learned and we finished and came to believe in 2013, through every blot and beauty.

And this — why this is only the beginning. We’ve barely breathed on the new year yet. Hardly made mistakes. The days ahead are still coming and we don’t know what will fill them. And while unknowns can be scary, adventure lies in what we do not know or even understand.

It snowed this December. It rained a lot, too. And in it all, it “sunned” as well.

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2014 should bring similar weather, I believe. But who knows what the colour of the rain will be?

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