For this post, I wanted to take a little trip into my past and tell you a little known fact about me. Unless you knew me throughout middle school and high school, this might come as a surprise to most. Truth be told, as much as I’ve always loved reading and writing, this wasn’t the original career path I had in mind for myself. When I was a child I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be. At one point I wanted to be a model, then a librarian, then a veterinarian, then something else that I don’t remember. It wasn’t until the summer after 6th grade that I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. During my 6th grade school year, some college students from Muhlenberg College- which for those of you who don’t know is now the college I attend- came to tell us about an acting camp they had over the Summer called Camp Imagine. We got to learn about acting, improvisation, memorizing lines, movement, etc but most of all, we just had a lot of fun. By the end of Camp Imagine I was hooked on acting and decided this was my path in life- to be an actress.
I went to Camp Imagine during my next two summers of middle school. My middle school didn’t have a theatre program and when they tried to have a Drama Club, it was just me and another girl, so it was quickly disbanded. Then I got to High School where they had a theatre program and even had theatre classes! I was so excited to be able to learn more about theatre and actually have the chance to act! My freshman year of theatre was awesome and even though I didn’t make it into any of the productions, I wasn’t discouraged because I knew the roles I wanted went to seniors who were graduating and these were their last chances to be seen in high school productions and I still had 3 years left to be cast! Then sophomore year came around and the class I was in was the worst. I was the outcast and everyone made sure I knew it. When we had to do group projects, nobody really wanted to help me. The only reason some people did help me is because it would make them look better to the teacher, but then they never wanted to rehearse, so my pieces would always come out horrible while their group projects with others would look great. Since no one ever asked me to help them even when I was willing to, it looked like I was the problem, not them, and that made me look bad to the teacher. This really frustrated me because I had told him my freshman year how serious I was about theatre and that I wanted to be an actress, but this made it look like I didn’t care. Because of this, I wasn’t chosen to join the Theatre Academy for my junior year, but I took another theatre class junior year anyway and that one was a little better than my sophomore year one, but it was still pretty bad. Honestly, I seemed to flourish more when the projects were individual as opposed to a group and I could see how problematic this was, but even then I didn’t give up.
At this point- junior year- I had been cast in one production, a tiny role that was easily written out when my theatre teacher cut me from it after I was sick for a week. Even though I had a doctor’s note that excused me from school for that week, he cut me because it didn’t specifically say rehearsals too. Honestly, I think it was just his way of getting me out of the production for some reason because I had two lines and some blocking that I had gotten perfectly during the two rehearsals I had prior to my illness, so missing one of rehearsals didn’t hurt anything. Then my senior year I finally got into the Theatre Academy and I was so happy. I was cast in another production with a part similar to the one I had gotten the prior year only this role had no lines, and I couldn’t understand why once again I had gotten overlooked for a bigger part. I was a senior at the point and this was my last chance to make my mark and he didn’t pick me even though I was told my audition had gone well. This is where I began to question if theatre was really the right place for me. Between all my bad experiences with the classes I had and the theatre teacher himself, who was the only theatre teacher at my high school, all the love I had for theatre was gone, my chosen career path along with it. I couldn’t drop Theatre Academy at this point without hurting my GPA, so I stuck it out.
With my love of theatre dead along with my career at this point, I didn’t know what to do. I looked at everything else I had done or taken throughout high school and only one other thing stuck out to me that I was good at- Writing. I had taken Creative Writing my junior year and had done well, receiving a lot of compliments from my teacher and my classmates. Even when I was given criticism, it was constructive criticism, something I don’t feel I ever got during the 4 years of theatre in high school. Senior year I took Journalism and my Journalism teacher loved the book reviews I wrote for the school paper. I did a concert review with my best friend, the horoscopes at one point, and then I interviewed a teacher that was retiring and she loved how the article turned out. I was also taking Honors English my Senior year and our teacher had assigned a creative writing assignment to go long with our reading of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and he liked it so much, he wrote on my paper that I needed to be a writer- or something along those lines, I’d have to find the exact paper, which I still do have to get his words completely accurate- but seeing those words and thinking back to how well I was doing with writing made me realize something I should have always known- I was meant to be a writer.
Thinking back past high school and into my childhood, when I was a kid I had written a lot of little short stories which my mom had typed up and saved on a floppy disc. I used to write poetry and song lyrics- very bad ones I might add- all the time. Then it got to a point in theatre class where I enjoyed the few creative writing assignments we were given more than I did the acting assignments. So with all that in mind, my focus went into writing and ever since I’ve been on my true chosen path of being a writer.
Looking back, I know my attitude did play a lot into my failure of theatre. I know where others could have been nicer, I could have been too. I could have worked harder or chosen my audition pieces more carefully so I did get the roles I desired. I could have handled situations with a calmer head instead of immediately fighting back. Maybe I could have even voiced my concerns and problems to my theatre teacher better, but he could have done better job at not letting his favorites always be in his ear and make it seem like everything I said was a lie. Looking back, there were so many factors that could have changed the outcome of my high school theatre career and my life as well, but honestly, I wouldn’t change any of it. I wouldn’t want a different outcome because being a writer makes me happier than doing theatre ever did.
Do I miss theatre? Sometimes I do, but I’ve come to realize I rather be the person writing the ideas and words that people act out than act them out myself. I realize that with theatre I felt limited and like I couldn’t express myself properly, but with writing I am only limited by my imagination and I can express myself however I please. I do have to thank my high school theatre teacher though because without his harsh and unfair treatment of me, I wouldn’t have found my true calling as a writer. He helped me find my true chosen path and that is something to be appreciative of. I also need to thank all my teachers that encouraged me to write and showed me just how much my words can impact someone. Without them, I would have no clue what to do with my life!
So that’s my story of how I got to where I am now.It’s not as detailed as it could be and I might have mixed somethings up- let’s just say a year of black hole depression can do that to a person- but overall this is pretty much how the story went. People who knew me in high school or had theatre classes with me might have different stories to tell, but you know what they say- Every story, even Non-Fiction has an element of Fiction to it because everyone perceives situations differently.
So if you made it through to the end of this very long post my question for you is- Before you chose the path of being a writer or a teacher or whatever your path is, was there something else you wanted to do with your life? If there was, what led you away from that path and onto the one you are on now? I would love to hear your stories!
Nice post, Michelle!
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Thank you, Jennie! I felt telling this story was something I just needed to do 🙂
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And you told it very well!
Thank you 🙂
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