Friday, April 8, 2011

Opening Night

"The opening when your heart beats like a drum..." -Annie Get Your Gun

It's not nerves rattling through me, but complete anticipation and excitement. I'm about to leave Emma Catherine behind and become someone entirely new, a character I've gotten to know well throughout the past three months and am fully going to step into tonight as I zip up my cowgirl boots and set my straw hat in the center of my head. Tonight I'm Winnie Tate, a headstrong romantic who's fallen for a man her sister despises. Tonight I'm going to win the man, then lose the man, then win him again. I'm going to sing and dance my way to that happy ending and final bow. And I'm going to do it all over again tomorrow.

Throughout the years, I've taken on many personalities besides my own. I've been a poor boy living in an orphanage, and by the second act become a little girl receiving the coveted rose at the end of "Who Will Buy?". I've been a greedy, self-centered rat with a big appetite. I've been a street urchin, a peasant girl falling for the rich city boy, the ugliest of ducklings, the prettiest of Greasers, a French feather duster, a little redhead with "A Hard Knock Life", a young child possessed by witchery, an extravagant actress willing to do anything for the lead, and a beautiful cowgirl just looking for love.

I can't tell you in one word why I love this feeling so much. It's the scattered cast members rushing to help each other with their costume changes. The hurried repetition of lines as you touch up your lipstick during intermission. The laughter of an audience taking the place of the empty seats you've told that joke to a thousand times. It's getting your hair caught in props and improvising when your castmate misses a cue.

There's nothing quite like stepping into the spotlight and knowing that you've got a hundred people staring back at you, wondering what you're going to say, or rather, what your character is going to say. There's nothing like reciting out that one line you blundered through for weeks and finally getting it perfect. Nothing like hitting the last note of your solo and hearing the applause echo through the crowded hall to you until it's all you can hear. Nothing like shaking the hands of people you hardly know and hearing that, in some small way, you've touched them.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dear You,

There are a lot of different kinds of friends. Friends you hang out with during a class or two, friends that last a few years before you grow apart, and friends that last forever. We were the second kind, and that's okay with me. I understand that not all friendships can hold through time, and I accept that we have both changed to a point where our personalities clash.

We didn't have any one large blow out, but these tensions between us just can't continue. I can't stand there worrying about every little thing I say around you, wondering if you're going to take my words and twist them as you repeat them to others. I can't deal with the way you look at me, and I can't take knowing I have done nothing to have lost your respect in this way. We've grown apart to the point where I can easily see that you don't like me. That's perfectly okay. You've become a person that I don't like or respect either.

It's nothing personal. I just can't have toxic friends. I have goals, things to do, a thousand responsibilities. Worrying about you and your dramatic tendencies and two faced conversations with my friends is no longer a priority of mine. I have many other friends who have stood by me forever and won't turn on me at any point in the future. I have too much self respect to allow this "friendship" to continue any longer.

So let's part as acquaintances, be civil towards each other since we share many of the same friends, and let the past be the past. It's very clear that we do not need each other as friends, but we don't need each other as enemies either. Let's just set aside the hard feelings and go on with our lives. We'll both be so much better off.

Thank you for all the good memories. We've certainly had our share of laughs. If I ever figure out where things went so wrong, I'll be sure to let you know.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Making Changes

My life is pretty great. There's not a day that goes by when I don't find something to look at and just say, "Wow, I'm so lucky to have that person in my life" or "This couldn't have gone any better" or "This was just a really good day." Of course, that may largely be because I've always thought of myself as an optimist, but even though my life is very blessed and very full, there are days when I look in the mirror and still think, "How can I make things better?"

When I asked myself this a few weeks ago, it was an internal question. I was happy with my self-image, but I was a changing girl. I've grown so much in these past few years in ways that many others don't always see. That's because while these changes I've worked on may have been slight, they've made all the difference to me. They've been changes to pieces of my personality, my way of interacting with others. I'm not the shy girl I once was. I've become more than capable of speaking my mind and defending what I think is right. I've grown stronger.

That's why I discovered a slight problem. See, the girl in the mirror didn't portray that self-confidant side of me the way I wanted her to. Although she was still me, still the girl I thought of when I tried to picture myself, she didn't appear the way I truly felt she should.

I'm not so good with spontaneous decisions, but I'd been failing to set a date for myself to get my hair cut for about a month. So when my mom asked if I wanted to go to her hairdresser's with herself and my sister, I decided that now was the time. Although I was nervous, I sat down, and I closed my eyes. And when I opened them again, I had to smile. Because looking in the mirror, I saw me.

It might seem like some small little thing, but this past week I've felt so great every time I see my reflection. Because what's inside of me is shining through so much better now. And that style always looks good.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Guardian Dog

I miss my dog. I miss her more than I let on as I go about my daily agenda, and the tiniest little things make me think about her. Yesterday, when setting out my tv tray, I paused before setting down my food, thinking my milk was still in the kitchen, so I would have to go back to get it. I was still used to thinking that I had to be careful where I left my food, thinking Charlie might come from the next room, jump up, and eat my supper before I had a chance to shout, "No!" When I get home from school, it takes me a moment to remember, no, I don't have to put the dog right out. There aren't any elderly puppy messes to pick up in the house. There's no blonde-turning-white hair on my favorite black sweater or scattered throughout the house. There's no clatter of the metal tags on her collar or clipping of her nails on the wooden floors as she walks through the house. My first dog, the only dog I've ever had, is gone.

Of course, I know it was her time. She was in pain. Remembering that last car ride with her is painful and brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I remember petting down her fur in a desperate attempt to bring some comfort to the warm, loving creature who had brought me so much comfort throughout the years. I wanted to give back to her some of what she'd given me, but the truth was there in her small, weak frame. Charlie wasn't going to be with me much longer.

I think that was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Standing there in that small room, watching my dog lay on the metal table in front of me and waiting for the veterinarian to come back into the room will always be a memory hidden inside of my mind. But I have to focus on all the good times. I have to remember how she looked bounding through the snow with childlike joy even through her older years. I always called her my puppy. I don't believe that Charlie ever really knew her true age, and if she did, she never let it hold her back. She will always be a puppy at heart 

She's looking over me now. Although I can't see her or hold her to me or pet her head when life gets hard, I can still talk to her in my prayers and dreams. I can still think of her when I go out for a walk or refill her old water bowl for Boo. It's okay to miss her. It's okay for me to find myself in tears at times when I realize that she's gone. It just means that I loved her, and I did. I still do, and I always will.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Quick Escape

When I was little, I would grab a book and hide in the tiny corner between our stereo and the red couch. I could sit quietly for what felt to me like hours without being found. As I got older, I continued to excel at hide and seek, but when I truly needed to find my escape, discovering new places my family wouldn't find me in proved to be much more difficult. I took to going outside on our swingset or on the hammock in the backyard to get away from my soooo annoying little brother, my pestering parents or my always nagging sister. In the winter, I'd tunnel into our snowbanks and create my own little hideaway. Finally, I got to the age where my headphones granted me my most effective escape. I could lose myself in a playlist of favorite songs no matter where I found myself, but even then it was easy for my siblings and parents to interrupt me and bring me back to "real life".

Now that my everyday stresses have become more pronounced than a lost toy or too many chores, every once and a while I find myself needing an out. In order to keep my thoughts contained inside my own head, I find my ipod and camera and pull on a pair of boots before waving goodbye to my family and going for a walk in my development.

After stepping outside today, I realized that there was over a foot of snow awaiting me in my driveway. I wasn't dissuaded, however. I just turned on my camera and began trudging my way through the snow. Stopping to snap pictures every few yards, I made my way through the development, my ipod resting in my jacket pocket.

Within ten minutes, I realized that I was completely relaxed. I was singing along with my favorite songs and aiming each of my pictures like the most gifted and artistic photographer to ever grace our Maine landscape. Everything that had seemed so stressful and aggravating a little while before didn't seem like such a big deal anymore. I'd found my escape again, and it was even better than a three square foot reading nook.

Walking home, I used up the last of my battery to snap pictures of my road. Although my entire neighborhood is beautiful, I found that it was my own neck of the woods that appealed most to me. Whether because it truly is the most stunning place in the world, or simply because it is the place I am most familiar with, my own home was the place I was most excited to capture. In the end, my one of my favorite pictures was taken after the sun went down, my footsteps leading me back home. Sometimes it requires simply taking a short break from your life in order to see just how beautiful it really is.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Path I'm Starting Down

Today at school, we were asked a question that I, personally, have most likely been asked over a thousand times so far in my life. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Now that I am in high school, the nearness of this "growing up" is creeping its way into my thoughts. The question now enters my head as, "Now that you're almost there, what are you going to do?"

The first phrasing is much easier to answer than the second. When I was five, I was going to be a ballerina. When I turned seven, I planned to be a doctor in order to fix my Meme Freeman's bad knee. When I was eleven, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Although I am only fifteen, I've had my mind very much set on my most current goal and, although it is the most ambitious, I'll go ahead and say it. I want to become a professional actress. I'm not saying I want fame. I just want to go into a career based on the one passion in my life that brings me more joy than anything else.

But I know that this goal is much more spoken of than reached, and I find myself thinking often, "How on earth am I going to accomplish this?" After all, my older sister wanted to be an actress, and she found her way to accomplish this goal by attending a university and participating in a number of shows there. She's halfway through her freshman year and has already performed in two successful productions right here in Maine. But today in class, I was reminded of my real goal, one that, alright, I never actually forgot. One of my close friends, who knows all about my ambitious dreams, turned to me and smiled, "Tell her you're going to be on Broadway."

This is how I word my goals. I tell myself this sentence all the time out loud. Not as a question. Not as a hope. As a fact. "I am going to be on Broadway." I say to myself, and it always makes me smile. I'm not saying I plan to be the shining star with my face up there in lights, although I'd be lying if I said I didn't dream of it every so often. I just want to be in the ensemble. I want to be a part of that great dance number, that booming full chorus sound. I just want to feel my feet on the floor of that New York stage and the heat of the lights on a remarkable cast that I can call myself a part of.

But how? How can a girl from a small town, like me, get somewhere like that? I could get into some wonderful small-town community theater shows. I could probably even get a commercial gig or two. But Broadway?

This past year I've started making tiny amateur plans, telling people, "I'm going to go to a college within a bus distance or two of New York City. That way I can go to school and just keep auditioning until I get into something." Which sounds ambitious, but to a high school student, totally possible. But at the same time, there are hundreds of little tiny holes in this rough draft of a plan. Where will I get the money for bus tickets? How often will I go to New York? What will happen if I have to stay longer for extended auditions? How will I work, go to school, take academically challenging classes, go to auditions, study for tests, and get all my homework done in time? What if I meet someone? When will I spend time with friends? Do I plan to give up on writing? Am I planning to relax at all?

Breathing is good. Taking a minute to wrap my mind around those questions, the practical side of me shakes it's figurative little head. I'm sorry, Emma. It's just too much to handle. Stick with going to your college classes, finding a major. You're a smart girl. You can figure out another career path and have time for friends and have free time and have an amazing college experience. Part of me really wants that. Part of me can see a life for me in that, a really happy, fulfilled life that would lead to many opportunities.

But the other part of me is so gosh darn stubborn, and it wants me to just try this crazy plan. I don't want to give up. I don't want to look back years from now and say, "Oh! Why did you give up then? You didn't even fight!" It's impractical, yes. It may be a complete waste of my achievements in math and science, but (sorry Dad!) I don't want to be a mathematician or a scientist. I want to be an actress. I know it's important to have backup plans, and, believe me, I've got a bucket of them, but I'm not caving in to the worries, complaints, or adult tisks just yet.

Who knows, maybe I'll have a change of heart senior year and pursue Backup Plan #3: become a teacher. There may be hope for me yet. But for now I have my course set on this crazy, ambitious idea of mine, and since Plan #1 has always been simply to follow my heart, I've got myself headed in just the right direction.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Once Upon a Time...

Books. If you know me at all, it's no news to you that I love them. I am a reader, and I am very proud of that fact. While many teenagers find their comfort in reality tv shows (alright, I'll admit I've got a few addictions on that account as well), I find it so much more relaxing to pick up a nice three hundred or so paged book and bury myself in another character's life and troubles for a little while.

I've always adored reading. I truly can't think of a time when I wasn't excited to get a book for my birthday or a gift certificate to Borders, but today I was struck by the extent of my love for reading. The high school years can be a busy time. I've got my hands, arms, chest, and shoulders working together to try and hold onto the load of activities I've found myself taking on throughout the years. I'm on the volleyball team. I have a weekly dance class. I'm in the ski program. I do the school play, musical, and community theater shows. I'm a member of show choir, jazz choir, ska band, and jazz band, and I'm also obligated to be on the math team for my school this month in order to fulfill my honors level requirement for my Algebra 2 class. Add all that to my homework load that comes with taking all honors classes and you find yourself a periodically stressed out and overloaded sophomore.

But today, midterms officially ended. There was no dance class, no skiing, no volleyball, choir, band, or any dreaded math team practice. I had just finished my last audition for the school musical, and my mom was waiting for me to come outside and get in the car. While I'd expected to be going straight home, my mom informed be that she desperately wanted Chinese food. Since I'd been craving it and suggesting we go out and order some for the past week, I happily obliged. However, with Chinese food comes twenty minutes of waiting time for your food to be ready. This is where the books come in.

My mother and I spent that twenty minutes in a little book shop a few stores down that I've been in too many times to count since I was born. I remember playing with the castle play set and the slightly used action figures in the kids' section with my little brother. I remember, as I got older, searching through the aisles for the newest continuation in my favorite book series that never seemed to wrap itself up. As I departed from my mom, finding  "my" aisle, where I would find the category of books I was most interested in, I sat down on the floor and proceeded to read the back covers of what I'm certain was over one hundred and fifty books.

Though I left the store with just six of this amount, my complete happiness at sitting there on the carpet floor in that quiet bookstore, able to peruse and skim as many books as I wished, was something I realized I'd truly missed. Over the course of the busy school year, I'd taken to focusing on my obligatory school books, not taking the time to free read because really, there was very little extra time to find. But as I collected the books I wanted and walked over to the cash register, I was so unbelievably excited to get home and read, and that familiar feeling made me feel warm, happy, and yes, a little dorky.

I love books. I absolutely adore books. In fact, the entire time I've been writing this blog entry I've been staring at my new pile of books, right there in eyesight on my floor, trying to think of how I can end this post quickly so that I can go and begin reading one of them. It's just the feeling of trying to figure out what is going to happen next, falling in love with the characters and fighting their battles with them, and allowing yourself to forget, just for a little while, all the obligations and stresses that are a part of life and choosing to open up a little paperback copy of good old openings, conflicts, climaxes, and resolutions instead. I think reading gives me hope for my own happy ending. And then, of course, it provides me with an unneeded but just as anticipated and exciting sequel to remind me that there's always another page being written.

And with that, I've got some new books to start.