It was one heck of a ride taking theater classes all four years of high school. It all started out with me loving to sing and chorus, but at my high school it wasn’t my favorite, so I thought why not try theater? I never thought so much of my high school experience would be spent working on sets, sitting through Saturday rehearsals and sneaking down the drama hallway to eat lunch with all my friends. Without my experiences in the theater I wouldn't be who I am today, so here are five things I learned in high school theater.

1. How to problem solve and keep a positive attitude

Someone’s costume just ripped in half two minutes before showtime? Oh no, run to the costume closet and find something to wear. The lighting we’re using right now sucks so let’s try 20 different variations and find the one that is slightly better. None of the mersisters like each other? Oh, let’s have a talk about teamwork and everyone will be fine. No one ever listens to you while you’re trying to direct? We will work on defining the importance of leadership and respect. Your blocking feels awkward? OK, we will work it out. There were times when everything felt impossible — at times it felt like we weren’t going to be ready in time for the show, but as long as everyone stuck together and kept a positive attitude things always worked out. It taught me to be a problem solver, and sometimes to be one on a whim!

2. The meaning of family

I felt so welcomed and comfortable in the drama classroom. We didn’t wear shoes and there weren’t any desks. We sat in a circle and some of my classes had 50 people and some had less than 20, but either way everyone felt like family. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed and cried in that circle. I felt like I always had someone to love and hug me when I felt sad or was just having a bad day. I met some of my best friends in drama and all my friendships blossomed during productions because we were always together.

3. Hard work pays off

At my school, you had to put in your time and earn your spot, like you do in many aspects of life. That’s not to say as a freshman I didn’t feel the love from the seniors, it’s just I hadn’t been through all the years of dedication yet and I understood that. As a first-year drama student, I wanted so badly to be one of those drama kids my teacher talked about for years after graduation because of all the commitment and responsibility I represented. With sold out shows and packed auditoriums, I learned that devotion to promoting a show pays off, as well as working hard on the set and rehearsing for a performance. Transfer all that to hard work pays off in life!

4. I am not going to be a dancer (like ever)

Every time Spring production season would come around I wanted so badly for the play pick of the year to not to be a musical because I cannot dance. I’m the gal that needs to be in the back because I can shuffle-ball-change or throw in some jazz hands, but when it comes to the final musical number I need to be in the second row so I can follow the people in front of me.

5. How to be myself and accept people who are different than I am

Looking back, I wore some strange outfits in high school, like Joan Rivers would come back from the dead if I ever wore a teal polyester owl patterned dress again. All joking aside, I felt comfortable in theater classes because everyone was very accepting of other’s views, quirks and flaws. I could dance as badly as I wanted, tell stupid stories and jokes, make motivational speeches that went off the rails really quickly or even cry in front of every person in my little theater family. Despite the fact I may have been a train wreck, they loved me all the same.

Everything wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times I didn’t think, “why the heck am I doing this?” In the end, I learned to be myself, to appreciate everyone and see uniqueness or weirdness as a strength. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the lessons my crazy high school theater experience taught me. I’m not going to be an actress, a singer or a dancer, but my adventures in theater, good and bad, made me who I am. I wouldn’t be the happy, outgoing and independent gal I am today without those four years.