Ever since I was little, I found the most joy in making others laugh. I’d do funny voices while my sister played video games, I’d exaggerate my stories in my response to “How was your day today at school?”, I even was called “The Mop” in 6th grade from how often I’d fake-slip into pratfall for a laugh.

Finally, like a puzzle piece returned to its box, I found my way to the theatre.

It’s like I'm coming home when I’m on stage. Freshmen year of high school, I suffered from deprecating stage fright to the point where I needed a friend to hold my hand during my biology class PowerPoint presentation. Even still, those knots of fear, that cold skin, that stomach-on-a-rollercoaster panic- they all just fade away when I finally step out of the curtains and into the stage lights.

I believe that God gave me this stage fright to force me to strengthen myself into the performer I need to be. I believe all events happen within a plan to ensure we make ourselves exactly who we are meant to be.

Thus, the story begins. This first year at Elon, I realized my life’s purpose by believing in this ideal. Everything happens for a reason, and that’s why I had to be deprived to be fulfilled.

That sense of home amongst my fellow thespians and myself has only grown in my few years and so, in high school, I honestly lived for our school's theatre program. I knew freshmen year, as soon as I walked into our little black box, that Troupe 5054 would become my everything for the next four years. That theatre was my home, so my senior year, when I was given the honor of being our drama program’s president, it was like living a dream come true.

As you can imagine, looking at colleges began to liken to the task of breaking my own arm. I was waitlisted at my top choice, Elon, and eventually settled on another school whose program reminded me whole-heartedly of my high school’s- but I didn’t want that.

Just like with my choice to leave my sheltered private school and go to the new and scary Sumter High, I knew if I wanted to truly better myself as a performer, I needed to put myself somewhere unfamiliar. That choice before high school led me to my life’s purpose, my forever friends, my life-making moments on stage.

That’s why I choose to apply Elon. I knew their program would make me so much more than who I was senior year, but sadly- I was waitlisted.

After an arduously long summer of trying to accept that I was going to stay in South Carolina for college and that my back-up school “wouldn’t be that bad”, I got an acceptance letter.

I knew what I was signing up for by solidifying my choice to go to Elon. I knew it was harder to get roles if you weren’t BFA. I knew there’d be fewer opportunities in general because they did fewer shows. I knew that those shows wouldn’t be put on like Sumter High where everyone chips in. I knew it would be more than just "an adjustment" like my mother continually breathed. I knew it would just be hard.

This year, I went through many phases of trying to condone my situation. It’s fine, maybe the next audition. It’s fine, maybe next semester. It’s fine, maybe next year. It’s fine, maybe I need to transfer to my back-up school.

Looking back on my first semester of college, I realized I lost something in me. I was drowning in this idea that theatre wasn't mine anymore. So much that I eventually stopped auditioning, stopped reading plays, stopped listening to musicals, stopped talking to theatre kids, stopped saying I wanted to do theatre with my life. I lost the spark that performing gave me. I lost that smile from constantly creating and being a part of something bigger than myself. I wasn’t Lauren anymore.

Staring back at me every time I sat at my desk was my high school award, the "Super Star Award” for outstanding dedication to theatre. I’d look at it in shame at how easily I gave up. I am ashamed at how easily I did give up, and how long it took for me to snap out of it.

Finally- FINALLY- something clicked. Moping around wasn't helping, and it was never going to help. This year wasn't going to finish off as several months of me complaining I wasn’t good enough but as an opportunity. God gave me this year of heavy competition, of rarer opportunities, of tear-out-your-hair crazy from missing theatre to test my resilience and strengthen me to become the performer I need to be. This was the road less traveled by, and I was about to make Frost real proud.

In this dry spell, I found myself again in new theatrical ways I never thought I’d want to truly pursue. I realized Elon’s shows aren’t like my beloved DIY theatre, so I became adamant on the idea that I need to write the shows that I want to see. I’ve been script writing all year, having almost finished my first full-length “Jackie” along with many scenes in the making for Elon's sketch comedy show “Laugh Tracks”, and have several ratty journals spilling with potential script ideas that I've got the next three years to play with.

If I hadn’t had this time to contemplate and refind myself in theatre, I never would have found my seemingly obvious life’s dream to write and act for "Saturday Night Live"- my literal lifelong inspiration for what I consider to be funny.

I also have reclaimed myself in my dedicating everything inside me to learning all the ins and out of what it takes to run a theatre with my job as a tech crew member for Elon. With my crew, I once again feel that community aspect I was so desperate to find after leaving high school. Who knew there was so much joy to be found in playing "Guess the Movie" while sorting out GoBos with a bunch of bearded goofballs?

I know now God deprived me to fulfill me. I will not look at the flaws of how I acted this year with regret, but rather learn from them to ensure next year is brimming with original plays, self-run shows, audition tapes, and showcases.

I know now how much theatre means to me, and I have all my life to explore this renewed adoration to partake in theatre along with some new outlets. Lauren Memery-The Jack of All Trades. My purpose is to reinvent how theatre is made- to write, direct, technically work, and perform, and I wouldn't have found this out about myself if this year went easy on me.

This newly deepened multiplicity in my love for theatre makes me look on to the challenges I will face in this business with hope for the stronger, more determined, and better Lauren that’s waiting to come out on the other side.

I was lost, but here I am once again, stepping out into those hot stage lights.

Home.