When I'm Performing It's Like Coming Home, And Yet I Ran Away For a Year

When I'm Performing It's Like Coming Home, And Yet I Ran Away For a Year

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder
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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.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Memery

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So, You Want To Be A Nurse?

You're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.

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To the college freshman who just decided on nursing,

I know why you want to be a nurse.

Nurses are important. Nursing seems fun and exciting, and you don't think you'll ever be bored. The media glorifies navy blue scrubs and stethoscopes draped around your neck, and you can't go anywhere without hearing about the guaranteed job placement. You passed AP biology and can name every single bone in the human body. Blood, urine, feces, salvia -- you can handle all of it with a straight face. So, you think that's what being a nurse is all about, right? Wrong.

You can search but you won't find the true meaning of becoming a nurse until you are in the depths of nursing school and the only thing getting you through is knowing that in a few months, you'll be able to sign the letters "BSN" after your name...

You can know every nursing intervention, but you won't find the true meaning of nursing until you sit beside an elderly patient and know that nothing in this world can save her, and all there's left for you to do is hold her hand and keep her comfortable until she dies.

You'll hear that one of our biggest jobs is being an advocate for our patients, but you won't understand until one day, in the middle of your routine physical assessment, you find the hidden, multi-colored bruises on the 3-year-old that won't even look you in the eyes. Your heart will drop to your feet and you'll swear that you will not sleep until you know that he is safe.

You'll learn that we love people when they're vulnerable, but you won't learn that until you have to give a bed bath to the middle-aged man who just had a stroke and can't bathe himself. You'll try to hide how awkward you feel because you're young enough to be his child, but as you try to make him feel as comfortable as possible, you'll learn more about dignity at that moment than some people learn in an entire lifetime.

Every class will teach you about empathy, but you won't truly feel empathy until you have to care for your first prisoner in the hospital. The guards surrounding his room will scare the life out of you, and you'll spend your day knowing that he could've raped, murdered, or hurt people. But, you'll walk into that room, put your fears aside, and remind yourself that he is a human being still, and it's your job to care, regardless of what he did.

Each nurse you meet will beam with pride when they tell you that we've won "Most Trusted Profession" for seventeen years in a row, but you won't feel that trustworthy. In fact, you're going to feel like you know nothing sometimes. But when you have to hold the sobbing, single mother who just received a positive breast cancer diagnosis, you'll feel it. Amid her sobs of wondering what she will do with her kids and how she's ever going to pay for treatment, she will look at you like you have all of the answers that she needs, and you'll learn why we've won that award so many times.

You'll read on Facebook about the nurses who forget to eat and pee during their 12-hour shifts and swear that you won't forget about those things. But one day you'll leave the hospital after an entire shift of trying to get your dying patient to eat anything and you'll realize that you haven't had food since 6:30 A.M. and you, too, will be one of those nurses who put everything else above themselves.

Too often we think of nursing as the medicine and the procedures and the IV pumps. We think of the shots and the bedpans and the baths. We think all the lab values and the blood levels that we have to memorize. We think it's all about the organs and the diseases. We think of the hospitals and the weekends and the holidays that we have to miss.

But, you're going to find that nursing isn't really about the medicine or the assessments. Being a nurse is so much more than anything that you can learn in school. Textbooks can't teach you compassion, and no amount of lecture time will teach you what it truly means to be a nurse.

So, you think you want to be a nurse?

Go for it. Study. Cry. Learn everything. Stay up late. Miss out on things. Give it absolutely everything that you have.

Because I promise you that the decision to dedicate your life to saving others is worth every sleepless night, failed test, or bad day that you're going to encounter during these next four years. Just keep holding on.

Sincerely,

The nursing student with just one year left.

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Everyone Should Experience Working In Fast Food Or Retail

Working in fast food was definitely not sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, but I'm so glad I did it.

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I know these jobs aren't glamorous. In fact, most days I looked forward to clocking out before I had even clocked in. I always secretly rolled my eyes when an angry customer droned on and on about how entitled he or she was. Though I can name a lot of bad things that happened on the job, it wasn't all horrible. As I reflect on my time working in fast food, I realize how much having that job really taught me and how grateful I am to have had that experience. I really think everyone should work in fast food or retail at some point, and here's why:

You make some great friends from work. I get it, sometimes your co-workers are royal jerks or flat out creeps. You see your name on the schedule next to theirs and immediately try switching with someone else. I've been there. However, I have worked with some amazing people as well.

Every time I worked with one girl in particular, we laughed for entire shifts. One night, we were singing the national anthem at the top of our lungs without realizing a customer had come in (to our surprise, she applauded our terrible screaming). Another coworker and I turned up the radio on full blast when business was slow and had dance battles. We made the most of our shifts, and I still talk to some of these people today.

You learn how to deal with difficult people. It's the age-old story: the uppity customer thinks twelve dollars for a meal combo is outrageous and Where is your manager?!

My friend and I were once called stupid and a customer said he would never come back to our restaurant to eat ever again. At the moment, we were scared out of our minds because we were both pretty new to the job. As time passed, we became more patient and tolerant and knew what triggered these particular customers. Dealing with these adversities definitely helps in the long run, particularly when it comes to doing group work with people who seem unbearable.

Your people skills increase by a landslide. I had always thought that I was great with people before I had a job. However, when I found myself in situations where I had to talk to strangers, I would grow nervous and stumble across my words from time to time. Working in an environment where communicating with others is a driving force helped me not only with improving my public speaking, but also made me more outgoing. In situations where I once backed into the corner to avoid having to talk to someone, I now take charge and initiate a conversation.

You establish a connection with regular customers. My favorite customer was named Jack. He was the sweetest old man who came in every Wednesday and Friday and bought food for himself and his wife. I quickly memorized his order, which impressed him. We shared pleasantries every time he came in, and my coworkers and I looked forward to seeing him.

Establishing a relationship with people who come in a lot helps immensely when it comes to working. It also provides a sense of accomplishment when you memorize an order. Not to mention, the customers start to like you and typically leave a generous tip!

You have stories to tell for a lifetime! Sometimes bad things happen at work. Once I was holding a hot pan and burned my arm— I still have the burn mark on my arm to prove it. My point is, it sucked at the moment, but now I look back and laugh.

One time I asked my coworker how to make soup and she replied, "Slowly, but beautifully." It was so nonchalant that I cracked up for hours. There was also a time when a customer asked me for outlandish toppings and condiments that we didn't offer. The craziest story, though, was the drug deal that went down in our public restrooms. My coworker and I obviously could not leave our station and follow these people into the bathroom, so we were pretty much defenseless. Nobody got hurt or anything, so it made for a great story.

Working in fast food was definitely not sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, but I'm so glad I did it. It made me more independent and outgoing and gave me memories I'll never forget.

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