Participant or Prisoner?

Theater is eating my life.

I don’t mind though. Not really.

I mean, that’s why I’m here at HSU: because when I came to visit in February I fell in love with their theater. The building. I fell in love with a building.

And yeah, the scholarships the school offered me were good, and the small town atmosphere was what I was looking for, and the campus was the right size, and family is near, and Texas is a good place to be. But really, I’m here at HSU because GCU didn’t show me the inside of their theater and so my experience there was missing its heart.

Call me crazy. One day I’m going to be that crazy hobo living in an abandoned theater and you can call me even crazier. I don’t care. I won’t care. I am crazy.

But anyway, back to that whole consumption of my existence bit that I started off with.

Every night of last week was dedicated to either rehearsals or performances. I love that concept. Sitting on a dark stage for 2+ hours a night gets a bit dull though.

Plus it’s freezing cold. (I should be losing weight based on how much time I spend shivering. Sadly, though, that’s not happening. I hate exercise…)

But, hey, I sleep, I manage to get homework done, and I’m where I want to be. And I’m finally getting to know theater people! I know that I’ve had this opportunity since day 1 of classes, but being in the green room by necessity is so much more manageable for me socially than it is to just randomly show up amongst people I don’t know and be like, ‘Hey!’ (I’m still semi-convinced that I’m way too introverted to be a theater major.)

On Friday night a little kid in the audience exclaimed ‘Blech!’ in the middle of our performance when Hermia and Lysander kissed. It was adorable.

That’s another amazing thing about theater: the audience. Even though I can’t see anything from my lonely perch backstage, I can hear the people out in the house responding to what’s going on. They laugh and applaud and sometimes they get totally quiet because even a comedy has its tense moments that need pondering.

I recently saw this quote:

“Not everyone is going to like what you do or what you have to offer; however, if you can’t see yourself doing anything else, and you have the drive and ambition, get the training and go for it.” – Kristin Chenoweth

I think that’s me with theater. And I think I come under that first everyone.

I know I’ll keep second guessing myself, there’s no doubt about that. But the theater is where I feel alive and the stage is where I feel myself.

So I’ll keep on muddling through classes and auditions and late night rehearsals.

And I’ll bring gloves to the next show so that I don’t get frostbite.

duct taped discovery

To say that I’m overly critical of myself would be to say that the sun is bright or that the ocean is wet.

I was reminded of this (abundantly obvious to all but myself) fact this week when, in one day, I received back two grades which exactly matched each other in numerical value. One was for a test over material which I had done a remarkably good job of studying as I received it, and the other was for an outline which I had frantically researched and put together between the hours of 1am and 5am the morning it was due. Both grades were important pieces of my final grade for the class. Both grades were high As. Both should have made me quite happy.

But I wouldn’t have told you all that information if all turned out as it ought to have. Because, being the idiot that I am, I got completely frustrated (to the point of a several hour-long dark cloud hanging about) with one of the two grades. And not the one that I’d actually earned. The test grade delighted me. It was the outline that made me mad. The project I’d spent way too little time and effort on (though granted, it was time and effort put forth at a time when the giving was a sacrifice) and I felt that my grade was too low. That a 97 just wasn’t good enough.

How preposterous—no, how stupid is that?!

I’ve repented and I can chuckle about it now (four days afterwards), but the fact is that that 97 still rankles. And that puzzles me.

Why can’t I just admit that I’m not perfect?

I state it often enough. I’m not perfect.

Last year I even, “by chance”, ended up speaking briefly on that passage in Philippians where Paul talks about not yet having been made perfect. (Don’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.)

I could tell you so many stories about my drive for perfection. If you know me at all, you probably have at least one story of your own about my crazy perfectionist nature. And what I try to keep to myself is how much I impose my perfectionist expectations on other people: how often I find myself silently judging others on the basis of the same too-high expectations that I have for myself.

What’s the root?

Self.

I want to be in control. I want to achieve things perfectly. I want to maintain my reputation.

I ended up having to buy a new pair of pants in order to work backstage in the current theater production. They’re about three inches too long. In order to maintain appearances, I hemmed them with what I have on hand: duct tape. The first night that worked fine. Tonight, the tape kept coming up and taping my pants to my leg.

Short term I can work harder to make sure that I don’t get anything short of a perfect 100 on my next outline. Short term I can continue keeping the absolute disgust off of my face when someone does something imperfectly.

But long term that’s not going to work any better than duct taping pant hems.

Under-dressed and Overwhelmed

Today’s just been one of those days.

You know what I’m talking about: an awake at midnight, can’t crawl out of bed, things go wrong and the rights can’t overwhelm the wrongs and you’re just tired all day long. But you know what? God’s present on ‘those days’ too.

Like any good disaster, mine precipitated last night when I looked at my schedule to realize that the geology test I though was on Thursday was, in fact today. So time that would have been dedicated to one project had to get siphoned to studying for a major exam. Then I got to move on to the project I’d budgeted time for (two hours later, of course) and found that it wasn’t going to be as simple as I’d hoped. Of course. So finally I threw my hands in the air and—knot of dread still securely tied in my stomach—fell into bed. (I really need to get to the point of realizing that sleep isn’t the monster I sometimes think that it is.)

So that’s the backstory.

This morning I woke up on time, did all the things I needed to get done in order to go out in public without humiliating myself (I even had the common sense to devise the strategy of wearing a short dress in order to keep myself alert and awake), and muttered under my breath about the fact that this would have to be the day that the Irish hymn writers, Keith and Kristyn Getty, were talking in chapel because I obviously would not be going for any other reason because it’s too early and who needs chapel credits and…yeah. You name it, I was disgruntled about it.

But chapel really was good, and the music was nice, and I made it out in plenty of time to leisurely walk to geology. Where I took that darn exam. And did fine on it. (I think. There’s always the chance that my brain interpreted words wrong and I tried to write an essay on the scantron, but I’m pretty sure that I kept my wits about me and pulled off an A. Time will tell.) Because it was a test day, an hour and twenty minute class period was shortened to twenty minutes. Celebration point, yeah?!

Yeah.

So the unfinished assignments of last night were looming over my head and so, like any good college student, I came back to my room and fell asleep until lunch. I put off going to lunch until almost the possible minute…only to get to the caf and realize my student ID was in my room (from after the gosh-awful fumble of trying to get into my room after geology…). Dash across campus times two and I found out that they were having a fiesta for lunch…meaning no pizza…meaning that eating took twice as long…meaning that I was about 45 seconds late to a class that sounds like it started about 120 seconds early. Not this girl’s favorite way to do anything.

That class was fine, and so was the next one—except that some people need to respect the teacher and just learn how to shut their mouths. And I basically found out that all but one of my ‘sources’ for my outline (due on Thursday) are worthless and that maybe my topic isn’t so applicable to everyone but I don’t care because it’s too late to entirely start over and I know from experience that it’s all about how you pitch things. (Have you ever heard how I got six little children to help me shovel mud out of my horse’s pen on Thanksgiving? I tell you, you’ve just gotta know how to sell it.)

More stress.

Break and dinner were tolerable. (Though I have no idea what I ate…oh, yeah, a cheeseburger and cold French fries. So healthy.) I mean, I was stressed out of my mind and ready to burst into tears at the slightest provocation (so thankful for friends who love me when I’m messy), but I survived without incident and remembered my ID card when necessary.

And then came the bane of my existence: my 5:30-7pm fitness class. Scheduling that class is probably the worst decision I’ve made in my entire life (besides that one time where I dropped the Christmas tree box on Abbie not knowing whether or not she’d die and that one time where I threw the cat in the pool and somehow thought I wouldn’t get into trouble for it). By the end of the day, I’m drained emotionally and physically. And I hate fitness anyway. This is the formula for absolute grotesqueness. Plus I had to change out of my super cute dress into sports shorts and a t-shirt—not awful but not darling.

Guess what?

I survived fitness class. And had just enough time to dash over to the Getty concert in the auditorium.

People from all over town (maybe even out of town; I don’t know) came to see the Gettys. In fact, the older couple in front of me kept me smiling the entire time by holding hands almost constantly. But the thing was, they all had dressed up for the event, whereas I had dressed down for class.

I like to dress up.

I really like to dress up any time I attend anything in a theater.

And, even if no one else noticed, I felt totally out of place tonight.

Yet…it was a corporate worship service of sorts. I don’t have to fit in. Because we are the church. The vibrant, diverse body of Christ. In all our brokenness from all our walks of life. Which is crazy beautiful. And has nothing to do with whether I was in heels or in sneakers.

I can’t say that I was able to relax entirely. Not the whole time. But I was able to worship my Creator with words both familiar and new. And a couple of times I even forgot that I was underdressed and surrounded by people I’ve never met. And even though I only made it through half of the concert before I escaped to come back to my room to work on the troublesome homework I’m still behind on, it was a wonderful close to my day in the world.

I get so caught up in appearances. In plans. In wanting everything to be perfect.

And when I’m caught up in those things, I forget the things that really matter:

I am loved, I am redeemed, and I have purpose outside of surviving.

Tomorrow is going to be another battle against anxiety and too-high expectations. But tomorrow is also a new day, a new chance to define my focus and my priorities.

For now, though, I have an outline to prepare. And two exams to study for. And sleep to fit in there somewhere.

Goodnight, dear world. Be brave. Stay focused. And ever be distinctly you.

– Melissa
By Faith by Keith and Kristyn Getty

adventure sandwich

I’ve oft said that life is an adventure waiting to be lived. Maybe it is. Or maybe it isn’t. But I don’t believe in accidents, so whatever it is, it is for a reason.

That being the case, living this weekend was an adventure.

I got the magnificent opportunity to go visit my aunt and cousins in San Antonio, four hours south of where I am. This meant, in addition to marvelous adventures that I’ll tell of in a moment, four hours in the car on Friday and four hours in the car on Sunday. And let me tell you what, God truly has His hand over me in keeping this California girl safe in a Texas deluge, He orchestrates my ‘randomly generated’ playlists better than any person ever could, and He has a true sense of humor in letting me take all the scenic routes. The thinking-time was a gift, and I’m brimful of all kinds of concepts that I want to make realities. (Anyone know anyone who runs a pirate-themed cruise line and wants to hire me for the summer? I’ve found several online, but connections are really nice too.)

But in between the bookend drives, there was a weekend. And what a weekend.

This weekend I got to play in the rain. And not like I did a few weeks ago, when I went out on Anderson Lawn and absently twirled in the rain wishing for a playmate. No, I got to dash out in the street with my cousins and get into a splashing war and ‘swim’ in the overfull gutters and sing off-key at the top of my lungs with accompaniment. And then I got to go dripping inside and borrow miss-matched clothes because all of my clothes were dirty. It was beyond fantabulous. And while part of me is saddened at having no footage of the event because it was raining way too hard to take my phone outside, the other part of me knows that as beautiful as our giggles were, no video could even begin to capture what really made those moments so amazing.

This weekend I also got to dance. Sally, my cousin, is a natural follower and it was really fun to teach her the basics of some of the dances I’ve been taught while out listening to live music. We pulled off a waltz to a non-waltz. We tried a bit of triple rhythm swing, then morphed it into a modified triple rhythm swing that involved basically skipping sideways. We two-stepped…kind of. (I’m bad at following two-step and worse at leading it.) And we did the Macarena to a country song. Which was fun. All in all, a great experience, even if my boots were four hours away and I felt silly in sneakers.

This weekend we ate ridiculous amounts of junk food. Like, ice creams and candies and cake-for-breakfast and burgers and…yeah. It was superb. That’s basically all that I have to say on that.

This weekend we stayed up late watching movies, we did a photo shoot, we did another photo shoot, we went to a wet football game, we went shopping, we braided hair, we giggled, we did dishes, we went to church, and basically we just worked on catching up on all the years of cousining we’ve missed out on by living so far apart.

[By the way, don’t you think ‘apart’ and ‘a part’ are strange? The compound word is talking about when things aren’t together, and the two-word phrase talks about when things are together. It’s not logical! Okay, end grammatical rant.]

It’s really the little things that count, you know?

Today I encourage you to find smiles in everything from dancing in the rain to doing dishes to asking the gas station attendant to credit your pump an odd amount of gas because that’s what you have left on a gift card. The world can be quite a sunny place, even in the rain. (My ‘rain’ today happens to be homework that must be done because I was too busy adventuring this weekend to make time for it.)

Adventure is out there!

– Melissa

fractured

Everything’s such a topsy-turvy mess in my head. Not exactly a bad mess, but a mess all the same. I’ve been trying for days to put some form of coherent thoughts on a page to share with y’all. It doesn’t help that I consistently forget how to spell coherent. I’ve drafted so many posts. But they’re all fractured. Strings of unimportant words that don’t communicate what I want them to. What do I want to communicate? I’m not even sure that I know.

Life is beautiful.

I know that. The play Gruesome Playground Injuries told it, too, in its own broken way. That was a highlight of my week: getting to see a fabulous show put on by fabulous actors depicting life. Real life. In all its mess and gore and imperfectness. Thursday was a contemplative, up-too-late kind of night because of Gruesome. And I would totally repeat the experience. (I might have yesterday, but the show was sold out. For the fourth showing in a row.)

Dance is freeing.

Three nights a week for the next six (?) weeks I have rehearsals for ‘Freshmen SING’: a tradition here on campus of mini-musicals put on by the fraternities and sororities and the freshmen. We’ve been learning lyrics and melodies, and those are nice. Hard, since I didn’t know 75% of the songs before a week ago, but still nice. However, it’s before and after rehearsals, when the music is just playing and we all are dancing along that I laugh the most. Dance is, along with music and love, a universal language—even though I’m at a Southern Baptist school and dancing is of the devil and all that. (Send your clearly-marked complaints to my house and Mom won’t forward them.)

On Saturday, the church I’ve been attending had a Barn Dance, and that, too, was a total blast. The caller was a wonderful, patient gentleman who taught us the basics of square dancing and didn’t wince too much when we turned an orderly dance into a giggling muddle. And even though the two dances that I “knew” were totally different from how I learned them, I would gladly Schottische their way any day so long as I could be dancing. I really want to find a hidden group of avid ballroom dancers. Because I’m profoundly feeling that deficit in my life.

Friends are the best.

Like, beyond. From dreams of adventuring with Bakersfield people (actually, last night I dreamt that I almost got run over by a man riding a kangaroo…but that has nothing to do with anything) to real life adventures with my roommate and suitemate, to long discussions with my best friend, I don’t know what I’d do without the friends God has blessed my life with. Facebook, always a favorite hangout of mine, has become even more precious as I work to stay connected with people 1200 miles away. And I don’t know what I’d do without Skype with a passel of sisters at home.

The world is large.

Beyond Texas to California. Beyond the decently large number of Spanish-speaking countries (which I should know but don’t because it hasn’t been on a test yet). It’s a collection of tiny culture gaps, of individualized universes in which we each are so content to live, of diverse backgrounds that shape each of us and give each of us our own lens on life. The Texas-to-California thing looms large, but it’s good to remember that there are many things larger than miles and few things shorter than heart-to-hearts. So maybe the world isn’t so large after all.

It’s afternoon, and I have to get homework done (so that I’m not up until some ungodly hour [again]) before I go have dinner with my aunt (yay for an excuse to not eat cafeteria food [which isn’t all that bad but everybody seems to hate and I like to be rebellious by pretending to fit in every once in a while]). Life’s fractured. And wonderful. And full of beautiful things.

– Melissa
Psalm 139

An Introduction (of sorts)

One of the classes that I’m taking this semester is called “Speech Communication”. Seeing as how the title of the class is actually the title of one of the two majors I’m pursuing, I really don’t have much to complain about regarding the course. Plus I don’t mind public speaking (I get nervous as all get out about it, because I’m a perfectionist and I don’t want anything less than perfection from myself) and the first speech that we’re required to give isn’t even graded. The professor, when he was presenting us with the topic, outlined our speeches this way: Intro – Who Am I? Body – Why Am I Here? Conclusion – Where Am I Going? It’s an introductory speech, see?

But the thing is, I’m way too analytical. So I, of course, spent way too much time today analyzing who I am. I think I’m content with where this speech landed: neither a sermon nor a superficial piece, while at the same time answering the question given me and providing a few fun details about myself. The speech isn’t due until tomorrow, but since I don’t know anyone in my class, nor know my professor, and since I’m not famous enough yet that those people might read this in the next sixteen hours, I’m going to go ahead and post it tonight. Because I can and because I’m rebellious like that. (Besides, I’m not reading the speech in class; I’m using a key word outline to speak off of. So COMM-1301-B is going to hear a slightly different speech than y’all are going to read.) Anyway, enjoy (or not. whatever’s fine.) my self portrait (of sorts). Continue reading