In the past few years, the movie Love Actually has become embedded in my family's Christmas tradition. Aside from the fact that it is ingeniously written and edited, it treats Christmas not as the greatest spending season of the year, but as a time for surrounding yourself with love and telling the truth. So in the true spirit of the holiday, here is a bit of a more personal post. Because, as Natalie says, “If you can't say it at Christmas, when can you, eh?”
Graduating college is a huge milestone that I haven't completely come to terms with yet. Perhaps I will when the diploma arrives in the mail. Maybe I will when it's framed on my wall. Or when it's yellowed years from now. To be unfortunately frank, my time in college was not as enjoyable as I wanted it to be. I worked unbelievably hard. I went to extra help sessions instead of parties. Spending time with people outside of class meant we were working on a scene. What made it worse was that for all the work, I wasn't getting cast and I began to resent the people who did. I also was growing more and more disgusted with what I perceived as superficiality as an attempt at professionalism in my department. Until I came to terms with the fact that I was the only person who could have made things better, I secretly blamed it on everyone around me.
My time at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey began to get me over my bitterness by getting me to open up. I was in an environment where I didn't have any resentment for the people around me, so there was none to hide. I can honestly say that I have never grown more as an actor than during my time there, which was coupled by growth as a person. I ordered my first beer in a bar. I also took my first shot of straight liquor. (I don't always use alcohol as a benchmark, by the way.) I didn't get anxiety when I had something to say in class or when I needed to call up a scene partner to schedule a rehearsal. My self confidence soared and I made 25+ unbelievable friends in eleven weeks.
When I returned to college for my final quarter, the shell went back on. The bitterness returned and I was more miserable than when I left in the spring. A couple weekends into the quarter, I realized that I was staying in my room and working on Friday and Saturday nights and didn't know where to go to hang out. My boyfriend got far too many calls on weekend nights with me crying on the other end because I had become better friends with my notebooks than with people. When he told me to go hang out with friends, I insisted I didn't have any. It was around that time that all of you came out of the woodwork. In droves. It honestly kind of freaked me out. Here were these people that I assumed didn't think I was worth speaking to who were being nice to me. It took me a while to quit questioning and take it for what it was. So I came to your parties. I talked to you in the hall. I accepted your compliments as genuine. I probably came off as being socially awkward, but the last few weeks of college became the most enjoyable of the three and a half years I spent in Savannah. I may not have had time to figure out how to make an acquaintance a friend or how to make a friend a good friend, but in the last few weeks you understood that my grumpy ass wasn't going to even try unless you said something first. It wasn't your responsibility or your duty, but you did it anyway and instead of letting me meander off into graduation, you conferenced with me about moving to Chicago, you barraged me with hugs after my senior show, you complimented me when I never thought you would, you walked me out of Crites Hall for the last time and into the real world. And all that time, I had convinced myself I was alone.
This Christmas, I wanted to let you know what was really going on in my brooding little mind and that you changed it. Toasting to you for helping me find a happier, healthier mindset as I wait for my diploma and a fresh start for the coming year. To fellow students, readers, friends, teachers, mentors, family: God only knows what I'd be without you. Merry Christmas to you all!