In high school, many of us are known for something. Whether that be the dancer or the football player, that title is something we usually earned. It becomes a part of who we are throughout high school. As we get older and go to college, many of us move on from that and start a new chapter in our lives, but for some of us we don’t. We keep trying to pursue that title, whether it be casually or professionally. Unfortunately, some of us come to the realization that it will never happen, but when you tie so much of your identity and self-worth to that title or activity, it seems impossible to move on. When I entered college, this became my reality, but what led me to this?
In highschool, I was known as the musical theatre person. I started it my freshman year of highschool and landed my first lead role, continuing to get them untilI graduated. As I got to college, I still wanted to keep pursuing musical theatre, but I knew I wasn’t the best. I never got professional training while in high school, so I knew I wouldn’t make it into the major. I continued to do some research until I came upon the musical theatre minor. I started talking to people about it and I learned that apparently it’s “super easy” to get into and that there were people who couldn’t even sing in the program. With that confidence boost, I chose my pieces and sent them in.
A couple weeks later, I got an email back. I was so excited— I thought it would be good news. Instead, it just thanked me for auditioning and told me I wasn’t good enough for the program. I had no idea what to feel. I should’ve felt angry or mad or sad, but instead I felt nothing. I felt nothing because the whole time a small part of me knew this would happen, and now it was my reality. I might have been talented in my small school of 600, but at this institution of 50,000, I was just another normal student.
For months I had been telling people I was going to do musical theatre. What was I supposed to do now? Be honest and tell them I suck or lie and act like it no longer interests me? A part of me knew that people might understand. I go to a school with over 50,000 kids, and that’s a lot of competition. But when I went on social media and saw everyone making different groups and accomplishing things, all my insecurities came rushing back. I still felt too ashamed to tell anyone the truth, so I kept it to myself and tried to move on.
Now that I’ve had about a year to process this, I can say for a fact I’ve finally moved on. I realized it wasn’t just about me not being able to do this activity anymore or having to admit I got denied. It was about me feeling a loss of identity and having nothing to replace it. I used this activity to define who I was as a person and I thought my self-worth was dependent on whether people saw me as “special” or not. I realized that my self-worth wasn’t determined by how others saw me, but instead by if I was happy with who I was as a person. Once I finally accepted that, I was able to move on and find new things that I was passionate about.
So why am I writing this? I’m writing this because I remember sitting in my room, by myself, thinking I was the only person going through this. That made dealing with it even worse because I thought I couldn’t talk about it with no one. While I feel like this is something many of us go through, it seems like no one talks about, whether it’s because they’re embarrassed, sad, or scared. I want people to know they’re not alone. For some of us, it might only take a month, and for others, it might take years, but realize no matter how long it takes you, your process and feelings are valid. And while one chapter of your life might be ending, college gives us the opportunity to start so many more. Don’t be afraid to move on, especially if it helps you find new passions and realize your self-worth.