Looking back on my middle and high school experiences, I think I have an appreciation for those years that many students don’t. Attending an art school and majoring in musical theater played a significant part in shaping who I am, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Even though theater isn’t the path I chose to go down post-graduation, the lessons I learned from those years and the influential people I met along the way will be with me forever.
There were many times that I’d have to get up and perform a monologue for the tenth time in front of the same 20 people, but even on my bad days, I never felt nervous or afraid. I can say with 100 percent certainty that if it weren’t for the years I spent performing for my peers and attending mandatory auditions, I wouldn’t be half as comfortable with public speaking as I am now.
I was also lucky enough to go to a school where people felt confident expressing themselves — whether it be through fashion, their art or speaking their beliefs. My classmates showed me that it’s okay to make bold fashion choices. They taught me the importance of committing to my passions. They even helped to shape my social and political beliefs.
- Not to take myself too seriously
In addition to standard academic classes, I was taking courses like theater history, acting and dance. First of all — I had no idea how to dance, so you can imagine how that went. And every day, I was faced with assignments that seemed silly on the surface but taught me a lot. After years of rehearsing dances in the science hallway, I’ve learned to be okay with making a fool of myself. Of course, my fellow artists, who always laughed with me as opposed to at me, helped me come to terms with this.
Everyone’s heard those stories about what goes on in theater classes. Well, I can confirm one of the rumors: there is, in fact, a ton of crying. We learn early on that we can’t effectively perform with each other, or even in front of each other, if there is no emotional connection. So many of my school days went from shedding tears in the theatre room to eating lunch in the cafeteria five minutes later. I learned how to become more comfortable with my emotions — and not just sadness. I had to dig up things that make me angry, excited and nervous and put that into my schoolwork.
- How to be supportive of others
There’s a ton of competition in a school full of performers and artists. My friends and I always competed against each other for roles in a show or solos in a song. Of course, there was disappointment when we didn’t land what we were hoping to, but we had to learn how to be happy for those who did. After spending so much time with a group of people, it was hard not to be happy for our friends when they got something that they worked hard for. I try and carry that support for others with me now. If my friend gets a job they’ve been wanting, or they show me something they’re proud of, I know how important it is to celebrate their success.
- Coming to terms with failure
We’ve all heard at some point that, in life, we’ll face failure far more than we face success. I can vouch for this cliché first-hand. If it weren’t for the many shows I never got in to, or the times I’d have to take my performance back to the drawing board and try again, I would’ve never been prepared for the many jobs I’ve been declined from and the annoying obstacles life throws my way. Being told “no” or to “try again” has become more motivating than discouraging, and I owe that to art school.
Art school allowed me to do what I loved with my talented, dedicated and one-of-a-kind theater family. I think everyone appreciates high school for their own reasons, but for me, I’ll always be grateful for the valuable lessons I learned from my theater teachers, peers and experiences.