Ya' know that song from Avenue Q - I Wish I Could Go Back to College ...? It speaks to me. Not that I actually want to go back to college, but man o' man, did I love it.
The first wave of independence hit me five minutes into my freshman year, shortly after my parents, choking back tears I found to be equally endearing and overdramatic, had left my dorm. I'd found my way to the cafeteria and there before me were bins of cereal exemplifying the American dream. The forbidden Sugar Cereal of my youth now stared me in the face without limitation. "You mean I can have Cap'n Crunch whenever I feel like it?" I thought to myself while fist pumping the air. Yes, me & college were gonna get along just fine.
About five minutes later I met my best friends. I met them in the similarly glorious pasta bar line, not knowing that twenty years, three husbands, five children, two dogs, and three cities between us later, they would still be who I'd pick to sit with at lunch.
The next day, I met my husband. I didn't know he'd be my husband until years later, all I knew on that day was that he was adorable.
Sugar cereal, best friends & a husband within 24 hours. So far, college was pretty sweet. And then ... I went to class.
A girl with Betty Buckley dreams and Carol Burnett aspirations might feel a bit odd amidst her high school pals. But, that same girl on her first day of Theatre School looks around at an auditorium full of other Patti LaPone loving, Meryl Streep worshipping, ready for Sondheim, I can do a time step, show ya my jazz hands, kids ... and suddenly, that girl is home for the very first time.
I couldn't drink it all in fast enough. I wanted to be in every show and every club. I wanted to read every play ever written, learn every song ever sung. In high school, I'd been limited to "play practice" from 4-6, I'd been restricted to my once a week voice lesson, my weekend dance classes. In college, performance, the study, of performance, became my life. 8 am workouts, 9 am scene study, 10 am costume design, and on it would go, until a late night improv show, and barely a pause to sleep before it would all start all over again. I loved every second of it. I became who I am in college. I learned what I love, what I'm good at. I learned to be fearless. To explore. To always learn. To always try the next thing. I gained a confidence in my ability to set goals and achieve them. I experienced the heartbreak and disappointment that show business can offer in a safe, nurturing environment, so that I was ready to field the blows in the real world. I learned to trust my instincts but search for the thoughts that appear much later than the initial ones. I set myself up for a professional life in the theatre. And thank goodness ... because that's all I ever really wanted.
College set me up to live the life I wanted, even though the life I wanted involved wigs, impossible odds, and no identifiable skills in a office environment.
Sugar cereal, best friends, a husband AND a life in the theatre? Now that's what I call, getting my money's worth.
Leave a Reply