On the final day of my junior year of high school, every member of the Advanced Theatre class sat around in a circle. We call this our “Final Circle” (shocker).
Our teacher had instructed us to share our reflections on how the school year went. One-by-one, my classmates spoke about how much fun their experiences were. Because we’re theatre kids, we shed plenty of tears. It was my turn next. I paused for a moment to think. Then I began.
“This year has easily been the worst year of my life.”
I’m a perfectionist. To my teachers, I’m an overachiever. To my peers, I’m a try-hard. To my mother, I’m “amazing just the way [I] am.” In other words, I flood myself with work.
Some would argue it’s too much work, but that’s how I am; I like to keep myself busy. I take more AP classes in a year than you can count on one hand. I act in all the school plays. I compete on my school’s mock trial team. I’m a Varsity swimmer. I maintain three jobs. I achieved more of my goals and received more honors during my junior year than I ever have in my life.
However, stuff like that is only surface-deep. Sure, it’s gratifying, but it’s not fulfilling. Every day, I struggled to find what gives life meaning. I lacked the motivation to get out of bed in the morning. I felt hopeless and depressed for months at a time. My mental health had hit an all-time low. The girl who seemingly “had it all” was actually profoundly unhappy. As a result, I desperately searched for something to give my life purpose.
Then I Found It
I played the lead character, Trixie, in my school’s children’s show Greece is the Word. Elementary schools from across the district would take their classes to see our show.
We ended up performing for almost 3,000 children. A few weeks after the show had closed, I was taking a jog around my neighborhood. Further down the sidewalk, I see a little girl tugging on her mother’s shirt. “Mommy, look, it’s Trixie!”
I say hello, and we talk about her favorite parts of the show and how she especially liked my costume. She then becomes very serious. She says, “My teacher said you’re an actress. Are you an actress?” I laugh, and reply, “Yes, I am.” Her eyes light up and a smile stretches across her face. “I wanna be an actress, too, when I grow up.”
I would’ve hugged her, but I was pretty sweaty, so a high-five was good enough. We said our good-byes, and I continued with my jog.
I thought about what had happened. That little girl looks up to me. That’s a whole lot of responsibility that I didn’t know I had. When I get up on stage, I have the power to be a role model to children half my age. That changed my entire perspective.
What I Said At Final Circle
“This year has easily been the worst year of my life. I’ve never felt more stressed, my family has fallen apart, and most days I lacked the motivation to keep on living. But the art of theatre and the act of connecting to an audience has shown me what makes life meaningful. Giving to others is more rewarding than getting an A on a test. Inspiring those around you is more fulfilling than winning a race. Every day theatre gives me the chance to have a positive impact on my community. Helping those around you is the most genuine way to achieve happiness. I found that happiness this year. Theatre saved my life.”
It’s easy to get swept up in your academics or extracurriculars. I’m knee-deep in college applications, trust me, I know. Despite this, it’s so important to find time for giving back to your community. Not only is it gratifying, but it will also build your empathy and shape your character.
You don’t have to change someone’s life. It can be as simple as picking up garbage along a bike trail or doing your little sister’s hair before school. You can gather donations for a clothing drive, or help renovate a community center.
In all its forms, seeking out community service is a habit that I will maintain for the rest of my life. After all, I owe my life to it.