Here’s a thing you might not know about me. For a season, I lived for the applause…like the literal tangible clapping. I loved dressing up and being someone I’m not and having people say, “hey, you’re really good at that.”
When I first moved to Tulsa, I came off a 6 show straight run on the community theatre stage in my home town. 6 shows = 3 shows a year = 2 solid years. (The theatre only put on 3 shows a year by the way.). My friend, who was probably wiser than I, said you can’t keep doing every show. You’re going to burn out. But, I didn’t. Because the stage was my drug of choice. I felt the most alive on the stage. (Unless I was in the chorus and then I was thinking my talents are better than broom twirling. They probably weren’t. But nobody cares about the background people but their mothers.)
Here’s the weird part, I grew up very introverted in public. I remember when my mom literally had to talk for me at the doctor because I was too shy to tell him what was wrong (and I’m pretty sure I was in junior high).
As I grew older I kind of morphed into an extroverted introvert to a point (more so now). I was good with my friends and situations I felt comfortable with. But, give me brand new situations, I shut down again. Make me talk to people I don’t know well, I struggle.
In the midst of this I found the stage. I first found it at church. I liked it there because I felt generally accepted and loved at church. I grew up there. I was in musicals and sang solos. I mean my hands shook and my voice trembled sometimes, but I still did it.
Then my senior year of high school I joined choir, mostly because I needed electives. They put on a production of Oklahoma. I was only an understudy and a chorus member, but it was so fun. (My teacher told me she wished she had me in choir sooner because I would have landed the part, not just the understudy. I’m not sure what that meant but it was enough accolades for me.)
When I got done with school and moved back to my hometown for a time, I found myself drawn to the community theatre. I wasn’t well known; my brother was. The first play I auditioned for I was in a small, one scene part. Then something amazing (for me, not them) happened. The person playing one of the roles had to drop out, and they needed someone to fill in. Of the major roles it was the smallest. I learned the entire play in less than 2 weeks, with a German accent. (Luckily Mrs. Gloop gets taken out first in Willy Wonka so it wasn’t so much to learn.)
In this I learned that when the lights are on, you can’t see who is there in the audience. And you get to be someone you’re not. And after the show everyone tells you how amazing you are and that they didn’t know you had such talent. And I was hooked.
I kept coming back for more. My characters were usually older than me (like gray hair older), always had a wig, and always had some type of accent. And I could lose myself in that. It wasn’t me on the stage. It was Adeline Booker or Hazel Hunt or Coco, the mass murderer. It didn’t matter what kind of fool those people made out of themselves; it wasn’t me; it was them.
And afterwards people told me they loved me. It was all the things I like.
But now it’s over. It’s hard to break into the theatre unless you fit the type, especially in a town with so much talent. My work schedule is also not helpful. I miss the stage.
I say all that to say, I sometimes adopt that mantra in my every day. I want to do a good job, to do something impressive, if only for the applause. I have skills and talents that God has given me, and they are impressive sometimes. But I want to work on changing my mindset.
I read the quote above this week, and it really spoke to my heart, so much so that I put it on canvas for my wall.
I want to look at it and be reminded that my calling is not to be impressive. I’ve been called to bless people not impress them. I’m not sure what that means yet, but it’s easy to get caught up in the applause.
I took a test at work the other day (it was required; everyone did it) and it told them how they can best appreciate us. I don’t remember the options other than gifts and services, touching, and words of affirmation (there were a few others). I remember touch because that’s the one I’m definitely not. I’m getting a little better; my people are helping me, but that’s not the one. It was “words of affirmation”. I mean is it a shock? Probably not after what I told you.
The thing is, I need to be okay doing something well, and no one noticing. I need to be okay with not being the best at things. I need to not get frustrated when other people get applause for the very same things I’ve been doing for a while (’cause ya that happens). I need to be ok just knowing in my heart that someone was blessed by what I did, even if they never say thank you or good job. I’m not there. Applause is addicting, and like an addict, you crave it when it’s gone.
I can honestly say I miss the theatre. I miss the applause. I miss being someone else for a time. I miss my theatre people because we are a special lot.
But maybe it’s time to stop seeking affirmation, to stop chasing “likes” on social media and complements in real life. (I mean you can go ahead and like this. I’m only human after all.). I want to try to shift my focus on how I can bless others, not be the best at everything. It’s not going to happen overnight, but as I place these pictures on my wall, I can be reminded of the journey every day. And I continue to chase grace, not perfection.