(Abuse TRIGGER WARNING: this text contains mentions of violence within a relationship)
Last year, I was a part of something bigger than myself – a performance. It was easily the best portion of my year, if not my entire school career.
It changed my life.
I was itching to write something – feeling bowled over by the realities of life, tossed up and set down and buzzing like an old fluorescent light. Inspire me – I hit the WordPress button (have you ever tried the Inspire Me button? It’s neat!) – and this is what it delivered:
What was the one experience that completely changed your life? What happened? How did it change your life?
The show pushed me to get to it becoming the person I want to be, in a way that nothing and no one else ever has. My director, who TAUGHT me HOW to yell and did an incredible job because she once had to herself – who along with her co-director, also lovely, cracked open the casts’ minds and hearts, so that we could perform honestly and do justice to the deeply personal words of our neighbours and friends.
When I stood in front of my friends and family and spoke and yelled my heart out, the rhythm of the lines finally matching the rhythm of my heart after the 100th try, I was channeling the outrage of my writer, but more than that, I was telling them of my own outrage, my own pain.
“We’ve never seen you get angry like that,” my parents said, looking bemused, “and I never want to either!” my boyfriend joked, complimenting my performance, my acting, and perhaps not realizing how healing it was to yell at them. Without realizing, that at least in part, I had been yelling at them.
My director, and now my good friend, helped push me to get out of a bad school situation where I was being treated unfairly. Today I am grateful to her for another reason. She walked me through making a small gesture of kindness that I would never have thought myself capable of. So often I’ve looked at strangers in pain, and it hurt my heart – but that didn’t mean I did anything to mend theirs.
For once, that changed.
I was sitting in a campus cafe when I overheard a young woman talking to her boyfriend, about their relationship, and how he gets mad and becomes violent.
How it makes her – concerned.
I heard her talking matter of factly about it – about what would be best for him. I watched as she tiptoed around how horrified she must certainly be, a slight smile playing on her lips the entire time.
Listened as he said things like, “you make me mad and then I…”, in an equally matter of fact way.
And so I sent my lovely, wise, wonderful director/friend a message, and she didn’t let me bail on myself, or on that girl.
“Can you slip her a note? ”
My friend asked me.
“Write that nothing she did warranted being hurt or having to feel unsafe, that there are people who can help, like the counselling centre, or campus security.”
So that’s what I wrote on a half-sheet of lined paper, and waited uneasily for her boyfriend to get up and leave.
As he briefly walked away to throw out his cup, I silently slipped her a note, and no amount of doubt about “was that the right thing to do?” will undo the fact that she looked in my eyes, grabbed it the same way you’d retrieve a dropped pencil from a friendly stranger, and said, “thanks.”
I still wonder if I did the wrong thing, if it was some mistake, if the girl will be embarrassed seeing me on campus. If she’ll ever call those emergency numbers.
I wonder but I stop because I feel that I am part of something bigger than myself. Where I cannot dismiss someone else’s pain within my community as ‘none of my business’.
I think in a big way, it all started with that performance – my desire to understand and act in a way that is respectful and kind to everyone in my community, even if it takes work and learning. I hope to one day expand my understanding of community to the whole world.