On this deliciously dreary afternoon I ventured back in time to my old high school to see my dear friend and former English teacher. He had a few books to recommend to me and I always love our chats. (Side note, nothing on Earth says “I care for you” like book recommendations. It’s like peering into the souls of your friends and glimpsing their heart.) Sadly I missed him but I decided to stick around and walk the halls down to my old theater room, hoping to run in to my old theater teacher.
I creaked open the door and the room was black, not a soul around. It was perfect. I was so tired and so much in need of rest and in need of a trip home to that safe place. Students hadn’t been there yet and the only people around were the ghosts of days gone by. There is nowhere more quiet that a school that has yet to open its doors to students for the year. I needed that kind of quiet today. It was a long night and an even longer summer.
Even since I started doing theater in my junior year, an unbelievable 5 years ago, that room became my safe place. I learned about happy thoughts, I learned about releasing your inner child, I learned how to breathe. I grew up, I cried (a lot), I laughed (a lot), I loved, I was hurt. I spent more time in that room than anywhere else during high school, even my own house. My laughter still sings off of the walls, mixing with the silver memories of the people who came before me and after me. The people who used that room left so much of ourselves there. Where else were we allowed to paint the walls with words and colors?
I shut my mind off and reclined in the easy chair in the front row as a 16 year old Emma flitted across the stage with her friends, a 17 year old Emma recited a monologue stage right, an 18 year old Emma left the room for the last time after hugging her teacher goodbye, and saying hello to a now friend. I stole kisses in that room. I can still taste those sweet innocent embraces and the nostalgia in that room hugs me close each time I enter it. In that room I learned the difference between being tough vs being strong.
As I tiptoe in and out of my past, the feelings in that room stay constant. I miss how I felt in high school, how easy it was for me to find positivity and to recharge. The root of all of that was this room, this chapel of the creative; a sanctuary for the open and honest. Since I left high school, I’ve experienced a lot and it’s jaded me. I haven’t found a place like that room where I have felt so completely safe and comfortable and I remember after my visit today how vital it is to have that place. I want to try to keep my hope rooted in that room and rooted in my 16 year old self even as I grow and change.
I am so lucky I got such an amazing experience in high school and I am sorry if you didn’t. Or if you wasted your time in high school by counting down the minutes until it was over or treating those around you like dirt solely because you felt like dirt about yourself. I was lucky, I suppose. Lucky to be surrounded by people who respected my opinions and allowed me to be open and allowed me to be myself. Lucky to have a room like this that I can always come back to.