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Three years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you had told me I would be studying languages at a university less than an hour away from my hometown. I would have found it absolutely hilarious if you told me I hadn't sang, really sang, for two years.
But nevertheless, that's where I found myself this year.
Musical theatre was my whole life. I walked through the house running through vocal warm-ups, going over dance steps, memorizing lines, trying my damn hardest to be the best. To be someone.
Then the anxiety hit.
Anxiety is like a shadow that creeps up on you, slowly, until you pass under a light and it suddenly engulfs you, towering over you and scaring you into moving back into the darkness.
I've never been one to give up; I've always prided myself on sticking things out to the end, on being strong, even if I was only impressing myself, even if no one else thought I was being strong.
The best compliment I could ever be given is, "you are a trooper. You are someone who works hard and doesn't stop until they get what they want."
The summer of 2016, I went back on what I believed in. I gave up. I turned my back on musical theatre and I ran away, because I couldn't cope with the panic attacks, with the feeling that I was in over my head and the world was spinning too fast and I was falling.
I blocked out the entire world, removed everything that was outside of the small bubble I'd deemed safe, and spent an entire summer locked up in my house reading novels and watching Gilmore Girls reruns. I cleaned off the top of the piano and tucked all of my vocal books under my bed where I wouldn't have to look at them, a blatant reminder of the world I'd left behind and thought I could never go back to.
Struggling with a mental illness is like falling down a rabbit hole into your own brain and getting caught up in the illusions that are your thoughts and fears.
It took me a long time to learn that I wasn't a failure for quitting. I wasn't running away. I was simply choosing a different turn in the road.
At the beginning of this year, I met Mary Grace. Mary Grace is everything I wanted to be three years ago: an incredibly talented actress with an absolutely stunning voice and a bubbly, outgoing personality to match it. To add salt to the wound, she also has awesome hair no matter what time of day it is.
Through our friendship, there was always a small part of me that was bitter. I never wanted to sing in front of her. When she and our other friend, Grace, invited me to go to the music room with them, I politely declined. Simply put, I was incredibly jealous of her. I felt like she had all of this talent and I was just a vessel of wasted potential.
I've been working on a lot of these feelings this year. I'm teaching myself that those rules I thought prevented me from singing were only in my head. That it's okay to love something without making it your entire life. My self-worth does not lie in how high of a note I can reach (though on a good day I can reach an E6!).
I just got home from a two-hour vocal session with Grace and Mary Grace, playing piano accompaniments and harmonizing. And damn it if I'm not proud of myself.