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5 Resolutions I've Learned from Musical Theatre

Well, here we are, my merpeople, at the end of another year. A rollercoaster of a year, to be sure! But, like all things in life, Year 2020 too shall pass, and we see the new year over the horizon. Now, if I’m honest, I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions...Because we all know that the first week of January will look very much like the last week of December. Covid-19 will continue to keep us inside, as we await the coming vaccine. We will go back to work, school, routine. Politics will still be political. Life goes on.

But Resolution! I like that word! I like change! And I salute anyone that embarks on a new resolution, whether it starts January 1st, April 15th, or October 31st. And whether it lasts for a week or a year, I salute effort. And so let me offer 5 Resolutions I’ve learned from Musical Theatre:

1. Go Into the Woods. Make room for change...That’s what a good show—a good story—is all about, right? We are swept into the unexpected, under the dark tangles and branches of a world outside our comfort zone. We meet strangers, soothsayers, princes, witches. We face giants and curses and unknown paths. And we decide which direction we go. We may stumble or get lost or even be crushed for a time. But we choose our steps forward; and if we are willing to go Into the Woods, we will come out of the Woods with lessons hard-learned and wisdom hard-won. So take a deep breath, and step into the unknown.

The chances look small, the choices look grim.

But everything you learn there will help when you return there.”¹

2. “Say something, anything, at the light.”² There is always another side to every story: The clichéd two sides to everything, hidden sides, misunderstood and miscommunicated sides. When we tell our side, are we honest about it? Do we let people in to see us, raw and rough around the edges? Do we let ourselves see that? And are we listening? Listening to the other side? That hidden, misunderstood, frightened side that comes out a paragraph at a time, looking for a safe place to settle in? Can we give both sides a safe place to settle? Can we overcome the fear enough to say something—anything—before the ride is over, and we’ve come home with the words unspoken on our tongues, as yet unwelcome in the hearts of others? We will not always get the words right, or even the response. But let’s please keep talking, and please keep listening.

3. We are all Wicked. Now hang on a sec! What I mean is this: We can only do what we can do. There will be those that expect more or less or differently from us. There will be those that condemn us as The Wicked Witch of the West, while others hail us as The Good Witch of the North. But only we know who we are. (Or, if we don’t, we’re the only ones who can find that out for ourselves.) And we alone know what we can do. So can we withhold judgment a little more often? Can we look at others who have chosen something other than expected and say with sincerity, “I hope you’re happy, now that you’ve chosen this...I hope it brings you bliss.”³ And can we mean it? And can we take frequent pauses to ask ourselves, “What can I do? Can I do more? Because ‘Some things I cannot change. But till I try, I’ll never know.’”³

4. Never forget that “You Will Be Found.” This was a lonely year for a whole lot of us. Some of us have had other, lonelier years in the past. Some of us will find ourselves lonely in years to come. It is a piece of the human experience. But please, please remember that there is always light—however dim, flickering, or weak it may feel at times. It is there. And there are always hands held out to lift us. And we are never alone. Remember that loneliness passes. And that all humans feel it, all of us. So ask for help! And when you make a list of the ugliness in the world, list the beauty too. And never stop reaching!

"So let the sun come streaming in,

Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again.

Lift your head and look around...You will be found.”⁴

5. If all else fails, sing! Or monologue! Create! Dance! Emote! Tell stories. Sing stories. Paint stories. Write stories. Sculpt stories. Draw them from your fingers, your mouths, your limbs, your gut. Share them and take them in. Give them a stage, and give them a home. Because there are always more stories. We all have trees to climb. Answers to find. Creatures to fight. And “just because you find that life's not fair, it doesn't mean that you just have to grin and bear it.”⁵ So keep going. Keep learning. Keep creating. Our ending isn’t written yet. And until that final moment, whether at 19 or 50 or 104 years old, we’re never done growing up.

  1. “Into the Woods: Epilogue.” Into the Woods.

  2. “Telephone Wire.” Fun Home.

  3. “Defying Gravity.” Wicked.

  4. “You Will Be Found.” Dear Evan Hansen.

  5. “When I Grow Up.” Matilda.

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