Inside the Group Hug

I am still trying to process last night. I was welcomed into the group, but still distinctly my own “department.” And actually, that’s ok.

Sometimes, for me, the preamble to a gathering or a show is fraught with anxiety. This one, this run, was the most anxious I’ve been.

I really had a stern mind-reset before walking in. I was there to celebrate nearly a year’s worth of work and to watch the show with pride.

Backstage where I couldn’t see (nor could the band), someone hung up signs with everyone’s name on them. The cast went around signing messages on each.

I was pleased and touched with what was said on mine. The sentiments were sincere and awkward and heartfelt and positive, with a few “you’re hot!” comments thrown in for humor and a couple of turd-balls for effect.

I still felt a little closed off from the group-hug vibe of the night, but on a few occasions, some arms would metaphorically open and let me in for a brief, tight, wonderful moment.

The funny thing was, one cast member spent a good twenty minutes sharing with me that she felt outside-ish, not-quite-in-the-loop, still happy to be part of things.  She told me I was the one person who made her feel completely wanted and talented and capable and “part of the family.” She did this with no prompting from me. I stood there, hopefully remembering to shut my gaping mouth. I had always thought she felt fully enclosed in this group.

That was a surprising truth, as were my lingering thoughts on how the theater tends to mimic high school in so many wonderful and a few awful ways.  We want desperately to find our group. We want to belong. We want to learn. We want a family-away-from-family. We want a cushion. We hurt each other. We gossip without realizing it sometimes. We are sarcastic. We hurt. We hurt each other.

And I will admit that I thought long and hard about that. I also believe those feelings are not particular to theater, but by the nature of the rawness of emotions, the gentle souls involved, it tends to be heightened in that arena.

And I have to remember that feeling, that possibility, for every show.  I’m guessing that many people walking into that final performance, into every final performance, audition, rehearsal, or meeting has that shameful feeling of wanting to belong but also wanting to be above it all.

But most of the night was filled with laughter and pride and sweaty post-show hugs.  At the end of the night, someone said, “Hey! You look good!” (I hope I’m conveying that in the non-sexual way in which it was said.)

Without a thought, I said, “That’s because I’m happy.”

I was surprised by that truth.  Happily surprised.

Because Happiness is the group I want to be in for the rest of my high school life.

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