Lately, I just cannot get enough of the soundtrack to Wicked, the Broadway musical that is a prequel to the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. In the play (spoiler alert!) Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, recounts her days in college where she was roommates with a green-skinned girl named Elphaba. Glinda and her friends teased and tormented poor Elphaba until the girl made a desperate deal with the Wizard. She became the fearsome Wicked Witch of the West, wreaking havoc and striking terror throughout the Land of Oz. While I never became a frightening and terrible witch, I can definitely relate to the play’s themes of loneliness and feeling like you don’t belong. Elphaba learns to love herself for who and what she is, and that’s something that I’ve learned to do while I’ve been in college.
My entire life before I came to college, I was teased relentlessly by my classmates for being different. I was the “smart kid” who came to school and, without ever really studying or taking notes, made As on every single assignment. As if that wasn’t enough, I also lacked any considerable sense of fashion back then because I didn’t shop at any of the “cool” stores, leading one of my classmates to tell me that my outfits reminded her of a schoolteacher’s. I wasn’t coordinated enough to play any sports, which would have at least made me feel popular. And my naturally shy and quiet personality was often confused with conceitedness, like I thought I was better than everyone else for one reason or another. So people would tell each other not to be friends with me because I was too stuck up.
School was pretty much insufferable for me, especially high school. I had a hard time finding true friends who weren’t completely preoccupied or bothered with the fact that I was so good at school. And the only real friends I had growing up found new friends to spend time with, and I wasn’t invited to be part of the circle. I spent most of my days wishing that three o’clock would arrive so I could go home, where I wouldn’t feel quite so lonely and left out. The last two years of high school were so bad that I took as many dual-enrollment college courses as I could –not so I could get a bunch of my classes out of the way for freshman year, but so that I didn’t have to be at school all the time, where everyone was so judgmental and critical. My only thoughts after graduation weren’t of how badly I was going to miss high school, but how worried I was that college would just be a repeat of all that misery.
Well, for the first few semesters, it pretty much was. I can vividly recall getting a test back in trigonometry and watching the girl next to me sneer at my A when she had barely squeaked out a C. When we ended up hanging out together at a campus event one evening, she told me that when she had first met me in class, she wanted to hate me because I was so much better at math than she was. I had four different roommates in my first three semesters of college, and even though each one of them left for non-personal reasons, it felt very personal. I thought I had driven them away by being a terrible roommate, and I wondered if I was going to end up living alone for the rest of my college experience. To top it off, I was in a pretty unhealthy romantic relationship for the first half of college. We had started dating during my senior year of high school, and even though our relationship hit the rocks when I started college, I held on and made excuses about how it would get better because I was so terrified of feeling the way I did in high school.
It took a tear-filled shouting match with my parents before I finally came to my senses and realized that I was spiraling out of control. I wasn’t happy with my life at all, and everyone could see it but me. I made a bold decision not to be that girl anymore. I wanted to wake up every morning excited for what was in store, instead of hiding under the covers afraid of what I would have to face. I started things off by ending my long-failed relationship, and then slowly, a little bit at a time, I started to find joy in my life. I applied for the Honors Program, and once I was accepted, I instantly felt like I was no longer the class freak. Everyone had been just like me in high school, but they had all since overcome their insecurities. Instead of feeling bad for being the “smart kids”, they were embracing it and using it to make a difference.
Then I started doing other things to meet people. In order to improve my one-on-one people skills, I joined the RAILS. Giving campus tours taught me how to make small talk, which made me realize how much I actually did have in common with other people, despite what my insecurities made me think. Being an RA this year has helped me meet people that I had no idea were even living on the same floor in my same residence hall, and being involved with BCM has given me a strong, Christ-focused group of friends to encourage me and make me feel loved. But taking on a role in the LMU Players’ production of Godspell was the final piece to complete the new me. Dancing and singing and being completely silly and hysterical on a theatrical stage has been the very best thing for my happiness, and it makes me forget about all of my worries and fears entirely.
All of these new experiences have made for a new Mallory, one who doesn’t feel quite so much like an Elphaba anymore. That’s not to say that life is good all the time. I still have moments where I might feel a little awkward. Sometimes I’ll say the wrong thing at the wrong time or I’ll crack a joke that nobody laughs at. But what’s different now is that I don’t feel bad about myself when I do those things. I’m learning from them. I know that I’m capable of so much more, and other people can finally see it, too, because I’m letting it show. I can say that I’m truly happy with my life now, and I plan on keeping it that way. 🙂