I sat in the familiar folding chair in the familiar gym and looked forward at the familiar stage curtain and pit band placement. The sound booth was set up where I remembered it, as well as spotlights on the lower and upper levels. One of my high school teachers recognized me and called me by a nickname I hadn’t heard in 20ish years. I chatted with friends from high school and students who had followed far behind me.
The all-school musical was one of my favorite parts of my high school years. It also brought some of the biggest challenges. I made lifelong friends on the stage. And several years after graduation, I got to invest in the musical and many students as the choreographer, an experience made even richer because the director and I were on stage together as students. Our friendship deepened through the years, and we continue to get together regularly.
So many memories came rushing back to me as I prepared for the production of Freaky Friday to begin. But as soon as it began, the memories slipped aside. It was the same stage and probably a lot of the same process, but these students were experiencing it for the first time. Or for the seniors, experiencing it for the last time. I knew their minds were full of remembering lines, cues, costume changes, and props.
As I watched them, I wondered what they were like off stage. They did such an exceptional job portraying their characters, and I wondered if I would recognize them if I met them in another context. I was impressed by their maturity, and I knew that didn’t come without intentional effort and investment on their part as well as the directing staff.
I was excited for them, that they had the opportunity to be challenged to grow in areas they might never anticipate, develop friendships they otherwise would have missed, and learn about creativity and discipline.
I certainly appreciated the memories of my own experiences, but I leaned forward and glimpsed at the futures of the students in front of me. During intermission, I slipped backstage to talk to the Assistant Director, who was one of the first students I worked with as a choreographer. Seeing his love for the musical process and the students made me pause to appreciate the influence we can have on one another.
We might not take our specific experiences and pour into those who follow in the exact same ways. Even if we try to duplicate the experience, we won’t. We grow and change, and the people who follow us aren’t us. We pour into and affect each other because of our differences and our vulnerabilities. We grow and change because we’re willing to do so. We influence others and are influenced by others because we’re willing to be so.
Sometimes we have flashbacks, and sometimes we have flash forwards. While we need to reside and invest in the present, it’s good to glimpse the future to see the possibilities. We might not know the specifics, but we can lean forward with hope, then pour into others today in our pursuit of the possibilities.