On Friday night I attended the Boyceville High School production of “Once Upon A Mattress.” A great job was done by the cast and I was so proud of the kids in the show. What made it interesting was that I was in that show in high school my sophomore year. I played the Jester and as I watched the musical, so much of the dialog and songs came flooding back. I was filled with memories of that time in my life, way back in March of 1992.
At that time in my life, my priorities were thus: 1. Girlfriend. 2. Work to be a Varsity starter in Football the next fall. 3. Get good grades. 4. Get my driver’s license. 5. Job for that summer. That was really it. I was unbelievably naïve and super hyper. Nothing really tragic had happened to me in life. And I was somewhat insecure. I wasn’t really sure I was good at anything other than getting good grades in school and possibly playing the trumpet. I thought I was funny but wasn’t sure anyone else did. I thought I was an ok athlete but nothing special. I loved to sing but I definitely thought I wasn’t a good one. I had been told many times, by family and others, that I really wasn’t a good singer.
This is important because when I tried out for “Once Upon a Mattress” I specifically put on my audition form that I didn’t want a solo. I had played a bunch of small roles the year before and I figured that was what I would do this time. There was no way I should have a role that has a solo or be important in any way.
So I was surprised when I was cast as the jester and I figured that since I could occasionally get a laugh that was the reason for my casting. But then when I looked at the part more closely I froze in terror: I had a solo. I had to sing, all by myself, in front of people. Crap. My sisters were the singers in the family (and still are. Fantastic voices). I was not. Definitely not. I had been told I wasn’t a singer. This was going to end very, very badly.
Yet, it didn’t. As I learned the role and the song, I grew to love it. I got positive feedback from other cast members and I gained confidence. I felt like I could do it. I felt like I wouldn’t suck. And this became a moment in my life. It became the start of a time when I gained confidence in who I was, a time when I really fell in love with performing, of being in front of people and seeing a reaction from them. In some ways it had always been there, but I didn’t have the confidence to see it. Singing “Very Soft Shoes,” all by myself on a stage, helped to change that.
But when I look back at that time, I realized how much would change in a year, when I was in my third show (and favorite), “Kiss Me Kate.” I was way more confident as a person. I had a girlfriend. I did become a varsity starter in football. I was still getting good grades and I had my driver’s license. I felt that I could do anything and I embraced an even bigger role in that year’s play.
However, my innocence and naiveté was being shattered as my Dad had cancer. I started to see the foundation of my life begin to crack. I was worried about things much bigger than singing in front of people or having a girlfriend. Just about six weeks after the show my Dad would be dead and my life would be changed forever.
In many ways, being at “Once Upon a Mattress” transported me back to an easier time. And I can see the appeal of going back there. I see why people always want to go back in time where everything seems better, the hurts seem less hurtful, and life seemed full of possibilities. Where there are less scars and wounds. It would be fun to be that Brad of March of 1992, just for a moment.
But we can’t go back. No matter how hard we try or want to. It is fun to look back but we must move forward. We must live not in the past but in the now and into the future. For though we have more scars, we also have more joys. We have come through the difficult times. We have survived the battles. We have loved and lost and learned and grown. God has guided us along the path of life and there is no turning back. We can look. We can remember. But we can’t go back. It is impossible. Instead, we put our faith in our Savior Jesus Christ who gives us strength for the present and walks with us into the future.
For our young people who were in the show this past weekend, I hope it is a time that they cherish. I hope they learned something about themselves. I thank them for giving me the gift of looking back, just for a moment. It was fun.