The road that saved me

Two years ago, Walker Gibbons stepped on stage to audition for a play. It changed his life.

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Gazebo Photo by courtesy of Walker Gibbons

Walker Gibbons and fellow senior Gracie Childers after last fall’s final performance of “Carrie.”

Imagine this. You are a sophomore in high school. You have no real close friends you can talk to, there’s nothing that you’re particularly good at, and you feel absolutely alone.

There is no one who understands the way that you feel because if they did, they wouldn’t be at school. They would be at home, where you wished you were. And you wish as hard as you can that you were given a different life, that you were a more capable human being with better qualities and weren’t so useless.

Picture yourself walking through a hallway at the end of the school day, feeling bereft of all positive qualities.

That was me.

I can remember this day like it was a lucid dream, none of it feeling quite real. But then again, what did?

I was walking to my locker, waiting to be picked up by my mom, who was always incredibly punctual about getting to carpool on time. I walked through the doors of the lobby with my head down, shoulders sagging, trying to get in and get out as quickly as I could with as little interaction as possible.

On the way to my locker, however, I heard a kind of jolly laughter coming from the auditorium doors that caused me to turn my head. I turned to see the source and there was Stephen Mosley, a guy I had always seemed to know but never really knew.

He and Griffin Hutchins were holding what looked to be pointless sheets of paper in their hands which turned out to be pages of sheet music. Despite my initial desire to avoid social interaction, I decided to walk over and ask what was going on.

They both turned to me, a little confused as to who I was and what I was doing, and told me that auditions for the One Act play were that day. Not too long after, I was sitting in the chairs of the auditorium waiting for Ms. Sylvia Haynie to call my name.

After sitting and listening to the various auditions in the auditorium, I played with the idea of getting up and leaving. I had never done theater before, I didn’t know any of these people I was sitting amongst, why was I even there?

But Stephen once again kept me there by pulling me into the conversation and making sure I didn’t feel like a stranger in a foreign country. Eventually I was called up to the stage and I came forward, trembling, thinking quickly about what song I could sing for my audition.

As I reached the lip of the stage I heard Mrs. Haynie ask me, “What song will you be auditioning with today?”

I told her I didn’t have one and she responded with, “Well, how about your ABC’s?” So, nervous and wracked with stage fright, I sung my ABC’s in front of a group of experienced actors that I had never spoken with before. It was absolutely terrifying.

When I was done, however, I wasn’t met with silence. I was met with applause and questions of, “why have you never done this before?” and “where did you come from?”

Now, when you see yourself as useless and annoying, a little bit of praise goes a long way. So I sat down, listened through the rest of the auditions, and went home, anxious but hopeful about the cast list that would be revealed the next day. At home I spoke with my mom about the audition. Being somewhat of a theater girl herself when she was in high school, she couldn’t have been happier about me deciding to audition for a high school play. Little did we know how much of an impact that audition would have on my life.

I returned the school the next day, excited about the cast list but still weighed down by everything else in my life that seemed to drag me down. The day passed as it usually did. It was slow, boring, and I couldn’t stop feeling self-conscious about every single move that I made. However, as the day came to an end, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming excitement for rehearsal later that day. And my excitement wasn’t wasted, either.

At rehearsal that afternoon we went through the cast list, and I got increasingly nervous the farther we got into the list. By the end, there were only two characters left, and two people to claim those characters: Griffin Hutchins, and me. Griffin was the next person to be called and we were all made aware that he would be playing Jake, the high school football player. That left only one character left.

I don’t even remember hearing that I would be playing Elliott, the high school band captain. Elliott was the lead role for the musical.

Throughout the rehearsals, I began to build up courage. I became more sociable. I started hanging out with the cast outside of school and for the first time, I felt like I was wanted. I became more confident in my abilities both as a person and as an actor, and I finally didn’t feel as if I was worthless.

I had friends who wanted me, a cast who depended on me, and a character that I could slip into whenever my real life became a little too much to handle. This carried into the rest of my life, and I can honestly say that the me that I am now would never have existed without seeing Stephen and Griffin that fateful day. If it weren’t for them, I could very well still be the awkward, self-pitying loser that couldn’t get through a school day without feeling defeated. I wouldn’t have gotten the All Star Cast award later that year, and I definitely would not have made the family that I have now.

Stepping into that auditorium was the single greatest decision I have ever made, and has helped me build up the confidence and the happiness to be the person that I am today.

My plea to all of you is to put yourself out there, try to do what you think you can’t, and make an impact on yourself and others.