If you only read one of my blog posts ever, make it this one

*I’ve never used my blog for this purpose before, so I hope you’ll forgive me – thanks in advance for taking a few minutes to read through this.

I’ve made no secret of how wretchedly awkward I was as a kid. (And as a teenager, and as an adult.) I was a pigeon-toed, bookish, hyperactive dweeb who on any given day could be found participating in a number of cringe-worthy oddities… like crab-walking my way from one class to the next, or accessorizing my backpack with keychains the size of dinner plates. I was, to put it kindly, a spazzy little weirdo.

Which is to say, making friends wasn’t always easy.

However, when I was 12 years old, I met my now best friend Jessi – who introduced me to Young Actors’ Theatre. It was a marvelous nonprofit organization, founded by Jessi’s own mom… which existed to take spazzy little weirdos like me and expose them to the absolute miracle of theater.

The several years that followed were peppered with performances – during which I learned to sing, dance, act, and bring ancient masterpieces to life on stage. More than that, I was taught some priceless life lessons: Dedication, when I stayed late to perfect my high kick as a dancing napkin in Beauty and the Beast. Commitment, when I had to turn down social activities for rehearsal. Humility, when I didn’t always get the part I wanted. And of course, appreciation for the arts – and the creativity, talent, and genuine hard work that goes into them.

But most of all, friendship and fun, and the satisfaction of contributing to something bigger than myself.

Not to mention – these experiences introduced me to a group of truly wonderful, talented people… who didn’t appear to care what an awkward dweeb I was (and in fact, were pretty awkward and dweeby themselves)… many of whom I’m still lucky to call my closest friends today.

During the very last scene of the very last performance of the very last show I ever participated in at YAT, my character was supposed to cry. I was playing Lady Capulet in Romeo & Juliet, and was supposed to bawl when I discovered my daughter’s lifeless body. The thing is, crying on command is actually a pretty sophisticated acting skill… and one I didn’t possess. Therefore, in all the performances up until that point I heaved what I’d hoped were convincing sobs, screwing my face up with contrived, tearless emotion. But on that night, for that show, it struck me that this was likely one of the last times I’d be performing with this group… and I didn’t have to pretend one bit. Thinking about how much I would miss it, I clung to my friend playing Juliet and cried actual, flowing tears – likely one of the better moments of my young stage career.

All this to say, those years and experiences were some of the best of my life.

Young Actors’ Theatre taught me that it’s not only okay to be spazzy and weird… it’s actually encouraged. We need more weirdos, more rebels, more dorks – because those are the people who grow up to make the world a brighter and more interesting place to live. And it’s through continued commitment to the arts that we can foster this among future generations, and make sure that every child has the same opportunity to grow and thrive.

As a nonprofit, YAT only exists because of contributions from the community, and people who share a passion and commitment to their purpose. Which is why on this #GivingTuesday, I’m asking that my followers consider donating $5 (or more) to this organization which has played such a huge role in my life – and the lives of countless others.

Even with my relatively short tenure there, I credit YAT with shaping much of who I am as an adult – and it is my sincerest wish that it continues on forever… to give kids like me a creative outlet to develop character, and become the best versions of themselves.

Please click here if you’re interested in donating, every little bit helps! If you do, I can personally promise that it will go to good use – and you’ll be helping some spazzy little weirdo like me find a place in the world. 🙂