Well, it finally happened.
When the Disney movie, "Beauty and the Beast" came out when I was 11, it changed my young life. Obsession is too small a word for what I experienced. I didn't just love Belle; I wanted to be Belle. I didn't just want to watch the movie and listen to the soundtrack over and over and over, I wanted to live the story as my own personal story. I would pray at night that God would let me grow up and be just like Belle. And when my 11-12 year old brain, which was, even then, prone to realism, understood that I could never actually BE Belle, I would pray that I could at least go to sleep and dream that I was Belle every night.
To my recollection, God never let me have that kind of a dream.
But that didn't stop me from dreaming about being Belle while I was awake.
Now, I had other obsessions. I still have lots of obsessions. I have one of those annoying personalities that is either disinterested in something or OHMYGOSHTHISISTHEBESTTHINGEVER. But Belle and "Beauty and the Beast" always held a dear, dear place in my heart. And I used to wish and pray that there would be a play version, which eventually became a reality.
Now, the reason I wanted a stage play version was that I could go into musical theater and BE Belle. And even when reality struck again and I realized that being in musical theater was just NOT going to happen for me (for several reasons--mainly because I just don't have the right kind of personality to be a successful actress), I was still obsessed with the stage musical. But first it was only in New York. Then it was touring, but not near me. Then it was touring near me, but I was too broke to go.
Then something miraculous happened.
The mom of the kids I watch called me and said, "I won two tickets to 'Beauty and the Beast,' and I can't use them. I thought of you first!"
And 22 years after I first saw the movie, I finally got to see the stage play. And you'd better believe I was excited.
I only found out I had the tickets the day before the performance, so I didn't have too much time to get myself psyched up. I mainly couldn't believe it was finally happening. I just figuratively started pinching myself on the way there, as we entered the theater, as we took our seats.
Now, since the tickets were freebies, I thought we might be getting some really good seats. But...we were in the last possible row of seats, in the second balcony, of the theater. But no matter. I was about to realize a dream, about to fulfill a fantasy, about to start an obsession all over again.
I was a little bit afraid of what would happen.
But here is what actually happened.
I watched the show. And the show was good. The show was amazingly, awesomely, good.
But it was just a show.
I remember feeling a little bit deflated during the intermission. I thought perhaps that it was the fact that we were so far away from the stage that I could hardly see what was going on. I thought perhaps it was the fact that I'd put on good-smelly lotion right before the show and was self-conscious about how strong the smell was. I wasn't really sure why I wasn't as deliriously happy as I thought I should be.
Now, when the stage musical first came out, sometime in the late 1990s, I immediately bought the soundtrack. I memorized the songs. I knew them all by heart.
But a funny thing happens to musicals when they've been out for a while. Some songs get cut out. Other songs get added in. So I was surprised when near the end of the play, Belle sang a song I'd never heard before. It was one of those haunting melodies that makes your soul wake up and pay attention, but the words really made me think.
It was called "A Change in Me," and ironically enough, this song--a song from this musical that I'd been dreaming of seeing and LIVING for years and years and years--explained why that childhood dream was no longer at all important to me.
Here are the lyrics:
There's been a change in me
A kind of moving on
Though what I used to be
I still depend on
For now I realize
That good can come from bad
That may not make me wise
But oh it makes me glad
And I-- I never thought I'd leave behind
My childhood dreams
But I don't mind
For now I love the world I see
No change of heart a change in me
For in my dark despair
I slowly understood
My perfect world out there
Had disappeared for good
But in it's place I feel
A truer life begin
And it's so good and real
It must come from within
And I-- I never thought I'd leave behind
My childhood dreams but I don't mind
I'm where and who I want to be
No change of heart
A change in me
I had all these crazy dreams of being in musical theater, of pretending to be different people, of escaping reality to temporarily become someone else. But the thing is, I love my reality so much, now. I love teaching my preschoolers. I love writing. I love singing in church and writing songs about God. I love the work God has called me to do. My life isn't perfect and there is so much I still long to pursue, but there's been a change in me, too. It doesn't come from within as much as it comes from God--but it's because God is within.
My childhood wasn't always happy (not because of my family, but because I never fit in with others in school, etc.). I wanted "so much more than that provincial life," and I got it, but not at all in the way I expected. And that's okay. In fact, it's actually pretty good.
I'm really grateful I finally had the opportunity to see that play. It was a great play. I had a great time, but then I went back to my house and lay my head on my pillow and thanked God for the life I have, the life He's given and is giving to me.