I've never loved fairy tales.
I mean, I don't mind fanciful stories, cartoonish villains, and singing woodland creatures. It's mostly just the concept of "happily ever after" that I can't get past.
Fairy tale characters generally face challenges, endure struggles, and overcome overwhelming odds, which can make for some great storytelling. But then we're supposed to believe that, after all that, they just go on living happily ever after? Even as a kid, I knew that was a load of crap. It almost implies that, once you meet some "difficulty quota," life just becomes easy and carefree for the remainder of your days.
What I always want to know is, what happens to these characters next? Once they face adversity and triumph, what do they do with the rest of their lives? How did that adversity change them? To me, that's when stories start to get good. Otherwise, it's just triumph for triumph's sake—cheap thrills and a fake, tidy ending.
Over the last two years, I think the question I have heard most often (and wondered the most myself) is, "When can we get back to normal?" All of the other questions related to pandemic protocols (When can we meet in person? When can I take off this mask? When can we stop testing?) are really just more detailed versions of "When can we get back to normal?"
The truth is, I don't think we will ever go back to the normal we knew before. We're just not the same people now as we were then. We've been through the swamp and the magic forest and battled plenty of dragons. So even if we go back to the circumstances we were used to from before, we'll approach them differently now because we're different.
I think we also get a false sense in academic theatre that everything should have a natural ending. Shows close. Semesters end. That's often how we know it's time to move on and do something different. But most things in life don't ever reach such an obvious conclusion.
Therefore, if we can never really go back to who we were, and if there is no firm drop of the curtain signaling the end of how things were, at least we can move forward as who we newly are. And there is happiness in that (and fear and excitement and trepidation and eagerness).
Seniors, I'm sure you will all be inundated with one question in the coming weeks and months: What are you going to do next? In fact, some of you are probably getting that question already. I understand why people are asking. You're reaching the last natural ending of your college career, so it's time to do something different. It's logical that people would inquire as to what that might be.
I'm more interested in your answer to a different question, though. How are you going to do what you do next? Now that you have faced challenges, endured struggles, and overcome overwhelming odds—like every good fairy tale character—how have you been changed? How will that impact the way you approach the next chapter of your life?
We've had quite the adventure over the last few years. Regardless of whether you're coming back, moving on, or still deciding what story to start next, I'm glad we could fight the dragons together.