It was my junior year in college.
I wasn’t happy in my relationship (a guy I had been with since high school) and I was extremely overweight. I needed credits in the arts area, and my boyfriend, who had recently found his passion in journalism (radio/tv production) mentioned there was an acting teacher who was really cool, and maybe I should take his introduction to acting class.
I reluctantly signed up for the class, terrified yet excited to explore a more creative side of myself. Everyone in my class was young and beautiful. I was quiet and tried impossibly to be invisible. Our instructor, Rob clearly sensed my unease and initially did not push for me to perform in front of the group more than necessary, to which I was grateful, but it all changed with a journal entry about David Lynch.
At the beginning of the semester, our first assignment was to start a journal. We had to write every day, and each week had to read one entry to the entire class. I hated it. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but I know that I was terrified to speak in front of this group to which I clearly did not belong, and people I felt did not understand me at all.
Then, one day I read my entry about seeing a movie the previous weekend, which I absolutely loved. It was my first David Lynch movie, Lost Highway and I was hooked. The entire class either looked at me as if I was speaking another language, or just stared blankly out into the empty expanse of the theater. Everyone except Rob. When I first mentioned the film he looked shocked, then impressed and satisfied. As if I had suddenly woken up from a long coma and he had been reading to me the whole time, waiting for something to snap me out of it.
The next thing I knew, this teacher, who I really liked, had an interest in me. He saw something. A spark. He too loved David Lynch, and encouraged me to see the movie again (I lost count how many times I’ve seen it now) and eventually convinced me to perform a skit with a few others during class one day. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that feeling of “rightness”. It was so easy, and I was so good. I didn’t even have to try. It was as if my whole purpose in life was to write, read and perform for this class. Even the hottest guy in class seemed drawn to me (despite my obesity and shyness). It was intoxicating. I had confidence for the first time.
I developed a close relationship with Rob, and he became a huge influence in my life at the time. For our final we each had to perform a monologue in front of the entire class. I was really nervous. So much that I nearly missed my own performance after writing down the wrong time for the final. I walked through the door to our makeshift stage in the back of an old building and everyone turned and glared. I had walked in on someone’s performance. I was over an hour late.
I was horrified, and as if it couldn’t get any worse, once the woman I so rudely interrupted was finished, Rob stood up and announced the final performer…me. I’m not sure if it was by luck or design that he had me going last to begin with, and that I was so disruptive and late. But as I stepped up on the plywood stage my fear dissolved, and despite his frustration with my tardiness, I could see pride on his face as I started to speak.
I didn’t get a standing ovation, but I could tell my classmates were stunned. Here was this fat girl (who would be pretty if she lost weight and joined a sorority), and she just owned the room. Everyone. I don’t know how I ever forgot about that moment, or that class. Or why for the life of me I can’t remember Rob’s last name. Looking back, this was probably one of the most defining moments of my life.
Not long after stepping off that stage, I found myself starting a new life in San Francisco, and have never looked back.
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