"Lean into the Love"- by Abi Crigler

Recently I had the opportunity to have breakfast with SDP Alum, Abi Crigler when she was home on a break from college. Throughout the conversation we kept coming back to one topic, kindness. Most people would think that two theatre people might be discussing parts or the negative things that come with the territory of a show…but not with Abi. That’s one of the things I love about Abi. When she and I get together and talk its always about celebrating someone’s success or their growth. At the end of our breakfast I asked her if she would consider being a guest blogger and share her experience with kindness in the theatrical world. -Lindsay Kelly

When I was just starting out in theatre, I was that kid. We ALL know that kid. I was too loud, perpetually off-key, and quite frankly a brat to most everyone, and though I was essentially flat Sprite personified, the one thing I remember wanting more than anything was for people to like me. I wanted to feel popular and beloved and talented. I wanted to feel like I was more than the bespectacled nerd every ten year old feels trapped as.

As I grew up, I found that these feelings were not unique to me. I found that, in fact, almost everyone felt that way and still feels that way sometimes, and it made me wonder why, if we’ve all experienced this, don’t we try a little harder to do for each other what we all want. Why don’t we try to like each other and know each other more?

So, as any hopelessly dramatic middle schooler does when coming to an existential conclusion, I decided to try and change. Slowly but surely, I began acting less like every kid that dies in Willy Wonka and more like a person who knows we are all on this struggle bus together. I started talking to more people and tried to include them in my life. I started listening a bit more and shouting about how great people are, instead of how bad life is. I began to love people and, in turn, my life.

Anything good I may have done in anyone else’s life somehow managed to enrich mine tenfold. At SDP alone, the people I thought I was helping and mentoring and loving were actually much more significantly helping, mentoring, and loving me. Marianna Luce wrote me a thank you note for my note during Shrek Jr. that had precisely the encouraging words I needed to hear right when I needed to hear them (may or may not have cried in the bathroom because of it). The Studio Boys in Hairspray Jr. gave some hilarious input on my college applications during rehearsal breaks, making something extremely daunting somehow fun. Henry Hartmann being my backstage dance partner, hype man, and friend has lifted my spirit on many a rough day. These fantastic humans, plus the million more we are fortunate to have a part of the SDP company, are bursting with love and remind me of the best I can be all the time now.

This being said, I also know people can be the most messy business of all, and it is really not easy (I used to basically be the human version of Dial Up Internet, so I know). They snap at us for what feels like no reason. They ignore us, exclude us. They can be just outright mean. But, being a person is probably the most difficult thing any of us will ever try to do, and we will almost certainly screw it up at one point or another too. We will snap at the people we love. We will be selfish and exclusive. We will sometimes just be outright mean. We will hurt other people in the same way others have hurt us. Its simply a reality of life.

However, this reality doesn’t mean we are confined to just these things and mistakes. We are also people with a capacity to love deeply, care passionately, and forgive tremendously. We can and have to give people the grace to be people and the love and the support they need because we will all need that at some point. We need to do our best to focus our energy on being all those good things to each other because life is so much tougher for us and them when we don’t. We need to lean into the love and light and joy we have and recognize the grace we all need.

Today, I am still too loud, now a recovering tone deaf, and, I hope, significantly less of a brat, but I still really want to be liked…like everyone. The only imperfect advice I can offer about getting along with people is to remember we all want to be liked and that we all will really mess up and don’t deserve it all of the time. Keeping that in mind, we should try to help and love and like each other as much as we can to make it through. You may even get some really incredible friends out of it. Love you and good luck.

-Abi Crigler