“Step out, step out of the sun if you keep getting burned. Step out, step out of the sun because you’ve learned, because you’ve learned. On the outside, always looking in. Will I ever be more than I’ve always been? ‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass – I’m waving through a window.” – Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen is the Broadway musical that tells the story of a teenager who feels alone and wonders time and time again if anyone would ever notice if he just disappeared. The musical, winning six Tony awards, shares the message that everyone belongs – that no one should disappear (#youwillbefound). Being the Broadway geek that I am, Dear Evan Hansen is one of my many musical obsessions. Yet, this musical stands above others, as it connects so strongly with me. The feeling of not belonging is no stranger to me. It’s the feeling that no one would notice if I just disappeared, that what I say doesn’t matter because no one is even listening, that all I’m ever doing is waving through a window.
I struggle so much with finding people who I feel comfortable around and with who I connect. I always need to hide certain parts of myself, because I hate who I am. At times, I feel so ugly. I want to hide my arm that looks different. I don’t wear tank tops in order to hide the ugly scars that decorate my back. I can’t look in a mirror without seeing this person who doesn’t belong. People stare at me and ask me what’s wrong with my arm. And with those who don’t stare, I’m always afraid that I’ll do something that will make them want to stare. So shouldn’t I just hide? Shouldn’t I just disappear?
My mom always tells me that if I just have one good friend, I’m lucky. But I feel like I have no one. Either people who I thought were nice eventually show their true colors, or I push them away before they can hurt me. I don’t want to keep getting hurt. I don’t want to keep getting burned.
This week I’m in Dallas, Texas, for the National Speech and Debate tournament. I came close to having an undefeated speech season this school year, as I claimed a state championship and qualified for the national level. I loved my speech, in which I discussed the beauty bias found in society. I pushed myself to share my personal story with others and allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of people – something I had never done until this year. When preparing for the national tournament, my coach continued to tell me I had a chance to do really well. And the scary part was that I allowed myself to believe her. I allowed myself to dream of performing on the national stage in front of hundreds of people, sharing a message that I’ve struggled to learn all my life. It felt like this was my purpose. God had made me look different all my life, so I could share my message. I could let anyone else who had ever felt ugly that they are not alone. I allowed myself to believe that something good could happen, that miracles are truly possible.
But that was just a dream. After being cut, I felt like a failure. I kept asking myself why hadn’t God let this happen for me? I stepped into the sun only to get burnt.
And yet, Dear Evan Hansen has become such a phenomenon across the country simply because it’s a message to which so many people can connect. According to Los Angeles Times, in 2017 alone, 5016 males and 1225 females between the ages of 15 and 24 committed suicide in the United States. Especially in today’s culture that is driven by social media, in which everyone is able to create this illusion that their lives are perfect, it is so easy for individuals, specifically teens, to be completely consumed by the monster that is loneliness, depression, and self-loathing. The message that everyone belongs and that no one should disappear is needed now more than ever.
While not doing well at the national tournament does seem trivial compared to other problems some people are facing everyday, it was the push needed to make me spiral into the tunnel of sadness and the feeling of abandonment. I don’t know why God has given me so many challenges and has allowed me to feel so ugly at times and like I don’t belong. I wish I had answers. I wish I knew why. Hopefully, one day though, there will come a time when I can share my message and change lives. I know I’m not alone. There are people just like me who struggle to look in the mirror and like what they see. There are people who walk through the halls of school alone. There are people who ask God continually the same question “why?” There are people everywhere waving through a window.