I received an out-of-the-blue phone call today from a former student:
“Hey, Mrs. Luke! It’s Bradley. I’m driving to my new station and you won’t believe what I just saw…Laramie, Wyoming.”
In 2016, I directed a 30-minute cutting of Tectonic Theatre Project’s The Laramie Project with my high school kids. The play is built from interviews of a wide variety of residents of Laramie following the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998. It’s the story of a small college town’s reaction to a crime and the impact of suddenly being in the spotlight. There was controversy I didn’t expect (perhaps I should have). That company of high school students did extraordinary work, and they were recognized for it in extraordinary ways.
Bradley is serving in the Navy now. He’s driving across the country from South Carolina to Washington State, where he’ll be a Nuclear Machinist Mate on a submarine. He successfully completed 27 three-credit college courses in six months to prepare for the job.
This kid I know.
This south central Nebraska not-exactly-rockstar high school student completed 81 credit hours in SIX MONTHS, and he’s on his way to serve on a submarine, servicing the nuclear reactor.
“Remind me how old you are now, Bradley.”
“Twenty-three. So, five years ago, did you have even the slightest inkling that this is what your life would look like now?”
(Scoffing sound) “No. Not at all.”
As a senior in high school, I remember being asked frequently in interviews in essay questions, “Where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10) years?”
I always hated this question. I mean… how should I know?…Okay, I’m going to a four year college, so I’ll be one year out of college if all goes as planned. I hopefully will have a job and a place to live….
Bradley asked me about Larkin and marveled, as I do, that she’ll be two in July.
“She’s amazing…I never imagined this is how my life would look either.”
Bradley said, “My dad asks me sometimes if I would do anything differently. I always tell him, I wished I had started One Act and Speech as a freshmen.”
“I am so glad it was positive for you.”
“Oh, it meant so much. You’re a really good teacher Mrs. Luke.”
I told him how proud I was of him and how awed I am at the work he’s done and doing.
On this road trip across the country, he told me, he’s stopped in a few places to see some theatre. And as he passed by Laramie, Wyoming, he called his high school theatre director (and junior high language arts teacher) to tell me how much the work–the work never included in any Where Do You See Yourself answers–had meant to him.
And that phone call meant so much to me. I am beyond moved that he called. I am beyond grateful that I answered.
I’m not living the musical theatre dreams of my 18-year-old self in New York, but I am where I am meant to be, having meandered a road I never expected, and starting yet another new chapter.
So Soon-To-Be Graduates!
Dream big–I mean Beyond-What-You-Think-Is-Possible BIG–
Get in the Arena and Dare Greatly.
AND keep your hearts WIDE open!
You never know where God might lead you and who you might impact along the way.
(And learn to budget and live on less than you make. Learn it early. You can thank me later.)