Graduatingtheatre student Samm Madsen reflects on her time at BYU
My husband and I have a family motto: "If Nephi can build a boat with two guys who want to kill him, we can do whatever crazy thing the Lord asks us to do — we don't even want to kill each other!"
The first time we reached that conclusion was kneeling across from each other in our little apartment, me three months pregnant with our first daughter, deciding that we should follow the prompting for my husband to go on a music study abroad to Vienna, even though his return date would be a week after my due date. Emotionally, it was inconceivable; financially, it was hilarious. But spiritually, it was right. So we became shipwrights, and the story of my graduation became a story of sailing across increasingly wild seas and marveling at the hand of the Lord delivering us time and time again. As I have pondered the many boats the Lord has designed for us during my time at BYU, my heart is drawn to touch on two: Dramaturgy and Children.
Dramaturgy. My first time in a dramaturgy class, I loved the teacher, Shelley (who can't love her?). But as she spoke about "falling down the research rabbit hole," my eyes glazed over. "What a great field of study," I said to myself. "I'm so glad I am not studying it." Imagine my surprise when the Spirit whispered to me that dramaturgy was my boat to becoming the woman God wanted me to be! I was alarmed at exposing my weaknesses and overwhelmed at the prospect. Now, three years later — not to mention several sessions at the library, where I have spent hours researching such topics as "the perfect paper airplane design" for my capstone project — I can testify with gratitude that the Lord knew what He was doing. Not only did studying dramaturgy unearth and combine many of my natural talents, but it gently developed areas I needed for my next phase of life. It also became a home for me as I blended my identities of covenant keeper, scholar, theatre-maker and mom. What a fabulous boat it has been.
Children. Anyone who spends any decent amount of time in the HFAC has probably met our daughters. Or heard them. Or babysat them, whether planned or impromptu, as one of them takes off down the hallway and the other tries to climb the stairs. Thank you. I have heard many times, "I could never have kids while going to school — good for you!" from a stranger who is kindly handing me back a squirming child, smiling encouragingly at me and clearly wishing me every bit of success I can find. They only factor their own strengths and talents into that sentence. They can see their pile of homework and time constraints, but they don't see a network of Christlike students buoying them up, becoming an army of babysitters and nurturing their children alongside them. They can envision puke-crying into a toilet in the early phases of pregnancy, but they aren't envisioning the miracle of a priesthood blessing, administered by a loving husband, that allows them to puke all day, be perfectly healthy while performing in a show and then come home and puke some more. They can imagine their dreams of graduating with a certain GPA on the verge of being squished by a Spanish class, but they don't imagine a little voice praying, "Please bless mommy on her test today." A prayer that is answered. But I have seen all of those things, and now that I am on the other side, I can testify with Nephi that "if God had commanded me to do all things I could do them" (1 Nephi 17:50).
Everyone who passes through BYU has different boats to build. They are worth building. No matter how large, how strange or how intimidating they may be, when we yoke ourselves to Jesus Christ, we can build them. Splinters and storms were all part of my journey, but through the grace of the Savior, my family has been able to sail to the end of this degree. As I look back on the ocean we've crossed, the water sparkles.
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