By Fahad Ken Alden
Behind all the beauty of evolving and changing, buying cars and homes, finding romantic partners, and earning a nice career paycheck, all these great things come with a challenging concept – CHANGE.
It was only when I began therapy and daily journaling that I realized why I feared change so much. This realization hit like a bolt from the blue. My fear was connected to losing control and safety. But more than that, I realized my anxiety held me back from discovering who I was as a person outside of the labels I and everyone attached to me.
Instead of running away from this year, I started experimenting with changes I have always wanted to make. I switched up my hair and style. I took new courses at school. I made many new decisions to see if I could test myself and do it.
Facing the Fire
At first, choosing to step into the role of assistant theatre student felt daunting. It was outside the normal scope of my media work and work with kids.
Uncertainty bred mistakes as I struggled with technical set measurements. Professor Kathleen assured me to take a deep breath and take it step by step. She also began drawing me visual cues and hacks to understand the concept better. This helped me immensely when we did flats and built the door for the play. Just remembering to breathe and let go of rigid self-judgment helped me to uplevel my competencies. Progress began with extending grace to myself.
Another big learning moment was understanding the importance of an organized workflow. As a slightly messy person, I discovered satisfaction in using spreadsheets to track costumes and props. While the work took a while at the start, it saved me ample time in the long term. Now, when I need to find something, instead of having to wage a mental war to locate it, my labels and sheets save me time. This became a habit that I incorporated into my personal life, too.
I also learned the value of tiny details. Sometimes, we all get so preoccupied with the bigger picture that we forget to kill our darlings. One wrong measurement, one terrible shade of paint, or an improperly implemented light can throw off the whole play or, worse yet, hurt someone. It’s these seemingly insignificant details that can make or break a performance.
My favorite “a-ha” moment occurred while programming stage lighting for an intense murder mystery scene. Playing with shadows, silhouettes, and color palettes made me feel like a magician of moods.
Productions thrived on teamwork. Sometimes, as people attach labels as forms of taking power, we take control away. Taking classes outside of my major connected me to people of myriad personalities. I found that experience so true when we arrived at the painting section of lab hours.
Painting requires a great amount of time. You have to ensure you get the right amount of paint, that it doesn’t get on your clothes, and that you are painting the right areas. But there was beauty in that limitation that I enjoyed exploring. I found a connection with other lab members, and we exchanged pointers, cracked jokes, and connected personally.
Owning My Transformation
This role allowed me to grow outside the expectations I had of myself. I learned organizational skills, creativity, and tenacity while meeting some amazing people. We all have the potential agency to change our identity – no permission slip needed.
Let me say that I do not have everything figured out. For instance, I am still figuring out where I misplaced my last three pairs of headphones. However, I enjoy tasting the sweet nectar of change as I move away from past and old narratives to explore who I am becoming.
Fahad Alden, a junior at the University of Massachusetts–Lowell, is the first Arab American Student Trustee and Bedford Public Library Trustee. A Media major with a minor in Theatre Arts, Fahad is also a dedicated Wellbeing Leader. He is an Iraqi refugee who came to the States at six years old.