Breaking Free from My Old Self

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[Written by Tara Smith]

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So I’m 12 years old, chilling on the sofa, remote in one hand, while I wait on my best friend to put the DVD on. We’ve planned our whole sleepover out: fluffy PJs on, a bowl each of sweets, and hot chocolates. I am so ready to watch and fall asleep to a movie I have seen a hundred times before; recite all the best lines, play on my phone at the sad parts, then fall asleep at the end credits. But this isn’t the movie I expected.

Soft snowflakes drift across the screen as I see the words that would indefinitely imprint upon my entire identity: ‘High School Musical’.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘High School Musical’ is just a movie about some ‘angsty’ teens singing about their woes in the cafeteria, in between occasional shouts of “go wildcats!”, right? Well, that is partly true, but ‘High School Musical’ was more than that to me – it was just what I had been looking for.

Troy Bolton has always been a character I’ve connected with. Yes, he may appear to be the stereotypical jock that my mum used to label simply as “eye candy”, but to me, I saw, and still see, so much of myself in him. All of the questions he’s asking himself, urged me to look at my own life: who am I? What do I want to do with my life? Whose advice should I follow? Do I listen to myself or others?

Singing may be the start of something new for Troy, but the intense passion that he has for performing is truly undeniable, even to himself. However, basketball is what Troy has been playing his whole life. Again, his talent for playing is indisputable, but in this instance, there is pressure for Troy to perform. The pressure exerted from not only his father and his friends, but from the whole of society, is immense. Troy has been conditioned to conform to the gender stereotype that males should do sport, not theatre.

Thus he is torn between sticking to the status quo and breaking free from these expectations and doing what he wants to do. As Troy enters into this new phase of life, he finds himself caught in-between the stage of childhood; in which you do what is expected of you and what others tell you to do, and the stage of adolescence; where you discover yourself and make your own decisions. With this stage comes the complexities of falling in love for the first time, falling out of love with friends for the first time, and falling from structured expectations.
I may have still been a child while watching this realisation slowly dawn upon Troy, but I was also coming to the point in my life where I would have to leave the supportiveness of childhood and enter into the freedom of adolescence. I always found this a daunting prospect: the idea that I would have to make so many important and life altering decisions, based entirely on myself and by myself. Because all stereotypes are superficial generalisations. Like Troy, I needed to break free from these stereotypes in order to properly be myself.

Sometimes people expect you to have your head in the game. But that’s not always possible. Sometimes you just need to take a step back out of this game and look at yourself and decide what you want to do. Examine what’s happening, what the rules are, if they can be bent, what the risks are that you need to take in order to make the best decision for yourself. As Gabriella would say, you gotta go your own way.
‘High School Musical’ was a new ball game: and it encouraged me to be more than myself, to try new things, to try multiple things at the same time, and to sing as loudly and passionately as I could.

[Image Description: a still from the film ‘High School Musical 2’ of Zac Efron’s character, Troy, during the song ‘Bet on It’ against a light blue background. He is clearly emotionally distressed and is reaching out his hands whilst wearing a black shirt.]


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