TAF Real World – Week #13 of 51

In case you’re all wondering, TAFLabs is not paying anyone to write these beautiful testimonials. Here’s Steph for WEEK 13 (or 38 weeks ’til TAF!) with a JH flashback and how TAF impacts her real world.

It’s currently 4:37 AM. And maybe it’s not the best idea to be writing my blog post in my current state of caffeine-induced delirium, but here it goes.

Here’s more context: I’m going on what feels like the hundredth hour of working on a proposal for my thesis that is worth 100 percent of my grade for the next two quarters. There is a giant pile of dirty laundry in the corner with a plate with remains from dinner perched precariously on top. The only clean surface in my whole room is the one I am currently sitting on and I can’t remember the last time I actually left my room. Needless to say, I’ve become a bit of a hermit over the past few days.

I just got to the point where I couldn’t read another word about legal claims and wanted to watch something short that would make me feel better. So of course, I turned to my facebook minifeed. Oddly enough, the JH staff video popped up and as I watched it, I thought back to my first year at TAF and the first JH swing choir I was in.

Back in 2001, my mom would always call me the “caboose of a train” because I never spoke and I always did whatever anyone told me to do. I was terrified of getting up in front of people and speaking. In fact, right before TAF that year, my parents made me attend a theater camp to try to make me open up. I only had to say one word in the end-of-camp show, but even that made me so nervous I threw up beforehand. So you can imagine how terrified I was when I found out I would be front and center for JH swing choir. I dreaded going up on that stage and dancing in front of everyone.

But those first few days gave me an experience I had never felt at other summer camps I’d gone to. Between the hip shong scavenger hunt where we all had to pretend to pick each other’s noses and finally getting the experience of having the older siblings I had always wanted (shout-outs to Tim Kuo and Jessica Fu), I gained feelings of comfort and inclusion that I had never felt before. The night of the Tea House brought these feelings to a whole new level. But rather than talk about that as my current 21-year-old self, I’ll let my 11-year-old self take it from here:
(taken from my diary) “Today we had a dance at TAF. I don’t know how to dance so I stayed in my room. But Annie (my counselor) came because she realized I wasn’t at the dance.

She asked if I was ok and asked if I wanted go dance with her. Annie’s super cool so I wanted to go but I’d never gone to a dance before so it was scary. But she pulled me to the dance floor to dance to Britney Spears and it was so much fun! And after we danced she gave me a hug and said she’d always be there to talk if I needed to talk. I didn’t know what to say to that. My parents haven’t said anything like that to me before. I don’t think I’ve ever even hugged my parents. So why does Annie care? Why does everyone at TAF seem to care? Do I finally actually belong somewhere?”

As an 11 year-old, that night made me realize the effect TAF had on me. It’s the same effect that drew me back to be a counselor after a 5-year hiatus. That was the night I first felt the TAF connection that I feel up to this day when I randomly meet up with TAFers on random trips, from Illinois to New York to Taiwan. Being part of that community gave me confidence in who I was and confidence to be more open. After TAF was over, I started trying out for roles in school plays, started opening up to my friends more, and started being more involved in extracurricular activities because I finally felt like I could. Every year I went back to TAF, I gained more confidence and a greater sense of who I was and that drove me to come back year after year.

By the end of that first week at TAF, everything that week came together and made me feel like all my fears were completely unjustified. I ended up going on stage with my hair in full mullet glory (apparently I thought it was a good look for me) and performing on stage as I had never done before. For once before I went on stage, I was excited. I didn’t feel like I had to throw up, I just felt like I was about to have a lot of fun.

I’ll turn back to my 11-year-old self to conclude:
(taken from a diary entry from the last day of TAF) “All the counselors told us they loved us today. I thought love was gross until now. It’s always been about boys and girls kissing to me. But now I know there’s different love. TAF love isn’t gross. I like TAF love. Everyone keeps saying it lasts forever. I hope it really does last forever.”

What’s YOUR fave JH flashback?
We want to hear/see/read/experience your thoughts on LOVING OUT LOUD! Whether it’s how you showed love to someone, or how someone loved on you, or maybe even both!

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