Honorable mention — Haidee Clauer: Life is not a dress rehearsal

By Haidee Clauer

Haidee Clauer

Dress rehearsals have a notorious tendency to disappoint. No matter how much hard work has gone into memorizing lines, cues and blocking, and regardless of the hours spent building sets, sewing costumes and programming lights, something always seems to go wrong. The first time I acted in a play, the shock of the final run-through, with scenes — that once flowed like clockwork — suddenly stopping and sputtering chaotically, surprised and terrified me. As my peers quickly assured me that this was a reliable phenomenon, I learned that a rough dress rehearsal is often irrelevant to — or even indicative of — a seamless performance.

To some people, this sounds like a sound metaphor for a perfect afterlife.

Indeed, entropy teaches us that in the natural laws of the universe, everything — not just that dress rehearsal — tends towards disorder. The lights might not glow as you hope; your outfit might not fit as you want. We find ourselves fumbling for words and grasping for a sense of where to go, and sometimes it feels as if our entire surroundings are crumbling around us.

However, life and all its flaws are not a dress rehearsal for the afterlife.

What doctrines comprise the illusion of an afterlife? If we worship an afterlife, craving infinite life, wealth and power, we are held hostage by greed. Conversely, if we subscribe to the fear-mongering idea of hell or purgatory, life may easily become overwhelmed by the agonized uncertainty of the imperfect dress rehearsal. Caught between these two extremes, every word, step, and action becomes infected with fear or thirst for immortality. When we live with the expectation that an afterlife will gift us with limitless joy, and when we focus our vision on the narrow road to get there, we lose sight of the salience of living.

I reject both presumptions of an afterlife not out of disdain for these unproductive, even selfish, motivations, but instead out of immense appreciation for the alternative: Life as the ultimate performance, not the dress rehearsal. Rather than pretend that the entropy, adversity, and issues around me will resolve themselves in an afterlife, I am driven to use all of my abilities to make this world a better place. Without a constant need to maintain a perfect appearance in the spotlight, I work to shine light on those overlooked or unrewarded by society and use my voice to advocate for others. I maintain deep gratitude for my community, friends and family while learning how to direct my life with creativity and independence. When situations leave me disappointed, I don’t wait to learn from them and grow with the fuels of compassion and hope. I am able to create and relish a life overflowing with “love and laughter,” and for that, I love living in the present.

Haidee, 18, attended Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Overland Park, Kan. She played varsity soccer, cross country and basketball, and worked at a smoothie shop, and also as a tutor and guitar teacher. She was her school’s newspaper editor, student council president, and four-time actor in the annual play. She will be a freshman at Pomona College, where she plans to study molecular biology and journalism.