I have an alarming amount of highly specific playlists on Spotify. One for when I need a good cry but the tears refuse to appear naturally (Sia, Breathe Me), one for when I wake up feeling like complete and utter shit and just need to dance it out before work (Ruby Blue, Roisin Murphy), one for when I’m working with the kids (ABBA, all ABBA). There’s a playlist for when I’m going up steep hills, one for when it’s raining, one for bedtime, one for long bus rides, one to be played while reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and one for when I’m feeling a bit down and need a reminder of how incredible I am (early morning hump day compliments to oneself are the best type of compliments).
Dear Evan Hansen now features heavily in each and every one of these playlists.
I’m fairly certain I drove my roommate completely bonkers with my repeat (if I’m being honest, continuous) performances of ‘Waving Through a Window’ (sorry but not completely sorry Laura).
Here’s the thing. I LOVE Broadway. There are many a Broadway performance on my bucket list and I hope with all my heart that my next big vacation will include one of them. I can’t sing to save my life, and am an absolutely horrific dancer (I blame Darlene’s Dance Academy), but after becoming a best-selling author, my next big dream is to be on Broadway. I know every word to La Vie Boheme and Defying Gravity and shed more tears than I knew I had stored in my body while watching The Tony Awards acceptance speeches. But I’ve never been as affected by a show as I was by ‘Dear Evan Hansen’.
Just to be clear, I haven’t seen it. All of my knowledge comes from listening to the songs on repeat and watching any and every clip I can find on Youtube. I honestly didn’t even pay it much attention at first. But the first time I heard ‘Waving Through a Window’ I was so taken aback by how much I related to it that I had to take a moment and sit down (before promptly running off to the bathroom to collect my overly-emotional self).
God, how many times have I stayed silent in a social situation for complete fear of saying the wrong thing?!
Social anxiety is something that has plagued me since seemingly forever. It’s what adults labelled as being “shy” as a kid but was always so much more. It was the gut-churning feeling in my stomach when I was forced into new social settings, the drops of cold sweat that dripped down my back whenever I had to speak out in class, the all-encompassing fear of doing something “weird” or “wrong”. My anxiety was also largely amplified by childhood bullying (I’m pointing directly at you Jewish community of Edmonton, you right bastards).
I spent ages 7-18 doing my best to stay quiet and out of the center of attention. Doing the bare minimum to interact with anyone who wasn’t in my immediate circle of friends. Back then (because at the ripe ol’ age of 25 I can officially say things such as “way back then when I was a kid”…) mental health was even more taboo. I didn’t have so much as a school counselor and my parents were wary of seeking professional help for me. I love them so dearly, but I’ve always wished that I had seen some sort of professional when I first started spiraling into mental illness. My anxiety controlled my life. The thought of having to read aloud in class made me physically ill. I was constantly trying my hardest to fool my parents into letting me take sick days, not because I didn’t like school, but because I couldn’t stomach the thought of certain interactive lessons. The thought of attending high school was so terrible, it drove me to convince my parents to send me to boarding school in Israel.
I was weird, I didn’t belong, and I much preferred my books over most human beings.
I wish I would’ve had something like Dear Evan Hansen back then.
Shows such as Dear Evan Hansen are so incredibly important to anyone who has ever struggled with anxiety. More than that – anyone who has ever felt as though they “just don’t belong”. It publicly validates our emotions and fears and even more – it raises awareness. To all us kids who were outsiders (not by our own conscious choice) – it gives us a voice. The character of Evan Hansen is so beautifully and emotionally portrayed by Ben Platt, I don’t even know where to begin. I look at him (the character…OK, and also the incredible Ben himself) and just see so much of myself. To actually see the show would no doubt induce a completely hysterical emotional reaction of absolutely epic proportions.
The music works for every situation. ‘You Will Be Found’ is played on repeat when I feel an anxiety attack beginning to rear its head. ‘Sincerely Me’ is in my writing playlist along with ‘Anybody Have a Map’. ‘If I Could Tell Her’ and ‘Waving Through a Window’ and ‘Only Us’ get me up every steep hill I come across. ‘Words Fail’…well, if I’m being completely honest, it’s my “I’m too ashamed to admit that I need a good cry so I’m getting in the shower to sob-sing to my hearts desire without anyone hearing me” song.
These songs changed how I view my anxiety. There are so many factors that led to me finding the inner strength and courage to make my struggles, both past and present, public. These songs, this show, Evan Hansen – they were one of the big ones. It’s so rare to find a realistic portrayal of anxiety in the entertainment world. To me, and no doubt countless others, ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is an incredible revelation. It’s a reassurance that there is indeed hope for even us wayward souls. We are not as alone as our inner voices lead us to believe.
If you’re having a day where the weight of the world is dragging you down and you feel as though you’re the only broken one – listen to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’. Play ‘You Are Not Alone’ on repeat. Watch Ben Platt’s Tony acceptance speech.
I promise, for a moment (if just a moment) all will seem right in your world.