Student Experience Blog

What a Toddler Taught Me in Denver, Colorado

The first thing I expected to see at a theater conference was a dude wearing a newsies hat supported by a long, curly haired ponytail.

Two seconds in the elevator and I was not disappointed.

The last thing I expected was for a random toddler to call me gross.

I was hiding behind the famous four-story blue bear when this opinionated child nearly ran into me. She stopped, dead in her tracks wearing a purple dress and matching sandals. The look up and down she gave me was instant and more judgmental than a contestant on The Bachelor. “You’re GROSS!” She yelled at me.

Kids are mean, but not in a way any adult could ever be, because they are honest. Kids do not understand what being “rude” is yet, so when they see a 21-year-old wearing Birkenstocks with socks who hasn’t taken a shower in three days, they are going to tell it like it is.

I am gross. Don’t get me wrong, I know this. I just don’t expect a toddler to shout it at me after finding me behind a giant blue bear. She didn’t hold back, and at first I was shocked while also being offended. Even though I agree, I was not happy to hear it.

But this little girl stood her ground defiantly. She did not run away. She did not hesitate. She stood there with her pigtails and pudgy face, stating facts like her life depended on it. And I respect her for it.

The theater conference I visited Denver for was incredible. I learned an immense amount about theater and about myself. I spent a good half of the conference believing that I was different from everyone around me. I didn’t grow up around theater kids, nor did I associate myself as one. So being around them for an entire week was…interesting. You learn a lot about yourself from the people around you.

I learned that I am not special just because I think I am. All these young theater kids thrive under the belief that their voice is the voice to be heard. They think they are special and spend countless hours believing they are perfect for whatever they audition for. They are not afraid to cut you off and stick themselves in front of you, chest out and fists clenched. But for good reason! This industry is incredibly cutthroat. Everyone competes for their chance, and not everyone gets it. When an opportunity presents itself to show what you've got, you show it. These tactics leak into their personalities and begin to show themselves even when there is no competition.

Experiencing this competitive lifestyle was incredibly refreshing. It helped me appreciate that I am not always in that mode, but when I am, I can survive (even if it feels like barely survival). I learned that I am not too different from these lively characters. I admire their fire, their fight. I respect their individuality and spunk. They’re all incredibly nice, as well.

I’m happy to be back on campus, though, where my chances of running into a toddler are few to none.

Kat Lizarraga is a senior creative writing major from Los Angeles, California.