It isn’t where I am, it’s only where I go from here that matters now…
This is my love letter to Amelie, a new musical, about to be an no-more musical, gone too soon from the stage, but always and forever in my heart.
To understand this love letter, I’m going to need to give you a little bit of backstory, so buckle in.
I grew up on Amelie. I’m sure I saw it at an “appropriate age,” I suppose, but I actually don’t remember what age that was, but I think it was shortly after it came out, so I would’ve been around 8th or 9th grade. My French teacher used to show the movie in class and wave a manila folder in front of the screen during the not-so-school appropriate scenes. My parents also loved the film, I bought my brother the piano score for his birthday, and then ended up teaching myself some of the songs on summer during college when I decided to try and reteach myself piano after years of not playing- and one of those songs is currently the only song I still remember how to play. I wrote countless papers to the soundtrack in high school and college, studied to it for hours on repeat. In 11th grade I spent 3 months studying in France, and it was so incredibly exciting to watch the movie without subtitles and actually understand what was being said. It brings me joy in a unique and beautiful way. The story is quirky and beautiful and simple and lovely.
When I heard there was going to be a musical, I was, I admit, skeptical. I love the movie so much, and I just would have never imagined turning it into a musical… I was anxious they were going to Americanize and taint something that I loved so much by trying to force it to be something it was never meant to be… but I was cautiously optimistic. And the pre-Broadway run was in Los Angeles, where I currently live! It was PERFECT, I obviously had to go.
Here’s the deal, though. It wasn’t just that I was skeptical about the musical. I was also anxious about going back to this story. It had been two and a half years since I last entered into it, and the last time I had seen it… was not a good memory. I was spiraling into a bad bout of my chronic illness, with a new boyfriend, who took advantage of me and my body while in my drugged state. It’s not something I like to talk about or think about. So I had set Amelie and all she was and I loved about her on the back burner. Better to just not go back there right now.
The musical offered me a unique opportunity to revisit the story I love but without all the memories I wanted to avoid attached. And I was going to grab hold of that opportunity and not let go.
So I started to pray. Lord, please let this be a good memory. Please let this be a new memory. Please let this in some way redeem and make new this thing I love and was stained. Please, will you show me you love me, please will you make this a good night?
At the same time, I had just starting seeing someone over the past couple of months leading into the seeing the show, and was sorting through a lot in therapy… fears about moving into a new relationship after my abusive one, fears about if I was ready, or how to know if I should jump in or run away, figuring out how to open myself up again with so many old wounds and PTSD that were causing me panic and anxiety.
So as I entered into the show, I had a lot on my mind and my heart. But I was focused on one little thing. Lord, give me a good memory tonight. That’s all I wanted. But he had so much more planned.
I decided to invite all the friends I have in LA and have gone to shows with before to join me… because I wanted to spend the night with people I love seeing a story I love put in a new way. In the end, every single person, some even bringing other friends along, said YES. I bought FIFTEEN tickets to the show. I didn’t even realize I bought tickets for the official “opening night” until later.
I was still nervous about the show, but I was thrilled to be going with all these people I love. I’m an extrovert, and so getting to spend time with all my friends together is literally everything to me. One of my best friends, who I took to see Hamilton with me earlier that year on my birthday, was even going be in town visiting me from NYC, so she got to join me, too. I already knew going into the show that God had heard my request to make the night a good memory and was saying, yes, of course, more than you even wanted or expected.
And then I saw the show.
There have been a few times in my life where I have known that a particular song or story was played or told specifically at a moment because God was directly speaking to me through the lyrics. Listening to “Let It Be” at a high school dance competition. Listening to “Hopeless Wanderer” while deciding if I should quit my job and start travel nursing. And, now added to the list, watching the finale of Amelie.
The musical did this sort of amazing thing, in that by Americanizing the story, and by pulling out the themes more obviously, it made me realize themes from the movie in a deeper way than I had before. I didn’t expect to walk away loving the story even more than I already did, but the musical had different plans.
They added this theme to the musical about Amelie trying to solve Zeno’s paradox, how can two people touch if they only ever make it halfway there? The other main theme in the version of the show I saw was about everything being connected, and life being about how what comes before is all leading into what comes next. Amelie sings during Times Are Hard For Dreamers, “It isn’t where I am, it’s only where I go from here that matters now, and I am not afraid.” I should add this to my daily mantra. It’s so in tune with what my brain needs to remember on a regular basis. Yesterday is gone, unchangeable and untouchable. Today is the only thing I can act in, and I can do SO MUCH when I focus on what I’m going to do today.
I believe the moment that particularly cut right to the open wound in my heart and covered it with a balm of truth and love has been cut from the show since I saw it, which makes it even more powerful to me that I saw it when I did, at the time I did, for the reason I did. As best as I can, I’m summing up that moment here.
First, the glass man calls Amelie and tells her that her bones won’t break if she tries takes this risk and tries to make a connection with this boy she’s clearly attracted to on multiple levels (Hi, yes, hello, I’m afraid to enter into my own new relationship because I could get hurt again). And then, after opening the door and finally meeting halfway with Nino, the finale at the time starts…
And every step forward that followed brought her here… everyone is falling as their lives come into view, and everyone’s connected though they may not know it’s true, we form a trail of breadcrumbs, but what are we leading to? … Pull the curtain tight and adjust the seat, lean into the light, don’t forget to breathe, when the booth goes bright, it’s what you can’t see, it is everything that brought you here to me.
I swear in the moment, time stopped for me. Everything I had been worried about, or anxious about, or trying to recover from all converged in the moment on this night watching this show.
Erin, your abuse is not the end of your story. Erin, your abuser doesn’t get to steal your happiness and joy. Erin, you can learn to trust again, you can let go of your fears and take a step forward, and I will meet you there. Erin, there is more to this story, and you don’t see it yet, but I’m leading you somewhere out of this. I’m leading you to something new that is deeper and richer and better.
It’s what you can’t see. It is everything that brought you here. It is everything that brought you here. It is everything that brought you here.
Let me caveat to make clear that my abuse will never be okay. Abuse is never “worth it” for whatever comes after. Abuse is wrong and awful and terrible. There’s never a “you had to go through this, so it was actually good.” But my abuse is part of my story. It’s part of my history and part of how I react to life now. I’m not thankful for it. But I’m thankful for how I’ve responded to it, and how I’ve let it change me and how I’ve let it not change me. I’m thankful for what I’ve learned, and I’m thankful for what came next. My abuse brought me here, to where I am now. Running to LA for rescue and sanctuary and relief, and pause. Pause to breathe, pause to find church community again, which God abundantly provided, pause to start therapy, which I desperately needed (I thought for the abuse, but even more so for my chronic illness, which I had not thought to seek therapy for before). And that pause led to LIFE. My new life, here, in LA. Close to so many close friends, who are now even better friends, plugged into my church, thriving at work. Accepted and now started into grad school to become a Nurse Practitioner. Dating someone who treats me with respect and supports me and is patient and kind and thoughtful and good.
God said, okay, Erin, you’re looking behind, at this memory you want to forget? That memory is nothing but a moment. A moment that led you here, to this. I can redeem this. I will redeem this. I am redeeming this. You are mine and I love you and there is more to this story. There is more to your story, there is more to your story, there is more to your story.
So, that’s how I ended up hard core SOBBING at the Ahmanson surrounded by 14 of my friends. Sobbing at an intensity that did NOT make sense given the context of the show. Like, tears? Sure. Can’t breathe because you’re crying so hard? A little extreme.
And I was like, okay, okay, I get it God. I hear you. Thank you.
And that could have been it. Because it was perfect and beautiful and wonderful.
But then GOD WAS LIKE LOL OKAY ONE LAST GIVE THOUGH BECAUSE I JUST REALLY LOVE YOU and my roommate got in line for the photobooth and Rowan Blanchard who I ADORE got in line after her and I went up to join my roommate who had gone ahead of us, and then was like, oh, hello Rowan, who I had literally spent all year hoping to get a (nonblurry) picture with and getting to get a chance to briefly tell how glad I am that she’s doing everything she is to improve the world and be a good role model for so many young women and push them to think more deeply about the world they live in. And I got to meet her dad and tell him nice things about his kid, and then watch them both buy and leave wearing tiny santa hats the staff was wearing and honestly it was the most beautiful icing on the most beautiful cake of answered prayer.
Every single moment of this night felt like God taking what felt like a simple prayer and saying, your simple prayer was not good enough, I have so much more to give you. You haven’t even begun to understand the depth and scope of my love for you.
I was asking one small question… “Could you give me a good memory?” and he replied lavishly, of course, of course, of course. More than you ever dreamed, of course. And he answered the deeper questions in my heart, the ones I was afraid to even ask. “Can you really heal this?” You will not break. “Can I really ever be free from this?” It’s not what came before but what comes next. “How can I move forward” Take a step, then another step. “How can I trust or try to learn to love again?” I’ll meet you halfway.
Truly, truly, this night will always be one of my sweetest and strongest memories of God saying loud and clear, Erin, my daughter, I love and delight in you, and my plans for you are good and sweet, and the bad things in your past do not and will not ever define you, I am redeeming them all. And it brought you here, to this moment, to this place, with all these friends, to this man you’re now dating, to the healing and strengthening you’ve done as you’ve done the work in therapy. And this is just the start.
What happens next? I don’t know.
Will there be troubles? I don’t know. Will there be sweet things? I hope so.
So, this little show, which is opening and closing on Broadway before it even found it’s legs… this show that has been workshopped and tweaked and changed… this show that so many people have worked on and might be walking away thinking “this was a failure,” please believe me when I say that this show and the work you did to make it a reality was a direct means of grace on my heart and my life. It took my raw, hurting, scared heart and pulled it close and rubbed it with balm and pushed me back into the world knowing that I will be okay. And I can’t thank you enough.
Also thanks to this guy who stayed super late and let all my friends get pictures in the photobooth, you are the real hero.
(PS. I went to see the show before it closed in January with my by then official boyfriend. While I was less emotional, it was equally as lovely, and I’ve been anxiously anticipating the cast album, and gobbling up anything I can to tide me over.)