By Paige Kowalski
When I was first diagnosed with Tourette, I was 7 years old. It was a happy day for me, it wasn’t something that I was worried would inhibit me. Although I was incredibly happy to fit in with my family and have my diagnosis, as I got older I was more skeptical of my abilities. As my TS began to inhibit my movement and cause me chronic pain, I gave up on sports. I picked up theater more seriously, and then gave up on truly landing a leading role because of my inability to move fluidly in dance numbers. I was struggling to see myself live up to my dreams, but I was also incapable of giving up on what I loved most.
I transferred to a Votech for a theater program and found a love for stage management, not acting like I had originally been passionate about. It was a setback in my eyes until I realized how much I had pained over the fact that I wouldn’t act again, just to find a love for an involvement in theater that I appreciated just as much.
As my pain got worse and worse, I was struggling to continue with my passion. My teacher left the school and so did I, but I continued to seek out theatrical experience. It was the one place where I felt like I was appreciated for who I am, diagnosis and all. It was always a supportive and loving environment that had nothing but respect for their stage manager. When I originally stopped acting, I thought that my TS had stopped me from participating in my favorite activity, but I had to look at it from a different perspective.
I grew into stage management like I grew into my diagnosis, and I was thankful for the ability I had to continue being involved in theater. Without advocacy and being confident in myself I wouldn’t have continued with my passion of theater, and to lose something I love the most because I didn’t advocate for myself would have made me lose all confidence. I am so thankful that I pursued all of the different aspects of my interests because as a stage manager, I need to be able to speak to my company in a compelling and inspiring manner to keep their hopes up about our production. Without training to become a Youth Advocate, I don’t think that my communication skills would be where they are today, and because I continued as a Youth Advocate, I was essentially put into my place as a stage manager through my growing self confidence in my diagnosis.
What is something you thought you couldn’t do, but went for it anyway?
Paige Kowalski is an NJCTS Youth Advocate who acted in stage plays in high school and has worked as a stage manager. She also completed a summer apprenticeship at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. She’s currently studying psychology at Marist University.