JoJo LOVES Theater.

JoJo, Sheila and me

My friend JoJo just celebrated her 30th birthday. She is outgoing, and I remember this vividly because it was the first impression that I had of her my freshman year of college. We met as floor mates in the dorms at K-State the moving in weekend. JoJo introduced herself to me, and most everyone on the floor, and invited us to a house party. Looking back it’s hard to differentiate whether that was JoJo being outgoing and friendly or if part of it was pressure from her brother and his friends to bring some college freshman girls to their house party. Whichever the truth was, we have been friends ever since.

Several years after leaving the dorms we became roommates and shared a house with another friend Sheila. While I know that I invested more time in my education in college than I ever came close to in high school, I also realized that JoJo dedicated way more time to her degree than I did mine. She was so passionate about the theater program, theater activities, people from the theater program and theater classes that sometimes it even consumed Sheila and I’s time participating with her. It felt like I was living and breathing lighting design for those years living with JoJo. She went on to get her master’s in the field and teaches it at a major university currently.

Just tonight I talked with JoJo and she brought up a moment when she felt challenged by her investment in this passion. Her sophomore year of college she had her first opportunity to be the lighting designer for a KSU production. The same day that she needed to be in the theater setting up the lights and writing cues happened to be the same day that Mason died in a car accident. Mason was a friend of hers and if I remember correctly, he lived in the house where we went the first weekend as freshman to party.

The timing of these two events happening on the same day for JoJo strike me as significant. There is never an okay time for a tragic loss like Mason’s. However, in that moment she was shown that some sacrifices may have to be made in pursuit of her passion. “The show must go on,” so JoJo finished her job with the lighting while friends of Mason gathered to share stories and mourn the loss together. Today it still sounds like JoJo regrets missing that time with friends while in the theater. Despite the learning that she had to have processed that day about what she may have to give up for involvement in theater she continued to pursue the job she loves.

I wonder what it would be like if everyone had a job they could be passionate about? She inspires me to think about what am I dedicating myself to and is it worth the effort if it is something I don’t really love?

Okay so theater did involve a lot of long hours, late nights and some monotonous tasks. It did also have its perks – a long list of larger than life cast members who love to cut loose and have a great time too. We had a fantastic college experience together full of important traditions, funny memories and support for each other when it was needed. I put a photo album together for JoJo to recognize her birthday and our friendship.

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