I am so pumped for people to read this because Noelle has such an amazing story! I feel like really anyone, from any walk of life can relate to her story in some way because she examines how she overcame hopelessness. She has been through so much but is still able to find the good in just about everything. Please read, and share with your friends!
Leland: So tell me a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up? Were both of your parents in the picture?
Noelle: I’m from Tulsa Oklahoma, my mom was a single mom and my dad never really contacted me and if he did it was through the effort of somebody else. My mom never dated because she was too scared that she would bring somebody bad into our home.
Leland: What was your childhood like? Was it a pretty good experience? Were there any traumatic experiences?
Noelle: Growing up my mom and I were really really poor, and our house had got broken into constantly. I remember one time they took all of my Disney movies which was a horrible thing to do. Traumatic experience wise when I was younger my cousin who is the same age as me would use to touch me, and I never really told anyone, and I didn’t even really remember that it had happened because I had blocked it out for so long. There’s nothing I could do at the time because he was a lot bigger than me. He really is a good person now, but there was just a lack of self-control.
Leland: What was middle/high school like for you? Were you still in shock from what had happened between you and your cousin?
Noelle: At this point, I had completely blocked the experience I had with him out of my mind. My mom was making around $13 an hour and we still struggle. It’s amazing that she has even got me here (College) and I’m just beyond blessed that she’s my mom. When middle school came around I was mostly just angry and upset with my dad, and I took that out on my mom. I would just end up saying really mean and terrible things to her and I regret that so much because she has done everything for me and she has always put me before herself. I did notice around the same time that I started to feel hopeless, and I think that a lot of that had to do with the absence of my dad.
Leland: What did you mean by you started to feel “hopeless” in middle school.
Noelle: I remember in 6th grade I would lay in bed and my mom would have to pull the covers off of me and drag me out of bed just to try to get me to go school. At the same time, she still had to go to work and I would constantly make her late every day because she was trying to get me to school on time. This awful, but I remember one day I made up this lie so that the school would forgive my absences, and I said that one of the kids at school had taken me into the bathroom and “hurt” me. That was a lie, and luckily never mentioned anybody’s name, but I still feel horrible about that. I made up the lie because I thought that there was no reason for me to get up out of my bed. I was the same way even in the summer, I would tell myself “I have no purpose.” Which was pretty deep for an 11-year-old to think about, but still I wondered.
Leland: What really escalated you going downhill? Why did you continue to feel hopeless? Why were you anxious to go to school?
Noelle: I have always struggled with meeting people and just finding people that I can connect with. I don’t know why that is, but I just felt like I didn’t have any friends and at the time school work was crazy it was more than I had ever taken on before. I just felt overwhelmed and I knew that I would go to school and that there wasn’t going to be anybody there for me and I just guess that’s why I felt hopeless all in all. My mom had a problem with hoarding, and the house was always a mess. We used to have insects in our house, and just other terrible things. I remember that my dog would poop on the floor and she wouldn’t pick it up for months. Luckily I’m not that way at all, in fact, I’m kind of crazy about cleaning now. I ended up having to move in with my grandparents over the summer, but basically, for my entire life, my mom and I lived in that house. It was really hard, and it only made me more nervous because I felt like I was living two lives. I smelled like the house which I hated, even though I kept my room immaculate. I was nervous when my friends would ask to come over, and I would have to come up with excuses for why they couldn’t come over. All of this was a big part of why I started self-harming because I felt like nobody would help me.
Leland: What would you say was your rock bottom? Was there a certain point, or day?
Noelle: I would say that point didn’t really happen until my sophomore year of high school. I remember during October of that year began the downfall of everything. I don’t even really remember what brought it on, I just remember feeling like nothing was working. When I first got into high school I remember I was involved in everything. Every single organization they had I was involved in, I would literally just do everything to impress my dad but he never really cared. He still doesn’t care, and I remember thinking “this isn’t working.” If he didn’t care, and none of my friends cared, then nobody cared. I ended up trying to kill myself and I obviously didn’t succeed thankfully but I ended up having to go away to a mental hospital for about 3-4 days. For me, it was a horrible experience, and it honestly made me feel worse after attempting my suicide. I felt like I wanted to do it again while being there which was terrible.
Leland: Why did you want to commit suicide in the first place?
Noelle: I remember every time I started to feel myself slip away, I felt manic. I would try to do everything I could to feel better and stop feeling hopeless, but I just couldn’t. I would overload myself with work a lot of the time just so I didn’t have to go home and think about all that was going on. Thinking of all the emptiness that was going on was a truly terrible thing. Everything just became overbearing.
Leland: When did you start to regain control of your life?
Noelle: Really I quit everything I did in high school that I was trying to do to get my dads approval which lifted a lot off of my shoulders. I ended up putting everything that I had into theatre which was such a cathartic experience to tell stories from my own personal experiences. Honestly, theatre really and truly is my version of therapy. I got to meet my distant cousin who had been on Broadway for nearly 30 years, and he really taught me everything that I know now about acting. It’s really a great thing because now I have experience with talking about my story out loud. I also ended up getting the most amazing opportunity to sing with one of my favorite Broadway actresses Kristin Chenoweth and I remember her telling me that I was an amazing actress which was a major confidence boost for me.
Leland: Was there ever a certain point where you realized you were successful in regaining control of your life?
Noelle: I don’t think there is ever a certain point where you realize that you’re successful and that you are completely over your past, but I know that now I am so thankful for my past because it has made me the actress that I am today. I mean how many other 18-year-olds do you know that have gone through that much and have that much to draw on in their own performances? Just having the ability to make it real, because it is real it actually happened. So I think turning my past experiences into stories, and catharsis is really what made me a happier person even though we all still struggle
Leland: If you could go back in time and talk to Noelle the day before you went to the school to tell that lie that you had made up knowing all that you know now, what would you say?
Noelle: I would definitely say “don’t do it” because you are so much better than that and I would tell her that is an awful thing to do. I would also say being honest is one of the most important things that we can do. I’d also say “Things are hard right now, but you’re going to get everything that you’ve ever wanted.”
Leland: Why is life worth living now? What is your new excuse to live?
Noelle: I love what I do, it not only makes me feel good, but I also hope that I can reach somebody else out there. I just want to show people that theatre isn’t just for these “rich suburban white girls” but it’s also for people who don’t come from very much, and it is also for the actors who have a story to tell. Also, I am with the most amazing person right now, and he is just very supportive, and if nothing else I just want to stay alive to spend as much time as possible with him.
Leland: What is Noelle’s purpose here on earth?
Noelle: Probably to help other people who have gone through similar things, and I want to be there for people who need any storytelling outlet because I feel like movies and theatre can touch so many people and not just actors. I don’t really know what my purpose is honestly, but I really hope it is to help people because why else are we on this earth?
Noelle was super sweet, and I’m so honored to have gotten to talk to her. I love how grateful Noelle is, and how she has a passion to help others in need share their story. I’m stoked for her future here at Columbia College Chicago, and I’m glad that she has found light in through her dark. Noelle is a prime example of why life is worth living, and her story shows us how hope can always be found.
“To live without hope is to cease to live.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky