Changed for Good

The musical, Wicked, is celebrating its 20th year on Broadway. It takes place in The Land of Oz, before the arrival of Dorothy, and tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba and Galinda, who later become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.

So, I pulled up my favorite songs from Wicked to listen to them again. Isn’t it funny how you can hear a song many times over the course of several years and then one day, it really hits you? You hear it in a whole new way, and then it haunts you for days. That’s what happened when I listened to, “For Good,” which is the song sung before the two friends go their separate ways. I’ve been musing on these lines:

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better

But because I knew you

I have been changed for good

It got me thinking about all the people who may have come into my life, as Glinda says, for a reason. To teach me something I needed to learn. Some of them were acquaintances or advisors, others were friends for a short time or still are, some were family members. But just as many, were people I’d hoped would be friends, but never really were. Or people I never considered a friend, but we traveled in the same circles.

Some changed me because they said something encouraging about my writing or aspirations at exactly the time I needed to hear it. Some changed me because they told me my dreams were unattainable, and it made me want to prove them wrong. Others changed me because they gave me great advice, sometimes even flippantly, as if they never thought I’d really do it. Others changed me because they tried to define how I worked (“a good writer writes every day”), and only in disregarding their advice did I grow.

I’ve mourned friendships I thought would last forever. I’ve had my heart broken. I often wish I could seek wisdom from friends and loved ones who’ve passed on. I’ve reconnected with old friends I never thought I would. I cherish my lifelong friends who continue to change me no matter what stage I’m in.

And I think about people who, to this day, I haven’t quite forgiven, partly because I once loved them or valued their friendship or sought their advice and they betrayed that trust. Or at least, I thought they did. And though I’m still angry with them, I don’t hate them. After all, because I knew them, I have been changed for good.

Of course, there’s two ways you could read that last line. And each holds truth. In the song, Glinda admits she is not sure it’s true that people come into our lives for a reason. It could be it isn’t really the person who leads us to grow. Maybe we sensed or knew we needed to change and looked for an opportunity to prompt ourselves. Maybe we turned some fly-by-night comment into a truth simply because we needed it.

It doesn’t matter either way. Putting ourselves out there in the world, loving and serving others, staying open, and feeling into ourselves, we can and will change.

Like the two friends realize near the end of the song, though, I do believe I have been changed for the better.

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