For almost 40 years now, I was a Wizard of Oz purist! I’m guessing you are thinking “ I didn’t even know that was a thing!” Since I first saw that movie at the age of three, and hid under the kitchen table when they met the intimidating Wizard, I was enamored with the film. And so, when I was handed a copy of Gregory Maguire’s book Wicked, in my twenties I wanted nothing to do with it. I had no interest whatsoever in hearing how the “wicked witch” was not really wicked. In my mind, things were clear cut and straightforward. Dorothy was a heroine, Glenda was a benevolent good witch, the Wizard was perhaps misguided in his actions, but a kind hearted man, and the Wicked Witch of the West was Wicked. She cackled, she threw fire, she was going to drown a dog!? Why would I want to hear her side of the story? That mindset did not change when I saw the musical in 2005. While I would agree that the sets were beautiful and creative and the music powerful, I did not enjoy the show at all. I never recommended it to anyone, or listened to the soundtrack or even really gave it another thought.
Last Sunday, I saw it again. Why? Well because I took my 8 year old daughter, who is just as obsessed with yellow brick roads and ruby slippers and the Emerald City as I was at her age and as most little girls are. There is truth to the statement that with age comes wisdom…because this time around, my heart was more open to the story that was being told. Long before intermission, I was in tears (much to Abigail’s embarrassment!). How could I have judged this “witch” so harshly? How had I failed to see how mistreated she was, how they painted her as wicked, when all she was truly, was different. All of a sudden, everything I had believed about Oz since I was a toddler was just turned upside down- and I could see the “truth” presented in this tale as well.
You may be thinking, “ well, ok…so now you appreciate a fictional story that you didn’t appreciate before. Why are you sharing that with everyone?” It’s because I realized so much more in that theater then that perhaps the Wicked Witch was not truly wicked. I realized that for many of us, there is a time period in our lives where we only see things in black or white, in absolute yes or no, in totally right or totally wrong. For most of us, it’s that age span between 18 and -25 or so. We’re adults, finally! And don’t we know it all! Nobody can convince us of anything or entice us to see a point of view other than our own. Of course I didn’t like Wicked; because I KNEW that it was not the RIGHT story.
What have I learned from 2005 to 2020? What I always knew in theory but have seen in practice countless times in both my work and personal life. There are always two sides to every story. Almost nothing is just truly black and white. There are shades, there are degrees, especially when there are differing points of view. And this lesson is one of the many lessons we at Saint Dominic Academy try to teach the young ladies while they are still here with us. We encourage them, be open minded, examine all sides of every issue, listen to the thoughts and insights of others. We never accept the answer “ I just don’t like it.” Instead, we work to inspire them to find something they like about any given subject, from math to musical theater. It’s the job of every teacher at Saint Dominic Academy to remind the young women under our care that there are almost always, two sides to every story and that how they feel about a particular subject or topic now, at age 18 may not be how they feel at age 38. At age 25, I decided to judge a book by its cover, even though I knew better. Daily here at SDA, we work tirelessly to make sure the young ladies in grades 7-12 never do that. One more thing I learned from Wicked last weekend…it takes an open mind to “Defy Gravity” and become the version of yourself you were meant to be!