When I was in high school, a mandated reading program was introduced. The reason for this I heard was because the sophomores had done poorly on the state exams known as CAPT (Connecticut Academic Performance Test), and although that was just a rumor, it was believable enough at the time. I was a senior, and even though I was an avid reader, this program frustrated me to no end because of how limited the list of approved materials was (I talk about it more in a section of this post).
On top of that, I passed all categories of the CAPT test the first time around in my sophomore year and was therefore not required to retake any portion of it in my junior year, so being punished for something to which I made no contribution really got my gears grinding.
To the school's credit, they did make the attempt to have some sort of a light at the end of the tunnel by giving us an incentive: a hypnotism show at an assembly.
They proposed that if the student body could manage to rack up enough points in the reading comprehension quizzes tied to the books in the Accelerated Reader program, they would bring in a hypnotist to perform. As an added bonus, seniors were invited to sign up to be hypnotized provided they turned in a permission slip—which at this point was just a formality for a handful of us since we could sign it ourselves if we were eighteen.
Since I was the Rachel Berry of my high school (even though I didn't have as much of a right to be as I had convinced myself back then), I signed on to this endeavor because being onstage for this rather than a member of the audience seemed like a good idea at the time.
I was a little skeptical going into it. Hypnosis was a concept that seemed a little too far-fetched for me. I wasn't exactly sure how it worked, but I was intrigued.
Fast-forward to the day of the show.
There were about a dozen seniors on stage in the gym. Once we got past the initial introductions of the guest hypnotist, he started the participants with a simple exercise. He told us to close our eyes and imagine that we were holding a bowling ball and just let our hand sink with the weight of it, as though it were a tangible object.
I think this was a test to see how easily we could ease into the process because he eliminated a few students who weren't experiencing whatever needed to be and sent them back to the audience.
I will admit I was maybe on the verge of starting to feel that pull, but at the same time kind of forcing it because I wanted to spare myself what I thought would be the embarrassment of having to leave the state prematurely. After a couple minutes of this, I was invited to take a seat.
From there, he instructed us to picture a hallway with stairs, to go down those stairs and find a door.
Remember that mention of being my school's Rachel Berry? That didn't stop at watching Glee. I was a major theatre kid even though my school didn't have a drama department and had an iPod Nano loaded with Broadway and movie soundtracks.
Among my absolute favorites was Next to Normal.
If you're not familiar with the Next to Normal, it follows a woman named Diana who struggles with her mental health and the impact her condition has on her family. One of the treatments suggested by her doctor is hypnotism, which is carried out towards the end of Act One in the number "Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I'm Falling."
The lyrics mention directions to picture a hallway and walk through it, go down the stairs, and open a door.
Unintentionally, my mind went Oh neat, this is just like Next to Normal.
And that was the beginning of the end.
My head was tilting backwards as all of this was going on, which makes sense because if I sleep sitting up like on a plane, I tend to lean back, but there was a tap at the back of my skull as the hypnotist nudged my head forwards.
The combination of these two things were enough to break my immersion and snap me out of it.
So when he "woke us up," I just kind of went along with it. I felt bad in a way because I felt like I had ruined it, that I was somehow not doing it right, but also didn't want to ruin the show by walking off stage because it didn't work on me. I felt I had a role to play, so I did what I thought I had to do.
Essentially trapping myself in forty-five minutes of chaos including Irish step-dancing in front of the whole student body and pretending to be surprised at myself when an underclassman showed me the footage on their phone, to consoling the guy next to me as he sobbed to "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" because in that moment, he wholeheartedly believed that it was the saddest song in all the land.
I intentionally made a fool of myself because the show must go on.
I know I'm not the only one of my classmates not affected by this because when we got to the air guitar solo section, one of the girls outright refused and remained seated.
I meanwhile went all out, completely aware of what I was doing because of my Rachel Berry wannabe instincts, and that is among the memories of high school I cringe the most at.
And believe me when I say there are many things about high school me I cringe at now.
I haven't talked about this at all since then, apart from going along with the charade of "Why, yes, I was hypnotized and gosh I remember nothing of it" for the rest of the school year. I'm not as skeptical of hypnotism as I was going into this show, but I don't know how easily I could be hypnotized, if at all.
The truth is, this anecdote has frankly been one of my darkest secrets and one I've kept to myself since 2014.
That said, I'm sure there are videos of this somewhere in the recesses of the internet, but please do us all a favor and don't try to dig them up.