Meet VALLEY’s Fall 2021 Self-Improvement Section Opener: Teddy Wilson

Photo by Becca Baker and Cameron Soravilla

Teddy Wilson has loved to perform even since joining his church’s dance group. Teddy, who is gender fluid and goes by the pronouns he/him, she/her and they/them, was convinced by their cousin to audition for “The Wiz” in their community theatre — and ended up getting the part of the scarecrow! From then on, Teddy fell in love with musical theatre.

Now a fourth year musical theatre student at Penn State, Wilson has grown exponentially within these past four years in his theatrical skills but also as a person.

Wilson chose to go to Penn State in order to get the “big school” experience instead of going to a conservatory. But when Wilson came to Penn State her freshman year, she struggled.

Being from Florida, Wilson was already so far from home. On top of that, she dealt with comparing herself to her fellow classmates and being on her own for the first time. Penn State is incredibly selective for their MT program — only around 12-20 people out of 1500 are selected each year. 

Wilson admits that during his first two years of college, he was NOT putting himself first. And, as a result, both his mental and physical health suffered — a lot.

The stress Wilson was going through ended up affecting them physically, causing a wide variety of medical problems. Being in such a rigorous program didn’t exactly help.

“I realized that part of adulting is taking care of yourself, which I wasn’t doing,” says Wilson.

Another hardship that Wilson faced was being the first one in the musical theatre program to get COVID-19 the fall semester of their third year.

This caused some drama at first between him and other students in the college. It became mentally taxing to deal with. Not only that, the virus caused him to have a lingering cough, which adversely affected his singing and is something he is still getting over a year later. 

In light of the challenges, Wilson has learned a lot along the way, growing into the more confident, secure person they are today.

“I learned that I had to start making me my number one priority,” says Wilson. “I finally understood that it’s a good thing to take care of yourself.” Wilson realizes this sounds easy to follow, but actually takes quite a bit of effort, especially with the demands of college.

To work on her mental health, Wilson practiced creating boundaries. 

“I’m a people pleaser,” says Wilson.  “But I’ve also learned to ask myself before helping someone else: Am I able to be there for that person without sacrificing my own self?”

Wilson even has mottos they shared with VALLEY.

“No is never a bad word.” Wilson uses this as a reminder that the best thing you can do is focus on what’s best for you, and if that involves saying no, that’s completely okay!

Their other motto: “I am only responsible for my happiness, as well as making sure I’m not a detriment to someone else’s happiness.” 

“After going through so many medical problems as a result of my poor mental health, I realized I have to, not want to, put my needs first. Because if I don’t, I’ll fall apart.”

Wilson is grateful to have an overwhelming amount of support here at school to help him get through things, but it wasn’t always like that.

When she came to PSU as a first-year, Wilson and her fellow classmates didn’t immediately click. 

“When you bring 12 different people together from across the country, there’s bound to be problems and butting of heads,” she explains.

But that changed one day. The classmates finally decided to all sit together in a room, which ended up lasting for three hours. Everyone opened up to each other, letting their vulnerability shine no matter how hard it was. Ever since then, the group has been incredibly close. Wilson learned the importance of expressing his true feelings — it has helped him bond with his classmates, and their support has been vital these past four years.

While at college, Wilson has also become more comfortable with his own identity. As a kid, Wilson grew up in a Christian household, where his family’s religious beliefs conflicted with the fact that he liked boys and wasn’t traditionally masculine.

In high school, they started opening up to their friends about their sexuality as well as their gender.

While Wilson says gender fluid isn’t the perfect term, it’s the best way to describe how they identify with he/she/they pronouns.

“Some days I wake up feeling very boyish and masculine,” Wilson explains. “But other days, I feel like a complete girl! I’ve realized that gender isn’t just about face value, but the energy I’m presenting to people.”.

Being far from home at Penn State has truly allowed her to express herself authentically, dress more comfortably and not feel the need to censor any part of herself. 

When asked about his parents, Wilson comments that while they know he isn’t straight, there is “still a conversation we have to have.”

Nevertheless, Wilson says he looks up to both of their parents.

“The way [my parents] fight for the ones they love….When I have kids, I want them to feel that same exact love and more,” Wilson states.

She knows how much her parents care about her through their actions, such as allowing her to go to an out-of-state school and major in musical theatre as well as always being there for her if she needs any help.

At the end of the day, however, Wilson knows the most important thing: Love yourself first. In Wilson’s case, that includes choosing to be genuine and being there for friends without sacrificing his own needs.

After graduation, Wilson would love to either move to New York or work in the TV and film industry. Their dream role? Either lead a new musical or play Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton.

Coming into college, Wilson was insecure about her singing skills, only wanted to dance, and struggled with her mental and physical health. 

Now, Wilson has gained true confidence to enter the “real world.” Not only does he love dancing but he has developed a passion for acting. 

Most significantly, Wilson has made huge strides in putting their health first. No matter where life takes them, Wilson will remain committed to self-love and self-care.

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