Lyrics by Alison Hanna, Class of 2019

Still Here

Music by Alison Hanna and Jonathan McNair

Image result for musical note clip

Background: This song is part of a potential musical that I’m working on. It doesn’t have a title yet, but the story is about Brienna Holland, a bisexual 17 year old who leaves the conservative Christian community that she grew up in after being outed by her preacher in front of the entire congregation and later disowned by her mother.

The worst part is that she has to leave her girlfriend, Lauren Blair, behind for her own safety. Brienna runs away, starting over in a new city and finds a friend who immediately accepts her for who she is, giving her a home as well. But Brienna learns the hard way that no matter how far she runs, it’s only a matter of time before her past catches up with her.

This song takes place in Act Two of the musical. Brienna has just found out via one of the few friends from her hometown that Lauren was murdered in an alley by members of her old church. Over the course of this song, Brienna contemplates what she did to deserve so much pain in her life. Not wanting to live like this anymore, she runs into a building and climbs the stairs all the way up to the roof. But when Brienna tries to jump, she can’t. Something is holding her back. And then, Brienna realizes that there was one person back home who she never got to face before she left. Brienna has been given a
sign to go back to her hometown, if only to give that person a chance. The song ends with Brienna praying to God for the first time in nearly a year, asking to make sure that this doesn’t go terribly wrong. Because if it does, Brienna won’t hesitate to jump next time.

It took me a very long time to complete this piece. Two years, in fact. Back when I first came up with the idea for the story that it was apart of, I created a playlist on Spotify compiled of songs from different Broadway musicals as well as different pop songs. I became so immersed in the character of Brienna Holland because since I’m also bisexual, we share some similar struggles. But when I got to the scene that this song represents, I couldn’t find anything that fit perfectly. So, I decided to write the song myself. The vocal melody came very easy for me, so I was able to get that done quickly. The piano introduction came very easy as well. But coming up with the lyrics definitely took the longest. There was a long period of time when I had to step away from the piece because I couldn’t get a single word on the page. During that period of time, I came out to one of my closest friends. At first, she told me that while her beliefs didn’t let her support my lifestyle, she still wanted to be my friend. We continued to be friends for a little while, but we decided it was best not to bring it up again. But a few months later, the subject was revisited, and the two of us got into a really big fight which resulted in us ending our
friendship. We didn’t talk to each other for months. Fortunately, we saw that we were both to blame for the argument in some ways and we made up. We’re not as close as we used to be, but we are still friends.

When I looked back on that experience and what it did to me, it gave me the inspiration that I needed to write the lyrics for this piece. For a long time following the incident and even after me and my friend made up, I questioned my self-worth a lot because that was the first time someone I was close with shunned me because of my sexuality. Thankfully, I never attempted or even considered suicide, but there were a lot of times where I questioned if my friend was right and I was going to hell because I was bisexual.

Going through that pain helped me to dive back into Brienna and feel what she was going through. She was outed by her preacher in front of her entire congregation, disowned by her mother, and had to leave the only life she’s ever known behind because staying there would be putting her life in danger. And even after creating a new life for herself, she finds out that her one true love was murdered. Having to endure that much pain because of one aspect of a person’s life is unbelievably hard, especially for a 17 year old girl like Brienna. How could she not seriously consider killing herself after all she’s been through? But just as she’s about to do it, she’s given a small glimmer of hope. So she clings to it and prays that it’s not for nothing because if that’s the case, she will be broken forever. And as I figured this out, I realized that if I wasn’t lucky enough to have grown up in a Christian community who loves me no matter what, there’s a good chance I would’ve experienced similar pain. Hearing so many stories about LGBTQ+ teens who got disowned by families who don’t deserve to call themselves Christians breaks my heart every day. It’s even more heartbreaking to look at how much Christianity has hurt the LGBTQ+ community for so long. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, but we can never seem to remember that when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. Looking back on the development of this piece, I’ve realized that I wrote it to tell the story on how a person’s life can be broken forever just because of a few parts of their life. Parts that should never be the cause of their misery.

Link to musical score.