Think back to when you were a kid and you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up. Some of you said you wanted to be a doctor, a ballerina, and teacher…
Some of you didn’t know at all.
And some of you, like me, wanted to be everything.
I remember my very first answer to that question. I was maybe six or seven, and I just knew that when I grew up, I would be a marine biologist.
My fascination with marine life was unreal. As a matter of fact, the only movie I rented from Blockbuster week after week was Jaws. My mother was only slightly concerned with my fascination with killer great whites, but I think I turned out pretty okay.
I would read books on dolphins and deep sea creatures. I’d pretend to be the Anglerfish. You know that weird one that has a light suspended from his forehead to lure in his prey? That one. I pretended to be him. The aquarium was my jam. I’d spend hours under the dome staring at puffer fish and entranced in the colors of the sea.
I wanted to become a marine biologist.
And then I didn’t.
When I was in highschool, my love of marine biology morphed into a love for anatomy, and it was in the eleventh grade when I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I was in advanced biology classes and got way too excited when it was dissection day. I studied. Hard. I found an old assignment from high school the other day where I took the reader on a tour of the human digestive system from the moment you took a bite of your sandwich until you, well, you get the idea. I was impressed with my younger self. I watched Grey’s Anatomy religiously. Before you tell me that it’s a TV show and not an actual representation of what it’s like to be a doctor, I know. But I learned so much from it, and it was exciting. I even applied for a prestigious spot in a program called “A Day With the Doctors” that took place at LSU Medical School, and I got in. I rocked it too. Answering every single question that the med students and their professors asked us. I was sure I found my calling. My first year of college was spent as a biology major, staying after hours in the dissection lab and rocking my periodic table of elements desktop background.
I wanted to become a doctor.
And then I didn’t.
Cut to the summer of 2010 when I performed in a play in a small church in my hometown.I played Liesl in “The Sound of Music,” and it was just as hilarious as you are imagining, but it kind of changed my life. I immediately fell in love with the sportsmanship of theatre. Everyone working together, the new friendships, the performing in front of a crowd. Everything. I loved going to rehearsals and spending hours singing the same songs and laughing when we flubbed a line (which in 1930’s Austria could be a really awkward thing). But most of all, I loved the feeling I had while onstage. It was unlike anything I had ever felt, even when I was a competition dancer from ages 2-14.
So I did what any other child of eighteen would do.
I drove down to school the following Monday (still summer) and changed my major from biology to film, theatre, and communication arts.
I felt good about it.
The following three years of my undergrad life were nearly perfect. I felt in my element. I performed in numerous plays, held leadership positions in the theatre organizations, made the improv troupe, acted in films, made it to the finals of the KCACTF theatre competitions, won an award for being an outstanding student, etc. I thrived. Theatre is my calling, I thought. Over and over again, I thought that as each opportunity made itself available to me. I literally felt unstoppable. Like I would dominate the acting scene in New Orleans post-graduation. My connection to the theatre department was so strong, that I burst into tears during the curtain call of my final show my senior year. It was a Sunday matinee of The Taming of the Shrew, and I played Katherine. To this day, it was my most favorite role and the most challenging. Though I’ve played characters since, lovely characters, challenging characters, I’ve yet to meet one like her. It’s the goal.
I wanted to become an actor.
While in college, I also started a blog. This one, as a matter of fact. Since I was a child, I’d write in journals. I have dozens. My first one was a diary with a cheap, golden lock so no one could read my innermost thoughts at age six. It was pink and had a banner of fluffy cats spanning the front cover. Not cartoon cats. Real cats. And it was glorious. My first entry in that journal was a recount of my day at school and how I bought a pickle and a freezie pop at my school’s Popcorn, Pickle and Freezie (PPF) Day. It was a real thing. Every Friday. We looked forward to it. So I wrote about it so I would always remember.
I’ve been writing ever since. Storytelling. And just recently, I found my voice. Writing is something I do when I’m happy, sad, lonely, excited, feeling particularly procrastinatory. Damn, I thought I made that word up since it’s underlined in red, but upon further research, I didn’t. Basically, I write all of the time.
I’d say my style of writing is conversational, non-fiction, but embellished for my reader’s sake. No one wants to read, “I almost hit a squirrel today.” You want to read, “Today, while driving through my neighborhood at a fare speed, a squirrel who obviously wanted to end his life, darted out in front of my white Corolla on a mission of death. I, being of the mind that one can always talk it out, frantically swerved left after I let out a blood-curdling scream, barely missing the squirrel and giving him another crack at life while simultaneously sparing myself the guilt of being a mammal-slaughterer. It was a wild day in the ‘burbs.”
You’re welcome for that conversational, non-fictional, embellished tale.
It’s interesting to come to the realization that your future career-based happiness is just a refined, matured account of who you were as a child. I have always been a performer, but instead of writing and performing songs to my family about hacky sacks, which I called “bean bag balls” (this is true), I now perform as Shakespearean characters and Maid Marian and politically-charged journalists. Instead of writing about my Friday snack choices and how that girl named Willa White made fun of me for my last name when her name sounds like an odd, female variation of Willy Wonka, I write about my craft, how I’m feeling and why I’m feeling it and why it’s okay to actually feel things. I write about where I went wrong in life and where I went right. I write about how much it sucks to be twenty-four, but also how incredible it is too.
I tell stories.
I tell stories through performing. I tell stories through writing.
And it’s always been that way, ever since I was a child.
I have gone from marine biology to doctor to here, where I am now.
All my life, I wanted to become a storyteller.
And then one day, I did.