I always wanted to be the ballerina or actress, and no wonder since the nurse, stewardess and teacher had to put up with a whole lot of $&%#. I knew the model was out for me (too short, wrong kind of face), but I fantasized about becoming a ballerina, floating across the stage like a twirling angel…..or about belting out Oscar & Hammerstein tunes as an actress and getting to wear a lot of bling. Ah, the possibilities, and so exciting to me, a seven-year-old, to consider each time I played the game.
The things I do now for a living — teaching interdisciplinary, indivdualized studies long-distance; facilitating writing workshops for people living with cancer; co-writing songs with Kelley and making up collaborative performances that blend poetry and song — were so far off the radar and of the future that acting or dancing seemed the only way to go.
Dancing didn’t really work for me as a career gig. Despite my parents taking me for ballet lessons, and then my little troop getting to perform on some stage somewhere in New York City (Bright lights! The automat!), I had some balance issues, and ended on tripping and knocking over the domino row of girls, all of us falling in our flaming red tutus (for the Russian number). The new year, doing “Good Ship Lollypop” in pink and white stripped tutus while holding giant lollypops (I loved the costume), I stayed upright but clearly didn’t have the ” it” that the ballerina in the game had.
As for acting, I may be the only person who tried out for every play four all four years at Manalapan High School without being cast once. It was my greatest passion at the time (getting cast, not getting rejected), but I obviously was talent-challenged, not to mention challenged by a $&%# of a drama teacher who wouldn’t even stick me in the back of the chorus (okay, so I couldn’t stay on tune, but still….). Strangely enough, when I took hours of testing in high school to see what career I was most suited for, the top one was “Singer,” followed luckily by “writer” and “politician.” The test didn’t tell anyone things like “subversive artist out to undermine the patriarchy.”
I think of the small girl I was playing this career game, wanting to win but mostly wanting to connect with those tall slim drinks of women who posed so career-like and elegantly on the box. I didn’t know then that the real game is continually asking yourself, “What shall I be?” and the real answer is spending a lifetime listening in between throwing the dice and going where you can go.