“You live in fantasia.” said my soon to be ex-boss over a rather tasteless lunch. “You’re not really cut out for the corporate world, you know, without having a formal education and all.”
I had taken a year off from making a decision about college to try and decide what it was I really wanted to do. In the meantime my mother and step-father requested I have a full-time job if I wasn’t going to college, et voila, here I was.
For the record, I wasn’t trying to be in the whole “Corporate America” game. I was doing secretarial work. Somehow I’d landed a part-time job with this gem and here I was receiving his judgmental blessing.
I choked down the rest of my stale bread and stared out the window, trying not to cry.
That night I made a decision. I wasn’t going to get fired, I was going to quit. I didn’t belong in that world. I was creative. I had been in high school musicals, drawn to acting, singing, dancing, and writing. I had no deep desire for the world of numbers. I mean for goddsake I still needed to count on my fingers when calculating a tip.
I called one of my best friends who had been trying to get me into ballroom dancing.
“Will? Would you still want me to dance with you?” I asked.
“Yes! Of course!” came the ecstatic reply.
That one moment changed my life forever, not only did I go on to learn how to ballroom dance, but Will and I would win Talent America in 1998 (yes I’m a dinosaur) and then go on to place very well competing as Pros in American Rhythm.
I quit working for Mr. Fantasia and went on to get a job with Arthur Murray.
For years I taught dance at many different schools and it was a wonderful experience, but I always felt in my heart that there was something more for me to do. This wasn’t going to be the final stop on my train.
Meeting my biological father in 2002 brought with it the opportunity to move to NYC and pursue another love of mine, acting.
“You’re going to be an actress?” asked my step-grandmother as she shoved a donut into her mouth.
“I”m going to try,” I said. I had come to my parents’ house in Connecticut for a visit, to update them on the comings and goings of my newly found days in the city.
“Humph.” I could hear her mumbling g to herself but thought best to ignore it. That was until she got on a phone call with her friend Lillian.
At almost 89 she was very hard of hearing, which made her VERY loud. So when I heard my name followed by laughter I couldn’t help but eavesdrop.
“Ha. She thinks she’s going to be an actress. ” laughed my sweet, loving, kind grandmother (note the sarcasm) “Who is she kidding. She can’t be an actress…she’s ugly.”
I was quite taken aback and I won’t lie, I did cry. But when the tears finally subsided, I thought. “Well, she said I was ugly, not that I didn’t have talent! They’ve got to have parts for us ugly people too.”
I left my parents house that day and headed back to the city with more determination than ever. I put my headshot out everywhere I could. Finally, after countless hours of shameless self-promotion, I landed a small under-five on The Guiding Light. An under-five means under five lines but hey I was on television!
No, it wasn’t a huge part and no it wasn’t some epic film BUT it was my grandmothers’ FAVORITE soap opera, so when she saw me, Madame Ugly, grace her screen, she just about died right there in her chair.
I have been told so many times throughout my life what I can’t do, how I’m not good enough, or smart enough, or talented enough but the one thing I never do is LISTEN.
My not listening resulted in my performing on stage and screen, going to film school, becoming a film director, starting my own film company, writing screenplays, blogs, short stories, and now moving onto novels and a series.
No matter how many times people tell me “You’re not…” that stubborn part of my personality says “Watch me.” Although now I find myself rolling my eyes and singing Day-Oh in my head, gently tuning out their unsolicited opinions.
You can go through bouts of sadness and defeat, as we all do, and you might feel like giving up but you must dust yourself off and try again. You must not let the naysayers win. There is no hard and fast rule that says everyone is going to be an epic success in their twenties.
As a matter of fact, if you read the bios of some amazingly talented people, you would see that there have been many who didn’t get that break until much, much later in their lives.
As the saying goes, it ain’t over till it’s over, so until the great powers that be call you home to glory, get those feet pounding the pavement and go out there and get what’s yours.
Believing in the wonderful, amazing, perfection that is you is the greatest gift you could give yourself! There are always going to be haters and those that do not wish you to succeed, but if you just keep one foot in front of the other, and keep climbing that mountain, you will eventually end up exactly where you are supposed to be. The most important part is to never, never give up.
“To be a champ, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will.”
-Sugar Ray Robinson
As the song goes “Don’t Stop Believing…”