It started when I was eighteen months old.
I saw a clip on Sesame Street in which an en pointe ballerina danced with a hip-hop dancer.
I have no idea what the lesson was supposed to be, since I’ve scoured youtube for the video and haven’t been able to find it, but I can still picture it in my head.
The ballerina began, graceful and delicate, and then the hip-hop dancer cut her off and did his thing – in-your-face and edgy, with loud music. His music was abruptly cut off and the ballerina began again.
They went back and forth a few times, each one’s music getting cut off earlier and earlier, until the two songs overlapped, and the two seemingly incompatible genres of dance joined.
As they danced together, I was enraptured; I informed my mother to the best of my eighteen-month-old ability, that that was what I wanted to do.
Right before I turned three (the age at which they allow kids to start dance classes), I went with a friend of mine in San Antonio to take a class at a local studio.
At the end of the thirty-minute class, the teacher led me by the hand, out of the classroom, and hollered down the hall, “Whose child is this?”
My mother was ready to be mortified, absolutely sure I must have mouthed off to the teacher or wet myself all over the scuffed wood floor, or otherwise made a spectacle of myself. But instead, she informed my mother that I had natural aptitude for the art, and I needed to be enrolled in a tots class, post haste.
I began class the week I turned three.
When I was five (after we’d moved to Colorado), I was invited to be in the “Guys and Dolls” performing ensemble.
Comprised of kids my age, the Guys and Dolls competed in Denver a couple times per year, performed at nursing homes several times between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they got a special dressing room at the end-of-year recital.
I was PAINFULLY shy when I was that young, and I turned down the invitation.
That was also around the time I turned down the invitation to be the Student Council Representative for the first grade at school.
A year or two later, after I had gotten some therapy, I actually CHOSE to audition for the “Petites” performing ensemble (the next level up from Guys and Dolls).
From then on, I was hooked on performing. I leveled up from Petities to Youth, to Tanzen (“dance” in German), to Visions, the most senior performing/competing ensemble.
I competed at least two and up to four times per year.
In my ten years in these ensembles, I performed at every nursing home in the city.
I won scholarship after scholarship to dance at national competitions in New York City and Las Vegas.
My group was even invited to perform in Germany when I was fifteen.
I was really good.
My group was phenomenally talented as a whole.
I’m still friends with almost every one of them to this day.
For a long time, all I wanted to do for the rest of my life was dance. Until I realized that whole “Starving artist” thing.
Not to mention the fact that I absolutely cannot stand conventions. They’re the easiest way to get recognized and recruited, and paid next to nothing to commit hundreds of rehearsal hours to a five-minute piece, to perform it, basically anonymously (because nobody in the audience can tell one dancer from the one beside her), four times.
That plus I’m really short, and ballerinas are typically preferred at around five-foot-eight.
And I like food way too much to be as thin as a prima ballerina, anyway.
And you only make decent money if you’re a soloist or a choreographer.
And frankly, I’m just not enough of a pushy attention whore to force myself to the front of every convention class I ever go to.
There are just a bunch of reasons I wouldn’t be a very good professional dancer.
I loved being on stage, though.
I loved the adrenaline rush.
The super loud cheering of friends and family in the crowds.
If I could just continue to take class, perform, and compete for the rest of forever, I’d totally do it.
Around the age of thirteen, in the midst of my dance years, I suddenly and inexplicably got the urge to be a SUPAH STAH! I went mental over it.
In amongst the random magazine clipping of guys I thought were sexy (John Mayer at one point…gross), inspiring or hilarious quotes, and random cups of Nescafe Frothe (remember those things? No, but seriously, there was a picture of a cup of coffee taped to my wall for at least a year), I began putting up stars.
Pictures of stars and star-shaped objects, because I needed to maintain my focus on my totally obvious future as the most famous person to ever live. I even remember explaining the stars to my mom.
Thinking about it now, it’s actually pretty embarrassing, and I’m not even exactly sure why I’m telling you this, apart from my lifelong, compulsive need to over-share about myself.
Finally, I demanded to be taken to a local, open audition for John Robert Powers.
I got into the tiny room with three talent agents, and they handed me a sheet full of “commercial” spiels, and told me to take a minute, get the three or four sentences in my head, look straight into the camera, and deliver.
It was a cute little Nestle Tollhouse commercial, and all I remember was the end: “Nestle Tollhouse…mmm!!!”
I was paralyzed by fear. I choked on almost every word. I took long pauses between each sentence, completely unsure of myself, and just stared, panicked, straight into the camera lens.
It was a train wreck.
I left thinking I would never hear from them again, but within a few days, they called back!
They told my mom that I had a cute look, which would work well for print ads, but wanted to know when I’d get my braces off, and basically made it sound like my mom was some fame-hungry Toddlers & Tiaras-type mom, who desperately wanted a famous child, through whom she could live vicariously.
You know, since a girl as clearly petrified and terrible at acting as me could not POSSIBLY have wanted to go herself.
Though that could not have been further from the truth, I felt like it must have shamed her horribly, and I have only recently stopped beating myself up for it.
I then discontinued the active pursuit of fame of any kind.
Throughout the rest of middle and high school, I thought every now and then about being famous for dance or modeling, and acting flitted through there once or twice.
My senior year, I ended up taking drama, because SOMEONE told me that my twenty-plus hours of dance PER WEEK would count for PE and fine arts credits, but they were totally lying, so I had to cram weights and drama into my last three semesters of high school.
Over the course of the semester, I seriously got my actress on.
I reenacted a scene from Stranger Then Fiction, in which I played Queen Latifah’s part.
I wrote a two-minute piece in which a high school boy and girl explained to their friends, on opposite sides of the stage, the events of the past weekend: how they’d had real feelings for each other, then they met up at a party, got just sloshed enough to hook up, then decided they didn’t like each other anymore.
Side note: do not freaking steal this idea from me, or I’ll punch you in the jugular. I may have lost the original script, but I plan on rewriting it.
The moral of the story was that premarital sex/drunken hook-ups end in loss of self-respect and totally negate any feelings you ever had for whoever you hooked up with.
Almost exactly two years later, I had a baby. Eight months before I got married.
No, but seriously, wait until you’re married to have sex.
My last piece was actually intended to totally freak out my ultra-conservative drama teacher.
The assignment was to write a monologue based on a past experience.
I wrote a monologue from the perspective of fourteen-year-old me, who was still disgustingly, blindly in love with my manipulative, abusive, controlling, eighteen-year-old boyfriend. I even gave myself bruises with purple eyeshadow for effect.
It worked. She freaked out and cried and told me I had to abandon my thoughts of a major in nursing and pursue writing or acting or something equally not employable unless you’re fantastically good at what you do, or outstandingly attractive or unattractive.
I laughed it off and told her that I was totally set on nursing, and thanks for the compliment, but it’s never gonna happen.
Fast forward to present day.
I’ve gained the tiniest (and I do mean tiniest) bit of recognition as a writer, and it’s like effing crack.
I know I said once before that I wanted to make a gazillion dollars off of writing when I was about twelve, but I’ll be honest…that thought lasted about an hour, and it was never very serious. I never really thought I could do anything with my writing, besides impress the few friends who cared to read anything I wrote, and of course, be my own therapist by means of catharsis.
Tomorrow I will be a published author. Like, officially, in an online magazine with an worldwide audience of hundreds of thousands of people.
Remember when I talked about the coolest thing to ever happen to me? Well, that was true…until now. Now this is going to be the coolest thing to ever happen to me.
I’ve been e-mailing back and forth with the phenomenal Brittany Gibbons about my article (since, like, she founded the magazine and all…so…her approval is pretty crucial) and I totally had a Sally Field moment:
“She likes me! She really likes me!”
Well, my writing at least.
Seriously, I don’t even know how to end this because I’m just so freaking excited. This is surreal to me, and I have a feeling it’s just going to get awesomer from here.
Brittany, if you ever read this…you have no idea what this means to me. You rock. When we meet one day, I will for real buy you a drink. Hell, I’ll buy you, like, five. And I’m super cheap, so that means I must really want to thank you…with alcohol.
So…the end, I guess.
Also, [drama teacher from high school], I maybe should have listened to your advice.
But I’ll never admit that to you.
The article is OUT and it is RIGHT HERE!!
The response I’ve gotten already is mind-blowing. Thank you for reading, everyone!