As a child, I had a very narrow view of what my life would be like as an adult.
I assumed that, as an introverted child, I would naturally live alone.
I aspired to be an author living in a loft apartment in New York city with just my cat to keep me company.
As I got older, I would half-jokingly tell school guidance counselors that I wanted to take my guitar and live quietly under a bridge and play music for money.
I stuck with this answer for years because it always got a laugh.
Then, I switched to telling people I wanted to be a lawyer or a mental health counselor. Because adults like hearing kids say those sorts of things.
But I knew in my mind that I always wanted to be a performer.
I knew that I wanted to act, to sing, to entertain on a stage.
But I didn’t have the courage to admit that out loud.
For years I would come up with excuses as to why I couldn’t pursue that dream.
“It’s too materialistic,” I’d say. “I can’t handle being that egotistical.”
In reality, my self-esteem was too low to allow myself to believe that I was talented enough or attractive enough to draw an audience to actually want to pay money to watch me perform.
I tried to find a different passion, something that was more socially acceptable.
I wanted to help people and I wanted the world to know that I was doing something with the expressed purpose of helping other people.
I tried to force myself to like the idea of putting my desires last for the sake of saving humanity. I considered going into nursing or teaching because I wanted my life to have a purpose beyond being a walking sack of skin.
But, as the years progressed, I gradually realized that I wasn’t doing anyone any good by denying myself the things I loved most in life.
When I loved myself enough to give performing a try, I was surprised to discover that my talents were not only more than sufficient, but could help other people in more ways than I would ever realize.
When I finally embraced the fact that I am a performer, and that I’m good enough to willingly showcase those talents for others, that was the moment I truly began living.
In the past year alone, I’ve had more opportunities than I ever thought imaginable in which I was able to utilize my skills both to my personal satisfaction and to bring some kind of fulfillment to others.
It isn’t egotistical or vain when you approach performing, or any artistic field, from a truly authentic perspective. I’m not putting on a façade for attention, I’m not begging people to watch me. I’m simply using the talents that I have in the most productive way I can.
So no, I may never be able to literally cure a sick child or save someone from abject poverty, but maybe I can touch someone’s life in my own unique way.
Maybe someone will hear a song I’ve written and laugh because it’s ridiculous. Maybe they really needed a laugh.
Maybe someone will watch me act in a play and break down in tears because they saw something in that character that helped them come to terms with their own personal struggles.
Maybe my teaching a child how to play piano will give that child a creative outlet to turn to when they get older and feel as though the rest of the world has abandoned them.
And it helps me too.
I have an annoyingly overflowing well-spring of emotions rolling around in my brain and the arts – music, acting, painting, writing, etc – are the tools I use to sort through this mess.
As anyone who has ever shared their creative endeavors with the world will likely agree, there are few other moments as fulfilling as having a stranger come up to you and tell you that your art touched them.
Art has helped me understand people.
Without it, I feel isolated and misunderstood.
I’m not the best at communicating in a surface level “how are you today?” sort of way.
Because today, I might feel like green boxes speckled with tiny brown dots that sound like impressionism but feel like fois gras. And you want to cry but for some reason you’re holding back tears out of fear that they won’t leak out of the right parts of your eyes and you’ll drown in your sadness.
But you’re incredibly happy because there’s a Dalmatian sitting outside the window and you can stop thinking about wishing you were small enough to ride it like a horse.
But you can’t tell strangers that in day-to-day conversation.
But under the premise of “art,” you can.
It’s incredibly freeing.
It’s a cathartic experience unlike any I’ve experienced before.
To give yourself permission to be yourself completely and find acceptance from the world when you expected rejection.
Not everyone will understand when I answer the question, “so what do you do?” With “well, I’m a singer and an actress. And sometimes a comedian. And sometimes an artist. And a teacher.”
They might scoff because they live their lives differently and have a hard time considering any of those labels as “professional” or “acceptable career options.”
But I occasionally feel the same way when someone tells me, “oh, I’m an insurance adjustor.” or “I’m the assistant manager at the local branch of this bank.”
I don’t have those skills and the idea of doing those jobs literally terrifies me.
I don’t envy you. Those of you who willingly work 9-5 helping our world work the way it does. I wouldn’t be able to do that.
I discovered yesterday that I have a hard time sitting in an office chair for more than an hour at a time without getting incredibly antsy.
As a child, I was plagued by the misguided notion that I would need to have a very “adult” job when I was older and that only certain “special” people go to be the performers and the artists and that I wasn’t one of those people.
I’ve since learned that this is utter bullshit.
And I am a performer.
I’m gradually learning to be more comfortable wearing this as a title.
I’ve finally stopped blushing when I tell people I’m a singer-songwriter.
The more I’ve grown to allow myself to view my dreams as legitimate and worthy and perfectly acceptable, the more I’ve been able to love and accept myself.
As a kid, I remember being surrounded by adults who always talked about jobs we would have in the future as though it was every child’s dream to grow up and join corporate America. And if you didn’t want that, then there was something wrong with you.
I’ve gradually been able to shed my façade and stop lying to myself and the rest of the world.
No, I never wanted to be a graphic designer. Yes, I loved art, but I really wanted to be on stage.
No, I never wanted to be a guidance counselor, I just said that because I like delving into human emotions on stage and counselors do that in real life with real people.
I was finding “real world” alternatives to my actual desires.
When, in reality, if I had just begun pursuing my true ambitions, I would have been much happier.
It was a tough lesson to learn, and I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve finally given myself permission to accept this truth about myself.
So, sorry mom. I’m never going to be working in a 9-5 office environment.
Except, I’m not really sorry at all.