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Becoming Me

My dad died in 2012.

He was 64. I was 32. Exactly half his age.

His death was sudden. Unexpected.

He had a heart attack, and six hours later, he was gone.

My whole life, people have told me I’m just like my mom. I look like her. Have the same sense of humor. Same mannerisms.

But, really, I look like my dad. I have his eyes. His coloring. And, his love of music. Thankfully, I’ve never had his mustache.

I started doing theatre when I was 11 years old. I wanted to audition for Cinderella when I was ten, but my dad thought it was a passing whim.

“If she still wants to do it next summer,” he told my mom, “then she can audition.”

I did still want to do it the next summer, so I auditioned for Oliver and was cast to play the workhouse boy, Bob Crain. I had one line … and fell in love with performing.

I continued performing at the local community theatre in the summers, took theatre classes in school, and majored in theatre in college.

“Theatre isn’t a career.”

This was my dad’s stance.

I needed to have something to fall back on.

My father should have known better than to tell me I can’t do something.

I’ll show him.

I graduated with my acting degree in 2002 and immediately began working as a performer at a theme park.

Full time.

Six days a week.

I was getting paid to perform.

I worked there fifteen months and was off to NYC. I’d been headed here my whole life. In no time, I booked a show and the next ten years found me performing off and on, working odd “money jobs” (as I called them) always negotiated with the flexibility to go to auditions, and, if hired, to leave and come back. But, I never let any of those jobs become my full time job. My eye was always on the prize.

In December of 2011, I played Adelaide in Guys & Dolls. It was the most fulfilling role I’d played to date.

People often write Adelaide off as a dumb blonde. I saw her as a strong but wounded woman who was working so hard to win the love and adoration of a man, it caused her to act in extreme ways.

I felt in sync with the audience, taking them on this journey that left them silent and listening intently one minute and laughing out loud the next.

It was on this contract that I heard the voice of God speak deep into my soul, “This is what I created you to do.”

I felt it on a cellular level and began imagining how my career was about to take off.

Two months later, my dad died.

It shook me to my core. I’d lost friends and grandparents and cats, but this was my dad.

I started to unravel.

My dad had provided me with a sense of stability, safety, and security. Without him, I began to question everything.

I fluctuated from “it doesn’t matter what I eat or what I do, I’m just going to die anyway” to “the little things in life don’t matter; I should sell everything, move to Africa, and save the world.”

I continued auditioning. Continued performing. But, something was different.

In 2015, I was rehearsing for a musical and was so anxious, I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like I needed to quit the show, afraid I was going to ruin it by being terrible. Where I had once had such certainty, I now had doubt and fear.

I started every show panicked. What if I couldn’t do this? What if I was terrible and didn’t know it? What if someone wrote a mean review about me … and it remained on the internet FOREVER for all to see?

I completed the contract, but I didn’t enjoy it. At least, not in the way I had enjoyed performing before.

What was wrong with me?

This is what I was made to do.

I’m a performer.

An actor.

Wait. Is this what I’m supposed to do?

Something was missing.

I had been working so hard to prove to my dad that theatre was a career. That I could make money performing. That I didn’t need a backup career.

Now that he was gone, who was I proving myself to?

How many opportunities had I passed up, all in service of proving to my dad that I didn’t need any other opportunities?

I’m a performer.

An actor.

Actor - a person who performs on the stage … especially as a profession.

Actor - a person who plays a part, pretending by their behavior to be a particular kind of person.

Which was I?

Was I both?

I was a person who got paid to act.

I was also a person playing a part to prove a point to her father.

A father who was no longer here to prove a point to.

So, who am I?

What do I want?

Do I want to perform?

Are there other things I want to do?

For so long, these questions were off the table. They threatened the story I was narrating for my father.

Here’s what I do know:

I love telling stories. I love connecting with an audience. I love challenging people to see things differently than they previously had. I love making people laugh and taking them on a journey.

Is there more than one way to do that?

I’d never asked.

Does it always have to be someone else’s story I’m telling? In the form of a play or musical? Do I have to get paid to make it worth my time, effort, and energy?

I am still figuring this out.

Along the way, I’ve written poems, started a blog, and have visions of groups of people gathering together to share pieces of their stories.

I believe there is power in sharing our stories. Power in being witnessed.

I am on the journey of becoming.

I am becoming the true daughter of my father.

Fully me.

Fully pursuing who I was made to be.

Not proving myself to anyone.

I still face fear before I step out onto a stage.

What if I can’t do this? What if I’m terrible? What if they don’t like me and write mean things that are on the internet forever?

So what?

The minute I step onto that stage, I step into my bliss. I was created to tell stories. To connect with people on a deep, meaningful level. To take them on a journey with me. Nothing I have ever experienced lights me up in the same way.

I’m no longer limiting myself, which is terrifying. And, freeing. The path isn’t straight because it isn’t so narrow.

I am learning things about myself, facing fears, and coming out stronger on the other side.

I only wish my dad were here to see all that I can be.

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