My first time on stage, the lullaby league, 5 years old. My life purpose started to become clear. Though I wouldn't admit it to myself for another 25.
I had an adventurous childhood spent mostly outdoors in Wisconsin. I was a pistol. I was wild, dramatic, girly and a tomboy and I loved my family.
We moved after my dad sold his part of the family business, and we all got fat. We didn't know we were stuffing our feelings down with food. I was 7 and I hated my body. On the outside, I was bubbly Mary Kay. I kept smiling. It was my way to make friends, fit in, survive.
Despite my deep inner sense of worthlessness, I could never pass up a chance to perform.
Mrs. Wilcox, my 3rd and 4th grade teacher, believed in me and gave me some of my first solos. I loved being up in front of people. It made me feel alive. Still does, every time.
Perhaps it was a silly assignment. I remember doubting, maybe I should draw something more sensible, more realistic. Forget that! This WAS my dream. Alas, my confidence didn't last. I would spend the next several years convincing myself that I could live a perfectly happy life with music as a hobby because I could never make a living doing what I loved most.
We moved again. It was a little easier this time. I knew how to make new friends being the cheerful, chubby girl. Except this time there already was a fat girl, and boy, did she hate me. I was devastated. I needed others to love me because I could not love myself. A boy would jump in and call me pork-chop and heifer. I would turn away, pretending I couldn't hear and hold it in until I got home. From then on, I swore I would never do that to another, and one day I would help all the little boys and girls out there who got made fun of.
I disliked the middle school social scene immensely. But I loved the musicals.
Mom had a coupon for a "Glamour Shots" studio session. They caked on the make-up which felt funny but I couldn't believe what I saw. Despite the weird hat, I thought I looked pretty good. Mom always said I was beautiful but I never believed her. She was my mom, she had to say that.
In high school, I marched in Capitol Sound, a Drum and Bugle Corps., out of Madison. It was "big city" for a small town girl. Diversity. Discipline. Lots of push-ups. It was fantastic. I got to perform in color guard every weekend in the summertime. It really helped me to get comfortable in my body.
All this time, I never stopped singing.
I never counted how many national anthems I sang during high school but it's safe to say they spanned almost every sports season.
Thanks to Mr. Braun, my drama coach and HS director, I won several State Acting and Forensics Awards.
one of my favorite roles...
I convinced myself I couldn't major in voice. That would take all the fun out of my passion. Music theory would kill me. Besides, I told myself, my voice wasn't strong enough. Nevertheless, I auditioned into Concert Choir and Vocal Jazz at "Wisconsin's Singing University".
I knew what I didn't want to major in but, I couldn't decide what I did. I couldn't bring myself to declare a major until the end of my sophomore year when they told me I had to. Social Studies Education.
Junior year, I auditioned into Impromptu, a 6-person a capella group. A life-changer. We competed in the Midwest Quarterfinals for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella and later that year recorded a CD. It was my first cd and consequently, the first time I dared take my voice seriously.
Then another serving of a cappella with Girls' Night Out, an all-female group on campus.
I had always wanted to be in an opera. Another tick off the bucket list with Pirates of Penzance.
After having an amazing roommate from Mexico, I decided to switch my minor to my major and declared Spanish education. To teach it, you have to speak it, well... so I signed up to study abroad in Spain. The summer before, I went sky-diving. I figured, if I could jump out of a plane, I could live for 10 months in a Spanish-speaking country. (Both absolutely terrified me.)
Oviedo, Spain. The adventure of a lifetime. There is nothing like living on the other side of the world to help you find out who you really are. A lot of living, several hard knocks. Lots of growing. (I sang in a choir there too. hehehe)
My first week in Oviedo, I met a truly decent Spanish guy (aka he didn't try anything.) Actually, he blew me off initially, which I found fascinating, so we became friends.
He was sweet and as a good friend does, tried to show me all he could about his culture.
We grew closer. We both had complicated family situations going on at home and would talk for hours.
In the end, it was no use. I tried as hard as I could not to, but I fell for him. I had two years left of college. We had no idea if we could make it or what we would do if we did. Where would we live? A Spanish boyfriend was fun but I had no intention of giving up my whole life.
In the end, I knew that we had to give it a shot. I couldn't live my life knowing he was out there somewhere and not having at least tried. It has become a theme for my life, often coming through in my music. Push through the fear. Follow your intuition. No regrets. Do your best, give it a try, and you will die happy.
Looking back now it is laughable. How could I not see it? Singing has always been a huge part of my life. But after marrying and moving to Spain, I became an English teacher. I stopped performing. I thought that part of my life was over. It was time to grow up. Married life was challenging, adjusting to living so far from home, starting over. I missed my friends a lot. I thought maybe being a mom would fill the void, so the universe gave us two little princes. They are the loves of my life. And, my soul had a cork in it.
The lack of music in my life haunted me. Finally, I took up guitar lessons. If I couldn't perform anymore, at least I could accompany myself a little around the campfire. I found some old notebooks of poetry I had written in high school and secretly started composing. It was a seed, but it wasn't enough. My spirit was wilting.
Teaching was good. I love people and working with kids. I love being goofy one moment and deep the next. My classroom was my little stage. After 8 years in Spain, I finally got my shot. This is what I went to college for after all, to be a "real" teacher. Middle and high school English as a foreign language. (And, on the side, I started a band.) It was an amazing year, but at the very end I was told I wouldn't be returning, I didn't fit it. My ego and who I thought I was, was blown to pieces.
Yet, tIme always puts everything in its place. After a year and half, I went back and thanked them for kicking my butt out the door. Had it not been for them, I would never had had the guts to leave, to follow my true life purpose, mine since I was 5 years old. I would probably never have kicked that nasty habit of worrying about what others think of me either. And to this day, the adventure continues. Now it's my job to help others live their best adventure, inspiring and offering support through music.