This past weekend during workshops for faire we asked our students during character class what it was, when they were young, that they wanted to be when they grew up. The exercise had a point relevant to character development, but it isn't relative to this post so I will skip over that. We always start these exercises with the instructors giving their answers as an example. When it came my turn I proved to be a bad example.
I wasn't a bad example because I sat there and hemmed and hawed over what my childhood dream job was, it wasn't because I seemed caught off guard by the question and faltered, it was because I honestly had no answer to give. Quite simply, when I was a little girl, I did not want to be anything when I grew up.
I am certain if you asked my mother she would say I wanted to be something like a vet, or Miss America, or some other random thing kids say. That is just it though it was a random thing I would say. I was very aware I should have some sort of future ambition, I simply didn't. Since people love to ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, I had to have some sort of generic answer to keep them from bugging me.
I don't think I lacked in ambition or in goals, I just could never really see myself as a grown up. Some days I still can't see me as a grown up and I am almost 32. It was always this nebulous eventuality that I sort of figured would sort itself out when I got there.
When I was in high school I could have told you easily what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be an actress. Not necessarily in the movies, more likely a Broadway star. Of course I wouldn't turn down the chance to be a big film star if it was offered to me.
Theater was my passion at that point in my life. It was almost an obsession. During my four years in high school I spent more time in the theater than I did in all my other classes combined. I absolutely loved everything about it. There was nothing I wanted to do more in the world.
When I got to college, I had the same opinion; theater was life. I started to change my focus from performing to costuming, but it was all in the same world. I still loved acting, but I loved costuming too. My biggest problem with college is that they wanted me to study other things that I didn't care about like geology and algebra.
Then I left college and in my mind for the longest time, I just left theater behind. I had a 'real' job in a cube farm, I was married with a mortgage and two car payments, and theater was something I certainly had no time for. It had been this driving force in my life for so long, and honestly the mere idea of a theater life suddenly seemed exhausting. That dream and the life I really love didn't seem to mesh any more.
A few years back I was at a Shakespear in the the Park production of Mid Summers Nights Dream (coincidentally the first show I ever did) that a dear friend of mine from college was directing. Several of my friends from college were also in the production. It was a fabulous show, but it gave me a slight pang inside that I couldn't describe. Maybe it was regret or a sense of loss or just bitersweet memories of how much this used to be my life.
After the performance I stood on the hill chatting with my college friends and the question came up as to what I was doing theater wise now. I was very uncomfortable suddenly. I sort of shrugged and said I wasn't doing anything in theater anymore, which promptly earned me a punch to the arm from the friends I had brought with me to the show.
They were quick to remind me that I was doing faire. It suddenly occurred to me that they were right. I hadn't given up theater. I was a member of a professional acting troupe and performed regularly. I was also a costume designer. Sure it isn't Broadway or the movies, but it is something that is very real and legitimate. I am still living that passion.
So it took me longer than most to figure out what it was that I wanted to do with my life. Really though I think I always knew, and I am not even sure that theater was the answer. I think I couldn't say what it was when I was a child because I didn't understand. I do now though.
When I was young, and still to this day, when I grew up I wanted to be passionate about my life. I wanted to do something in some way that I could be passionate about. It is that act that makes life so much more colorful and fulfilling.
I guess I got my dream after all.