What do you want to be when you grow up?
I wanted to be an actress.
Well, when I was young, I wanted to be a teacher.
But then I started drama class in 5th grade – and by the time I was in high school, I’m pretty sure I answered that question with “actress.” Although, once you get to high school, people mostly stop asking you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They start asking you, “What do you want to go to college for?”
And I was in love with the theatre. I even spelled it theatre.
Always have, always will.
I was a very serious theatre student. I even tried to join the choir — though I’ve never been able to carry a tune. (Yet?)
“I need to learn to sing.” I told the choir director. And she looked at me like I had two heads, and made me sing The Star Spangled Banner while she accompanied me on the piano.
I really can’t do that – sing to someone playing all those notes and chords. Not being able to sing was why I wanted to learn to sing. Duh.
It was embarrassing, and I remember thinking, Seriously, which of the thousand notes that she’s playing does she want me to sing? I told her I can’t sing!
But, I was a serious theatre student, so I tried my best. For maybe one semester. And then I decided I could just be a lover of straight plays. Who needs musicals? People don’t just start singing their life, so I don’t need to sing on stage!
(Once I did have to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in a play. I remember my director trying so hard to help me. I think I caught her rolling her eyes and sighing once. But I totally get it. I mean, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? I didn’t have the confidence to just sing Twinkle Twinkle?)
I only had one dream bigger than my dream of becoming a professional actress. I needed to go to Penn State. It wasn’t because my parents went to Penn State (They did). It wasn’t because I loved football (definitely not a football fan). It wasn’t for the parties (I’m not a big partier). But, I did grow up in State College until right before 5th grade, and I imagined that going to Penn State would be like going back home finally. I applied to the college of Education as my backup plan, and then got ready to audition for the Theatre program. Remember, I was a serious Theatre student! I sent in my video monologue, and drove to State College for my live audition.
Spoiler alert: I did NOT get into the Penn State Theatre program. Oh, I cried so much! I called them to see why, and that’s another slice entirely. But at the end of the conversation they said “Well, you were already accepted to the College of Education, so at least you have a place at Penn State!”
Yay. So that’s what I got for having a backup plan, I guess!
I don’t remember exactly why I wanted to be an actress. I remember enjoying it for sure. But I don’t remember why I loved it. It’s been a long time.
I do remember why I love teaching. I remember it every time I have kids in front of me, every time I plan a lesson, every time I collaborate with teachers, every time I lead Professional Development, every time I read aloud.
It’s almost like I was meant to be a teacher. It’s almost like the universe knew! That’s pretty cool.
The ironic thing is that when I’m with kids – just me and them… what I often do is… sing! I sing pop songs, I make up lyrics. I go all out. One year I had my 6th grade class pretty convinced that I was actually a famous singer, whose agent would be soooo mad if she heard I had sung in public without selling tickets.
A while ago someone told me the world was lucky I became a teacher and didn’t become the next Julia Roberts. I think it was a backhanded compliment, but since she’s neither the next Julia Roberts nor a teacher, it just makes me smile. Especially because now whenever I want to, I like to say “Big mistake! Big! HUGE!”
There are, surprisingly, many times in life for that scene — even if I just play it in my head.