Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Change in the Wind...

As usual, it took a severe crash and burn for me to realize how unhappy I was. At the end of classes, before finals began, I realized that I was insanely stressed out, hating school, and that I didn't care enough about any of my classes to fight for success. Something had to change.

A couple of months ago, at the career development office:
Counselor: So, what is your ideal job?
(long pause)
Me: Well... my IDEAL job is doing voice-overs for Disney movies and recording books on tape. ... I realize that that's not exactly included in my major. [english writing and communications] I do think I'm in the right major, but I also know that if the opportunity to perform ever presented itself, I sure as hell would jump at it.

Later that month, conversation with a friend:
me: I have so much to do... [more yammering about specific papers I had to write, tests to study for, whining etc.]
him: Why don't you pull an all-nighter?
me: I can't. No, really, I physically cannot. I always fall asleep.
him: Well, then why don't you skip choir rehearsal and get caught up?
me: No!
him: Why not? You have almost perfect attendance; one absence isn't going to affect your A in the class.
me: No... no way am I missing HCC. I love it too much!
him: So... let me get this straight: you hate all your classes except HCC.
me: (pause) Yeah... I guess do...

Monday of finals week, on a walk with my mom:
me: "I think I need to change my major..."

Mom was a little freaked out, I think, but she suggested that I get more information. "Knowledge is power," she said. So, I made a whole slew of appointments with my choir director (also, conveniently, the advisor for the music department), my academic advisor, the career counselor (again), and an advisor from the theater department. What it boils down to is this:
I cannot live without performing. I am tired of putting costumes in dressing rooms for shows that don't include me, tired of cheering others on in their musical/theatrical pursuits and never even dreaming that I could follow suit. Aside from moments in front of the tabernacle, in Eucharistic adoration, and at Mass, the happiest moments of my life are during performances. Singing in church, dance recitals, high school musicals, half-time shows as a Bethette, choir concerts, it doesn't matter where or how I'm performing; I have loved every minute of my time on stage. And I want to do this for the rest of my life, professionally.

I know that pursuing a career in musical theater will be difficult. But I also know that I have what it takes to succeed. The more I look at this career path, the more I research and talk to people and imagine myself living that life, the more I feel that this is the path I was created to take. For the first time in my life, I want to throw myself into my studies because I want to make myself better. I desire to improve myself, to make something of myself, to really work for something! And for the first time, I truly believe that I can do it. This decision has given my life purpose and meaning like I've never dreamed of!

So, where does this leave me? What's my immediate plan of action? Well, I'm going to drop the communications degree and finish my writing degree, but I'm switching my concentration from "creative nonfiction" to "fiction." And I'll be adding on a degree in music. I'm only two classes away from my Italian minor, so I'll probably finish that up. Since I'm getting started on the music credits so late in the game (I'll be a junior in the fall!) I'll have to take summer classes next summer to fit in all my gen eds. Even still I have to talk to my advisor about squeezing the three-year music major program into two years. (I already tested out of an intro music class by totally acing the theory placement exam! :D Thank you, high school choir classes!) After graduation, I will hopefully be completing a 2-year conservatory program for musical theater so that I'll be ready to hit the stage as soon as I'm done with school. Boston Conservatory has a nice 2-year program, as do a variety of schools in New York City.

Why not study theater at Pitt, you ask? Well, I don't know how much you know about Pitt's theater department, but it's pretty much stuck in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning. That's just how much they care about us. The major description itself admits that it is preparation for further professional training, not immediate entry into the professional world. Besides, if I were to start on a theater major with music minor now, I would definitely have to take a fifth year, and I feel like time's a-wastin' as it is. I don't want to spend prime years of my life that I could be performing sitting in a classroom, ya know? Better to focus on music now and then on acting, I think. Plus that way, even if acting falls through, I'll still be a well-trained musician (and writer).

Meanwhile, I'll be auditioning for shows in Pittsburgh. There are definitely a couple of places where I could get paid, and others where I could not, but the important thing is to start building my acting resume and gain auditioning experience. Ideally, I'll be able to get an Equity card somewhere and start working for real. Next summer I hope to get a job in some amusement park's performing troupe, in which case I'll be taking my gen ed classes online. Or maybe I'll go back to Disneyland and audition to be a Disney princess. ;)

So, that's my story. The timing has been a little crazy as far as interfering with finals week and some personal issues, too, but ultimately, it's been the most exciting decision of my life. And I'm happy about it. I look forward to the future with such hope, such joy. I feel like I can do anything, be anything that I want. And it feels great. :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Our Good Shepherd

Ah, to be a lamb on the shoulders of that good shepherd!

I remember one Christmas my home parish had a live Nativity, and my dad and I were both shepherds.  I looked quite the sight with my huge blue-rimmed glasses under that headpiece.  But I digress.  We stood outside the church before the evening Mass and sang carols first, and then we came into the church for the homily.  We really went all out, too; we hired a petting zoo and recruited a family with a newborn to play the holy family.  There was even a little lamb.  Or maybe it was a small goat.  Well, either way, when it came time for us to enter the church during the homily, my dad thought it would be sweet to pick up this little goat and carry it on his shoulders.  The goat had other ideas.  As soon as he got up on my dad's shoulders, he began to kick as hard as he could to get down.  Luckily, my dad's lightning-quick reflexes caught those little hooves before they smashed his face in, but both shepherd and sheep were quite flustered as they walked down the aisle that night.  
So, why do I tell this little story?  I guess because it's always what I think of when I see pictures like the one above of our Good Shepherd.  It never made sense to me that any animal would just allow itself to be carried like that.  Even the tame petting zoo goat wouldn't do it, and he had probably been sat on and had his tail pulled and all other manner of unpleasantries.  Yes, I think I just made that word up...
But I heard a rumor lately about ancient shepherding techniques.  According to this rumor, if a shepherd was carrying a lamb like this, it was because its legs were broken.  Apparently, if a lamb kept straying from the flock (thus leading others astray: sheep are stupid creatures), then the shepherd had two choices.  He could either kill the wandering lamb or break its legs and immediately set the bone.  While the legs healed, he would carry the lamb and hand-feed it until it was able to walk again.  During this period, the lamb would not only learn that straying was bad from the leg-breaking, but it would also bond with its shepherd so much during the weeks that followed that by the time it was better, it wouldn't even want to stray again. 
Now, I'm not sure of the validity of this story, and it's certainly not in scripture anywhere, but it is an interesting metaphor.  I know it's true that sometimes Christ needs to break us down in order to build us up.   Although He will willingly come to save us from the wilderness after we've strayed again and again, sometimes our deep-set complacency requires more than that.  Sometimes we need to go through crisis in order to find Him again.  Sometimes it's only when all that is comforting to us is stripped away that we can truly see the huge lack in our hearts.
So Lord... break my legs and hoist me up onto your shoulders.  Feed me from Your precious hands and care for me.  Let me be completely dependent on you for everything, even movement, for I do not trust myself not to stray from You.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Best Class Ever!

Something unbelievable and wonderful has just happened, and I feel the need to share with everyone.
So, I was actually ON TIME to my history class today. I know that this, in itself, is unbelievable and wonderful, but this is just the beginning. At the start of class, our professor asked us a question hoping to get some discussion going. "Who can summarize the events of the student movement in Paris at such-and-such a time?" No one answered, which if you ask me is not so unusual for a college class, even an honors one like this one. The silence lengthened and he asked us again. "What happened? Anything?" Still no answer. "Nothing? Nothing happened? Niente?" (The class is "Italy, France and Spain in the 20th Century," so the prof sometimes says little phrases in Italian, French, Spanish, or some conglomeration of the three.) When we still didn't reply, he said "Well if you don't know, then I'll just pack up and go home." And then he DID!!! We all sat in the room for a few minutes after he had left, stunned into silence. We exchanged some incredulous looks and a few people justified not being able to do the reading by complaining about the heavy course load (which is legit, because we have an essay due soon that's a response to 3 books that we have to read on top of the readings for class; I certainly hadn't read it). And then we left, about 10 minutes after class had begun.
Is this not wonderful and glorious? Oh this day just could not get better. Ok, yes it could, but it's pretty darn amazing already. Praise God. :D

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Poem

as yet untitled...

dressed for success
dressed to impress
many will look
fewer will see
fewer still will reach out and touch
my hand, my heart
and the eyes of he
who I wish would see
are unimpressed