20 years ago I had a very formative summer.
I was doing my very first musical, “The Sound of Music.” From top to bottom the cast was composed of wildly talented humans. The production received a decent amount of praise; enough so for Julie Andrews (my ultimate hero) to send a personal letter to our cast and crew. I still hold the memories of that production, and that letter, very close to my heart.
It was sometime during that summer that the idea of NYU was first planted in my brain. Someone must’ve been studying there and talking about it. Or talking about the college application process and prospective schools. And it must’ve been someone I looked up to enough to want to follow suit. So that was the birth of two dreams that have massively shaped my entire existence: Perform on Broadway & attend NYU for Musical Theater.
Fast forward to 2012. I applied to and auditioned at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts to study Musical Theater. It was my first choice; a highly competitive program and difficult to get into. I knew I could do it. I mean, I had been working towards that dream for my whole life up until that point. I just had to get in. And I did! Ah, the realization of a 12-year-old dream coming true!
But I didn’t go. I couldn’t. I mean, have you seen that tuition?
Naively, it never occurred to me that I would get in and not go. I always thought it was a given; that if I was accepted I’d go. But when a substantial scholarship offer wasn’t enough to even put a dent in the overall debt I’d be facing, it was over. My parents (smartly, thanks mom & dad) put the kibosh on that.
I didn’t talk to them for a week, until they reminded me that I had to choose another school.
A back up.
A “plan B.”
I had to pivot away from the dream I had clung to for 12 years. It was time to uncover a new path to obtain that Broadway dream.
Now, I can see that it was the best, and right, decision.
Hindsight is 2020.
I didn’t last long at my “back up” school.
Three semesters, to be exact, before my performance career took flight. Literally. I was flying around the Walt Disney Theater in the middle of the ocean a few times a week while working for Disney Cruise Line. It was, without exaggeration, magical.
And then I returned to dry land after that incredible 9 month adventure and couldn’t book a job.
The thought of going back to school to finish my degree lingered in the back of my head. I always knew I’d finish undergrad eventually. Not completing it wasn’t really an option for me.
So with some encouragement (okay and maybe some prodding) from a few influential people (Hi Meg O’Brien!), I applied, was accepted to, and enrolled at Arizona State University’s online Bachelor’s program as an English major.
To this day, I maintain that getting my English degree is the absolute best decision I’ve ever made. It has opened doors that I didn’t know I needed to knock on. It provided me with a path I wouldn’t have followed right out of high school given the choice. Now, I have the incredible gift of a parallel career that has blossomed out of my innate passion for storytelling.
Which, in many ways, leads us to today. To a time of profound uncertainty. The theater industry is shut until 2021 with fading hope that a January 3rd reopening date is possible. Facing this harsh reality has forced me to take a closer look at the paths I’ve paved.
What makes me happiest? What is going to sustain me during this time? How else can I tell stories? These are a few of the questions that have led me to NYU.
I began looking at Master’s programs shortly after my undergrad graduation in 2017. In the back of my mind, I knew it was my chance to receive that NYU education I’d been dreaming of for so long. I toyed with the idea for years, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that I seriously considered what going back to school might look like. That’s when I found NYU’s American Journalism program.
After reaching out to the program coordinator, researching the brand-new program more vigorously, and calling a few mentors, I decided to go for it. Something about the program and offerings just felt right in my gut. I had nothing to lose, really. So in late June, an application along with writing samples and 3 letters of recommendation were sent to NYU.
And then came the interview with the head of the program.
And then came the acceptance letter.
So now for the million dollar question: “Does this mean you’re done performing?!”
What it does mean is that I’m continuing to build a life for myself that is beyond what I’ve ever dreamt. It reaffirms my commitment to maintaining my parallel careers.
It’s 2020 and choosing to follow only one of your dreams is overrated. There is immense power in loving more than one thing and I am choosing to embrace that.
We are at a crucial, history-making time in our nation. To be able to contribute to that as a journalist is exciting. It’s also intimidating, given the way the media has been framed by the current administration. But in many ways it strengthens my resolve to do what I’ve always done.
To tell stories.