Looking back on some of the major turning points of my life, I realize most of them have come out of rash decisions. Momentary whims that turned into life paths and completely new directions.
Rash decision one: Give up theater, after a life time of dance classes, voice lessons, summer theater camps, and a performing arts high school, after a terrible college program audition (complete with crying phone meltdown to my mother) and a comment from my high school drama/playwriting teacher that my play read more like a sitcom. Instead of pursuing an BFA in Musical Theater (which I could not have done solely due to lack of necessary talent…) or even a BA in Theater Studies, I decided to major in Television and Film with the new dream of writing for Television. It was quasi based on my lifetime love of television, but looking back, it was also quasi reactionary. Even so, that decision shaped the next four years of my life.
Rash decision number two: Apply to be a counselor at a Jewish summer camp. A completely random decision a the time, having never attended camp myself. It came up after a third or forth viewing of the MTV Documentary “Fat Camp” with my friend Nick my second semester of college, during which I talked about how I almost went to sleep away Jew camp as a kid, but chickened out at the last minute. I thought about how I had nothing to do that summer and about how much fun I’d had the summer before working at a Performing Arts Day camp, and how I’d always secretly wished I had just sucked it up and GONE to camp that summer, so I, of course, randomly started researching and applying to Jewish summer camps in the Midwest. I heard back from several, got hired at one, and proceeded to have the best two summers of my life 20 minutes outside of Cleveland, Ohio, which in turn led to both my amazing Australian adventure with my two camp BFF’s and my third rash decision.
Rash decision number three: Apply to Teach for America. After my second semester junior year experience of interning and hating life in LA, I felt lost. My rash decision to major in TV was looking like an epic failure after discovering I didn’t, in fact, enjoy working in television, and I had no idea what to do with my life. The only vague thought I had was to maybe apply to Emerson to study Theater Education and circle back to my original love of theater and my new found (Thanks to Camp!) love of working with kids. I doubted I would get in, however, with my limited camp experience teaching drama one summer and my one vaguely related to education class, the Politics of Education. Then I saw one of those pesky recruitment signs touting the (horrifying) statistics about low-income schools, which reminded me of all the things I learned were broken in the education system in my one education class. I went to an info meeting, told my mom I was thinking about applying, and filled out the application in a day, figuring I would let fate decide, since I didn’t really have faith in my decision making skills at the time. Then a funny thing happened. Fate decided I should be a teacher.
And that’s where I am now. One year into my two-year commitment to TFA, which is when everyone in TFA starts asking “What are you going to do next Spring when you finish?” They, of course, are asking so they can steer you into staying in education, thus fulfilling step two of their two-part plan to close the education gap. And for the first time in a while, I’m not feeling like making a rash decision that will throw me in a completely different direction.
Maybe it’s just because my life is going pretty well right now that I don’t feel like changing it and, eventually one small blip will send me looking at law school applications, but for now, for the first time ever, I’ve drafted out a plan for the next five years of my life, based on where I am now right now. It’s weird to write out where I want to be five years into the future, because for the last five years, my plans have been changing and evolving on a regular basis. There has never been a constant, because I have always felt unsure, like I wasn’t good enough to act or I wasn’t cut-throat enough for Hollywood. It’s kind of scary to feel stable and to plan, because I have a history of planning and then pursuing those plans only to chuck them out the window and do something totally different. I even wrote my college admissions essay about how I did this, and after that, I changed my mind again!
But maybe those rash decisions were all just leading me here, to the place I was supposed to end up. I just had to make those giant, seemingly random leaps because I wasn’t going to get to this place fast enough unless I made mistakes, took on random jobs and left a few things up to fate.
Maybe planning just feels scary, because, as I’ve seen, life doesn’t go according to plan, and I’m just afraid to fail. In the past, as my plans have changed or been only a few months ahead of me, I’ve never technically failed. I’ve gotten everything I’ve really tried to do. I don’t know how I would handle it if I made this plan, went for it with all I had, and then didn’t succeed.
Then again, life is scary and unpredictable, as I’ve seen, and I might fail, but I think I need to focus on the fact that right now, in this moment, I’m so incredibly grateful that I made those decisions, and that life, unpredictably, brought me here to this place where I can make plans for my future, because when I think of what my life would have been had I not made those random, rash decisions, I wouldn’t have all the life experience that is now factoring into my plans. I guess I just have to trust that even if life doesn’t go according to the plan, it can still lead you to a good place.