It’s hard to pinpoint one decision which changed the trajectory of my life. As a person who believes everything happens for a reason its hard to look back and determine where I really chose to do something versus where the universe led me to make a specific choice.
However as I think about where I am today and how I got here there is one choice I keep finding myself reflecting upon. I spent the summer after my junior year of college interning for California Shakespeare Theatre. There were, of course, a lot of decisions and small steps that led up to that internship. It was not my first time living away from my home state of Wisconsin, it was not my first internship, it was not my first road trip. It was however the first time I looked my parents in the eyes and said, “I’m doing this whether you help me or not”.
This internship started as a far-fetched dream. I was interning in Minneapolis for the spring semester of my Junior year and constantly searching for some sort of summer program that would allow me to avoid returning to my hometown. I remember spending several nights pondering what kind of internship I would be most interested in: Acting Apprenticeships, Costuming Internships, Teaching Fellowships. Then came the question of what kind of theatre I wanted to work in: Nationally renowned, Local Community, Family focused, Outdoor, Shakespeare, Contemporary, Cutting edge – this list could go on for days. I quickly settled on searching exclusively for Shakespeare companies. I had spent some of my earliest experiences on stage in some of Shakespeare’s finest works and had easily fallen in love with the language of his plays when I read Romeo and Juliet at the age of 12.
Shakespeare companies are in every major city in this country. My options were unwieldy. I spent night after night scrolling through my google search, clicking on Shakespeare companies in cities or states I thought would interest me, and scouring their page for their internship tab. I can’t recall how many places I applied to, I can’t even recall any of the other programs I looked in to. The minute I found California Shakespeare Theatre I knew I had found something I wanted.
Traveling to California has been a dream of mine since I was in Elementary school. California had this aura of idealism – it represented everything I wanted to be, it seemed to me to be a tangible representation of ‘free-spirited’. I had no reason to have these lofty dreams of living out west. My entire family lives in the Midwest and has remained in that area to this day. Yet I always had this urge to travel, to see the sides of the world my other family members had never reached for, I yearned to move away from home not to just vacation in these magical places.
California Shakespeare Theatre was my way in.
I applied for the Artistic Learning Internship. The title alone was excitingly foreign and of course made me wonder if they would ever consider accepting a young theatre artist from the Midwest. I didn’t expect to get the internship, I didn’t even expect to hear back. I didn’t tell anyone I had applied.
Then one day as I was in the last few months of my internship in Minneapolis I got an email. That email led to a nervous phone interview pacing around the break room. I never once stopped walking or smiling the entire interview, I responded with probably too much enthusiasm to every question the bubbly voice on the other end asked me, and I hung up practically shaking with excitement and nerves.
I can’t remember how much time lapsed between the interview and the acceptance, but in the end the internship was mine. A package came to my temporary housing filled with paperwork, information, city brochures. I had already said yes, I never once ran the idea by my parents, and I knew the fight that would ensue the minute we discussed my plans.
I sat down one night and looked over the numbers of my endeavor. I looked into travel, housing, the income I would get with the side job I had secured in California, the income I had been receiving all semester long in Minneapolis, the refunds I had gotten from my college tuition last year. I planned as if my parents weren’t going to help, because I knew the minute I found the internship that this was something I couldn’t pass up.
When I told my parents of course they were proud, but being parents they immediately started in with the ‘parental reality check’. I listened, I argued with my own pre-planned counterpoints, they fought back until it was clear they did not approve of this choice. If they had their way I would not take this internship.
I was sitting on the floor of my living room, staring at the television that was acting as mediator to our conversation and I said to my parents, “I understand what you are saying, but this is the last time I can do something like this. This is the last summer I can take on an unpaid internship and I am doing this whether you help me or not. I have the money. I’m going”. I didn’t wait for a response, I stood up and went to bed.
That was the moment I truly established my independence. That was the first time I made a choice solely for myself and I do believe it changed the course of my life.
I spent my summer in a beautiful place. I met some wonderfully talented artists. I learned how to sail. I worked on writing my own curriculum and learned from extremely talented teachers. I ended up teaching my first ever class period and learned that when necessary I can make a class plan on the spot. I found my passion for teaching. I got to add a Nationally Renowned Theatre to my resume and came back one step closer to being truly capable of standing on my own two feet.