As long as I can remember, my life has been peppered with the notion of following your dreams. I am lucky enough to have parents who have been with me every step of the way, supporting me and following me where my heart has propelled me. My dreams have shifted carelessly at times, and they have also moved me in directions that have changed my life for the better. One of the best things about having and pursuing dreams is that they give you purpose, and that has been the unifying theme for the different paths my life has gone through in my short 21 years. I have shaped my identity around my dreams, and I’ve allowed my ambitions to define almost every part of my being. Thankfully, the pieces of my changing heart eventually formed into a mosaic splattered with bright colors and plastered in a harmonious pattern.
When I was in fourth grade, I stood in front of my class and belted out “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. The rest of the parents complimented my mom, saying how great of a singer her little girl was. She beamed with pride, despite her fervent desire for me to become an athlete, and supported my desires to pursue as many musical experiences as possible. As I moved on from fifth grade honor’s choir to the hallways of my middle school and high school, I became a “music kid,” spending most of my time in the choir room, on stage in musicals, and playing jazz music on my trombone. I found community in the music world, and formed friendships that are still in my life today. On show nights, I blasted music and danced around the dressing room, rejoicing that I had a place that I could truly be myself. After performing jazz, one of my favorite genres, to masses of people, I marveled at the talent and drive of my peers sitting next to me. Music has been instrumental in my growth as an individual, and it has given me a way to connect with people and the world on a broader level.
When it finally came time for me to head off to college, I was antsy about picking a major, not considering the fact that it is perfectly normal to go into university without a set plan (I was only 17, for pete’s sake!). Music was the center of my universe for the bulk of my life, so I auditioned for the Choral Education program at the University of WI-Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s “singing university.” I got into the program, and looked forward to pursuing my dream of becoming a teacher. I always knew I wanted to help people, so this path that stitched together my biggest passions seemed like the perfect choice.
As the year dragged on, though, I found myself pulled in a different direction. I was lucky enough to be a student helper in the Special Education classrooms my senior year, and spending time with my peers ignited a purpose in me that trumped even my love of music. With the whole-hearted encouragement of my teacher and friends, I decided to pursue a new dream, and become a Special Educator. What better way to put my giving heart to work? For the first three years of college, I pursued this dream with passion and vigor, but when I finally made it into the competitive program my junior year, a piece of the puzzle was missing. I knew that in order to be happy, working with individuals with disabilities would always be an integral part of my life, but my former drive to become an educator faded. I wasn’t being creatively fulfilled, and I didn’t believe that I could advocate for my students as fully as they deserved in a classroom setting. After a lot of soul searching, tear-filled phone calls with my mom, and a deep observation of my identity, I decided to pursue one of the ultimate “dreamer dreams ” – becoming a writer.
Since I started pursuing a degree in creative writing, something ten year old bookworm me would wholeheartedly approve of, I’ve watched myself evolve in beautiful and surprising ways. I actually enjoy going to classes and completing coursework, thriving in critical discussions and forming great relationships with my professors. I have found various communities of writers who push me to do better, inspire me to go outside the box, and assure me that I’m not alone. My confidence has been boosted by my peers’ and professors’ feedback, and my work has grown exponentially through workshops, publishing my work, and taking criticism with an open heart and mind. I never thought that I could believe in myself this way. That is not to say that I don’t have doubts, because we all do, but when you love what you are doing, it makes the future seem exciting rather than daunting. I have always been an incredibly ambitious and idea-driven individual, and pursuing a career in the arts gives me the ability to focus this drive into something productive and fulfilling.
I used to think I had to plan my life out to a tee, and if I switched from one dream to another, I was a flakey person. Each of these turns of the heart have come with a lot of heartache. I have always been a planner, and the idea that my life wasn’t going in the direction I thought it would petrified me. Even though I am generally a no B.S. person, I do value what the people closest think of me, and I was terrified of disappointing them. What would my old SPED teacher say when I told her I was no longer following in her footsteps? What would my parents say when I told them I had to stay in school another semester because of changing majors so late in the game? Unsurprisingly, they all wanted what was best for me, and continue to be integral parts of my support system. The biggest person I had to battle with to get to where I am was myself, and through all that turmoil, I have emerged a more self-actualized individual. I know what I want (for real this time, OK?) and I can finally confidently say I’m doing the right thing.
The best part about all of my passions is that they’ve somehow come together in a harmonious manner. The common denominator of my various dreams is to create change in the world, and affect people on an intimately human level. Music ignites something in you that you didn’t know you could feel. It can place thoughts into words you didn’t know how to express, and it can be the shoulder to cry on when it feels like no one else understands. Teaching provides an opportunity for mentorship that can affect the course of people’s entire lives. It introduces perspectives that might otherwise never be considered, and shows a new generation the value of acceptance, social awareness, and equity. Writing paints human emotion at its rawest. It exposes all of life’s ultimate truths, and shows us the boundless possibilities of this world, both in our imaginations and everyday lives. Through all of these functions, and all of my ambitions and dreams attached to them, I hope to lead a life that is dynamic and full, centered around creating community and helping people in any way I can. You don’t have to have your head in the clouds to be a dreamer – for me, there’s barely a cloud in the sky