Choosing Love Over a Desk

In the summer of 2013, I decorated my flimsy brown camp counselor clipboard with all sorts of things. Triangles, anchors, and sailboats are pretty much all I’ve ever been good at doodling, so those images were visible to everyone on the backside of the clipboard. On the front, beneath all my attendance rosters, camper evaluations, attempts at new signatures, and lists of what to buy at Meijer, I had written a quote to keep myself focused on life post-camp. “A life lived for art is never a life wasted” -Macklemore. I’d catch myself staring down at it a few times a day, reminding myself that performing is what I loved, and if I worked hard enough, I might have a shot at making it my profession after college and my summers spent teaching sailing.

One day, I asked a friend (who would later become much more) to call attendance while I figured some boat stuff out. He and his buddy felt the need to flip through my papers afterwards, and found my quote. They thought it was lame, and spent a big chunk of time on the sailing porch that day making me feel bad about being inspired by a Macklemore song. Those boys really succeeded in making me feel small that afternoon. For the rest of that summer, I avoided looking at the lyric that had once given me hope and focus. I felt like a pathetic loser every time my eyes fell on those black letters.

I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential.

Fast-forward a few years to winter 2015. I was grinding HARD at UCF. I was directing a pageant, leading a publication, blogging every day, working part-time, and taking “more than the recommended number of credits”. With a few business internships under my belt and a standing job offer in an office for after graduation, I had a lot going for me as “Business Maddie”. The big problem? It wasn’t where my heart was.

I had been aggressively getting involved in college activities outside the classroom in an attempt to move out of the business space. Because I was so close to finishing my marketing degree, I was determined to get it done. But even then, I knew that post-graduation, I would not be working in an office. Traditional works for a lot of people. A lot of people wanted traditional to work for me. But traditional has NEVER worked for me. By this time, I’d worked a few little performing jobs, and I was hooked. I didn’t know how I would make an entertainment career work, but I knew there was no other path for me. Every time I saw a live performance, I would cry thinking about life chained to a desk. Dramatic? Probably. But performing has always been my one great love. Entertaining has always been my everything. I had some critical adults (and peers) try to trick me out of chasing my love, and could finally recognize and process that. The only way I’d ever ACTUALLY be a pathetic loser is if I gave up on that dream. I started to pour all my energy into auditioning for everything I could, and in January 2016, I finally got noticed. It was the beginning of a new life.

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint // the greats were great because they’d paint a lot.

Now, nearing the end of 2018, I feel incredibly grateful. I have made a living almost exclusively as an entertainer this year. I’ve had a few side jobs here and there, but mostly to keep myself entertained between gigs or have a change of scenery. It isn’t always easy waking up and dragging myself to every audition I can find, but it sure as hell beats the alternative. I’ve had some wonderful, weird, and wonderfully weird work experiences this year. I’ve tested my limits and discovered some weaknesses. Occasionally I think about how doing something else would be easier in a lot of ways, how some stability would be nice. Maybe I could do some more “normal” 26-year-old stuff for a bit. But for me, true joy is making other people smile, giving them (and myself) an escape. With some new projects on the horizon, I couldn’t be happier to live an “alternative” life. I’m out here choosing love over a desk every single day.

Macklemore’s Ten Thousand Hours came up on a Spotify daily mix yesterday, and I nearly cried hearing the first note. To me, that song is everything. From the first time I heard it years ago to this morning on the way to the coffee shop to write, every listen has filled me with hope, inspiration, and the motivation to put in my ten thousand hours. I’m reminded of everyone who has ever made me feel small, and am given a renewed strength to rise above.

A life lived for art is never a life wasted.

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