In retrospection of my underwear-on-head, tatted up with cuts and bruises, and toothless days as an irrepressible, spirited kid I can recount each and every thing I ever wanted to be. As a kid, I was ambitious. It is not some nugget of gold when I say that children have that ability to leap headfirst into an idea, cling to it, and pursue it without so much as a lifesaver. We all lose that sense of invincibility and ambitious drive- with age comes sage and reason, but as children we have wings that defy reason and ambition that shatters Mr. Reality’s class ceiling.
There is a resolute memory of myself standing small and lean against a long, black chalk board as I looked over the expansion of my fourth grade peers peering up at me with mixture of questioning stares and bored frowns. The question was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And at that moment the world was at my fingertips. Sally in the first row said the first female President. Johnny in the back row said with more conviction than the President that he was to be an Astronaut. And I stood with my back against the long, black chalk board overlooking a room filled with first female Presidents, astronauts, firefighters, and even a few Supermen and it was then that I made my first leap toward…well toward something.
“So,” Mrs. Parrott asks “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I look out over my fellow classmates and answer with as much confidence as I could muster and say loudly “Well, I think I will be a chef, a soccer player, a writer, a firefighter, a doctor, an actor, an ice skater, a gymnast, Robin Hood, Harry Potter, and at the end of the day I will be a daddy!” With a sweet smile Mrs. Parrott asked me if that was all; was there nothing else? To which I responded “Oh well I guess I will be an uncle, brother, Godfather, boyfriend, husband, and maybe even Mel Gibson! My momma really likes Mr. Gibson!”
Like I said, I had the ambition worthy of twenty men. My aspirations were- well they were usually something that was the exact opposite from what my peers and siblings wanted to be. Achilles from the get-go had that unyielding passion for the Marine Corps. Winifred had that forte for speedy reading and a knack for turning a phrase with pure ease. Mary followed in suit of Achilles in her own passion for the Marine Corps. I, on the other hand, always had a persistently changing idea of what I wanted to be and when it didn’t change for a few months it was because it wasn’t just one thing that I wanted to be, but all things. At the end of my tenth grade year I said to myself “I am going to be a Saint.”
Somewhere in everyone’s life course will be a moment when everything they have ever believed is questioned. At one point I wanted to just be a chef; mainly because I loved to cook. It was while I was waiting for the bus with Mary that Anastasia said that she didn’t want me to be a chef. That was it for me- I no longer had that wanting to be a chef. There was something in that moment that severed a part of the passion I had for the craft of cooking from me and now it no longer is a spark that I kindle. At one point I wanted to be a writer; mainly because I loved belonging to a world where you change the landscape with the flick of your wrist or travel back in time without having to do the leg work. I lost my feel for writing when I realized I didn’t want to be the talent behind the curtain and when I came to the conclusion that I did not want to spend my life caressing a keyboard and looking in from the outside.
The moment when I decided to be an actor did not come in like a much needed rain after a long drought nor was it some huge epiphany. It was as if the right piece had fallen into place. The moment I decided to be an actor was in the expanse of time that it took me to flip through a magazine that was issued to give all the details about the latest blockbuster movie about to come out. As I had begun to flip through the magazine it wasn’t the Hollywood celebrities and their butter and cream lives that caught my eye. No, it was seeing these actors and actresses doing what I had always pretended do. They ran like their life was actually in danger, they captured the room’s attention by a simple movement, and they stood where only a few could stand. In that moment it was entirely the same magazine I had just barely glanced at when I bought it, but it was also serenely incongruent to the magazine I had bought to pass time.
I went to a Psychic this past summer in Kennesaw, Georgia. She told me that I was destined to be a writer and that I would be praised for my ability to write. She said that I had put my creativity on the shelf and it was about time that I pulled it off and gave it a much needed dusting. When I asked her about acting, she told me she didn’t see anything in my cards that dealt with pursuing an acting career. She said she saw thousands of books in my future. I was discouraged because she had been right about so many others things- things that no one but only I could know. So if she had been right about all those things, how could she be wrong about this one thing? I then realized that maybe she misinterpreted the cards. Maybe the books represented each movie I would be in or a movie that I would help direct or produce. She also told me that I had the Hangman’s card which symbolized great change… great change.
There has been one person who has always been supportive of my choice to be an actor; Achilles. The moment I told him, his response was immediate and jubilant- he couldn’t wait for me to be successful. When I first told BB she said I was too smart to be an actor and I would be wasting my brains. In all actuality I am not smart. Remember how I said Winifred had a knack for turning a phrase? Well I have that knack for memorizing information- it is solely because of that that my grades are where they are. Winifred persisted that I would have time to change my mind and that I should be a writer. In all actuality I am not some brilliant writer- she alone is the writer of the family. Over a game of cards she told me that the only reason I wanted to be an actor was because Achilles had been a body double for Josh Duhamel and that I was just copying him. Perhaps I should have corrected her, but the thing with Winifred is that when you argue with her and your opinions differ, no matter how logical your argument might be, she will immediately say that you sound ignorant- it’s her defense mechanism.
For about two minutes I believed what she said. Perhaps this was all just a phase or me just emulating my big brother? I then called Achilles and asked him what he thought. “First, Winifred is being shallow and hypocritical if she is going to criticize someone else’s career choice. Second, I did the body double job to earn extra cash and that’s not something you’re doing, is it? Plus, you told me you wanted to be an actor before I even got that job!” It was in that moment that I had an epiphany; I had been acting my whole life. When I was just a few months old I was baby Jesus in a church Christmas Nativity scene- and there never was a fatter baby Jesus. In Elementary school I went out for the part as Andy in the Mayberry play, but got the role as Governor instead. In the fourth grade I was both the narrator and Penguin in the school’s production of Mr. Popper’s Penguins. I joined Peer Court so I could pretend to be a lawyer and work on my southern accent. I then did a talent show where I was a redneck contestant on American Idol where I butchered a Taylor Swift song. Let’s not mention that to this day I pretend that I am being chased up the stairs or that I talk in different accents when I feel the need.
We all have our defining moments. For some it might be jumping in front of a speeding bullet for a loved one and for others it might be defying gravity. Then there are the few that choose to step outside the parameters of Mr. Reality’s reach and be dauntless in their life choices. They decide to live- to live dauntlessly. When Mr. Reality offers them his world, they say they have their own. The moment I decided upon being an actor will forever define my life just like Achilles decision to join the Marine Corps has defined his. I am no psychic and have no abilities in the foretelling of the future, but perhaps I do not need some supernatural ability to tell me the path I have decided to embark upon is the perfect fit. This path or future that I am traveling toward is not diverged in a yellow wood like Robert Frost once wrote, but it is the less traveled. And that I suppose is what makes all the difference- the fact that in the moments that follow the world will be just within my grasp and I will be clutching to my heart undaunted.