Forks Upon Forks

•March 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Some people are born ripe for greatness in a seemingly predestined field of expertise. From early ages their tiny fingers embraced violins or ivories as naturally as they did their teddy bears; they expertly debated ethics with their parents on the subject of naptime; or perhaps their prowess took the form of a perfectly pitched game of wiffle ball. These souls seemed born with a single purpose, at which they would excel to the amazement of the world around them for a good part of their stellar lives.

And then there’s me.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of occasions throughout my young life when I’ve longed for a singular, prodigious talent, some ability so undeniable that my life’s path would be a straight, narrow and unquestionable one. What I got instead was something that wasn’t instantly recognizable as a gift – to not be sensational at any one thing, but to be pretty damn good at a lot of things.

Early on in elementary school, I was placed in an accelerated learning program (what they used to call gifted and talented). I was generally creative and a little strange, and this must have been how I qualified, because I certainly wasn’t solving algorithms or winning national spelling bees. I was writing movies that we filmed with the family camcorder in the forest near our house.

Then, around the age of 9 or 10, I wrote a song. My dad had a keyboard on which he’d taught me chopsticks, then “Heart and Soul,” then “Fur Elise.” My parents, sensing musical brilliance, enrolled me in piano lessons. Which I hated.  I had quite an ear, but my site reading was atrocious, and I was too stubborn to work at it. But I wrote a song and entered it in an arts contest at my school. And won first place. Somewhere between then and now, I became a singer/songwriter and what you might call a pianist. Of sorts.

But I was also an actress. In the second grade, Ms. Asher opened up the world of theater to me in the form of reading plays in our English class. First, I was Child #2 in a show that involved a witch-who-almost-missed-Halloween scenario. Then, I decided to take it up a notch and write a play for the class to perform, a heart-wrenching little one-act about an orphan girl and the music box she loved (don’t ask). I played the orphan girl, of course, breaking hearts in an oversized blue dress and red, laceless Keds. In the school cafeteria. The next thing I know, I’m a freshman in college, majoring in theater at Indiana University. Sadly, neither the major nor the school lasted more than a year. I became quickly bored with the acting crowd and the ever-fruitless auditions. And I caught the writing bug.

To be more accurate, the writing bug had set up shop with me long before, but now I finally started to give the little guy the time of day. In high school, although Ms. LaMuth found my perpetually late homework and attempts to feign having done the assigned reading loathsome, she always encouraged my creative writing. In my last semester with her, next to the sad capital ‘C’ on my report card, she left the comment, “Could pursue as a career.” I’ve never forgotten this. So when theater, psychology, nutrition, communications and physical therapy didn’t pan out as majors, I turned to writing.

Then I took an intro class in journalism. We watched a video about entrenched war reporters and a week or so later, I declared my major once and for all. I took some creative writing classes on the side, but my heart was now pounding the pavement, getting the scoop on the restaurant fire across from campus; interviewing my fellow students regarding dorm life, drugs and race riots; describing in detail the image of 30 students, sprawled across the plaza outside the library with red scarves to symbolize those who had died and would die in the war. My mentor, Jon Hughes, was a photojournalist and introduced me to manual SLR’s and dark rooms and shooting from the hip. Now I was a photographer as well.

In the years after college, all of these paths continued in their own way: I joined a cover band, I wrote for a music magazine in Austin, I entered the original rock scene in Columbus, I started writing a graphic novel, I worked as a photographer’s assistant, I auditioned and got a part in a community theater musical. None ever ended, and none ever emerged as the alpha male of the pack. Instead they coexist like a flock of geese flying in formation, ever rotating the apex so that none ever exerts itself too much.

But eventually the flock has to land, and I find myself coming to that point in my life. Professionally, I feel the need to put one of my passions into play in the form of a career and to let the others get their attention outside of work. So now we come to the present day, where I’m exploring ways to harvest all of this creative energy, all the while knowing in the back of my head that at any moment I could discover a knack for dolphin training or underwater basket weaving. Such is my multi-pronged, Jane-of-all-trades life, though. I’d never trade it for another.