Willa Grey

About Me…

When I was a child, I wanted to be a garbageman, so I could ride on the outside of the truck. It was hard to picture something better than feeling the wind in my hair and not having to buckle in. I was pretty decided on that future career path, until one afternoon when I saw an electrician climbing to the very top of a telephone pole—it was the very same pole that my mom had banned me from climbing because it was "too high." Climbing was my favorite, and at that moment, I realized that not even she could stop me from if that were my career. This is my job, Mom—I'd shout over my shoulder when she'd try to get me to come down—do you want the power back on, or not? Then I'd sigh patiently and go back to my hammering and other electriciany things that required my attention. I'd probably even whistle while I did it.

That very day, I began training for my career in earnest. There was a tall stump in the backyard that I elected to be my makeshift telephone pole. Soon it was covered with old nails I'd found—because real telephone poles were prickled with nails from top-to-bottom—and I began scaling up and down the "nail stairs" with the aid of a rope slung around me and the tree. All was going well, and I was feeling great about my future prospects and my chances of earning a solid paycheck. But as the afternoon wore on, I got careless and quick with my work. A few hours later, I was lying flat on my back on a white table in the ER, where I had ample time to reflect on what had gone wrong, while the oldest man I'd ever seen gave me tetanus shots and stitched up my left thigh where the nail had left an impressive gash on my final descent.

By the time I was healed, I'd made up my mind to be an archaeologist for a change of pace. I liked Indiana Jones, and digging holes in the earth to look for hidden treasure, so it seemed a good fit. I was happily settled in my new pursuits, when a much-respected friend two years older than myself pointed out that my career sounded more like piracy than the recovery of history. She was right, so I decided to pivot and model myself after Captain Flint from Treasure Island. I adapted the appropriate swagger and blood-lust, and handed out "black spots" liberally, even expanding my vocabulary to include a few words that sounded pretty wicked to my ears, and made me double-check that my parents weren't in earshot.

In the years that followed, I continued dreaming and pursuing career paths in earnest, some that I liked, and some that I didn't, until I realized something that all my other jobs had pointed to—I longed to live an adventurous, expansive, creative life, that didn't tie me down forever to one place or to a predictable path. I wanted a life that revolved around my favorite things: words, music, wonder, and the pursuit of the understanding and of unknowing. I discovered that I was an artist and had always been an artist.

Life has been a wild journey since then—I became a Perry & Walters Music Foundation Scholar, graduated with a degree in music, taught hundreds of students in different cities how to love the arts and delve into their own creativity (Willa Grey Studios), wrote a coming-of-age novel, sang and performed around the city of Portland with my indie band, put together a music therapy program at a school for kids with mental and physical disabilities, worked as an Art Department Coordinator in the movie industry, became nomadic and explored the world as a travelwriter and ghostwriter, and spent this past spring curating art shows and bringing in stunningly-talented musicians to play shows at Nexus.

My life has become a spark in the midst of many greater sparks, and here I stand, on the cusp of my thirty-first revolution—every bit as happy as any electrician ever was.