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 I saw an electrician climbing to the very top of a telephone pole that Mom had refused to let me climb because it was "too high," and I realized that even she couldn't stop me if that were my career. This is my job, Mom—I'd shout over my shoulder when she ordered 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 pole, and soon it was covered with old nails I'd found, because real telephone poles were prickled with them top-to-bottom. Soon, I was scaling up and down the "nail stairs" with the aid of a rope slung around me and the tree, and feeling pretty good about my future prospects. In just a few hours, I was lying flat on my back on a white table in the ER, with 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 peer 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 before I tried them out.
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, wonder-filled, expansive, creative life, one that didn't tie me down forever to one place or to a path that someone else controlled. I wanted a life that revolved around my favorite things: words, music, wonder, and creativity...
So I became an artist.
This past decade, I earned a degree as a classically trained pianist and formed a music studio, where I worked with over a hundred students, teaching them how to write songs and discover the power of their own unique voices. I ghostwrote novels, poetry, and speeches, and worked with international humanitarian organizations to shape fundraising letters and press releases. I traveled the world, and wrote stories about my life as a nomad, and this year, I'll be releasing my first book, Problems with the Moon. I developed a music therapy program at a school for children with mental and physical disabilities, and went on to teach Ukulele to stroke victims and Alzheimer's patients. I performed as a classical pianist at wine-tastings, receptions, and weddings, and later played and sang all over Portland as a singer-songwriter with my Indie band. I moved to Birmingham, and continued to write music, and last spring I was honored to be a guest lecturer at the Journey to Justice conference in England to speak about my compositions and the role of music and poetry in social movements. This fall, I began a new project in Downtown Little Rock—building a studio of songwriters and co-collaborators (Check it out HERE).
It has been a beautiful, unpredictable life. Here I stand, in the midst of my thirtieth revolution—writing books, making music, and following wonder—every bit as happy as any electrician ever was.
And no one tells me how high I can climb.