Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do-over #1

The first do-over I can claim as my own is actually a do-over in three parts. It started my senior year of college and ended about two years later in Los Angeles, CA.

My senior year of college was not the best year I have ever had. To understand this, you need to know a little about my school. Randolph-Macon College (www.rmc.edu) is a small, four year school in the heart of Virginia. It is located near Hanover, the birthplace of Patrick Henry (you know, "Give me liberty or give me death") and Richmond. It is also less than one mile from the largest truckstop north of North Carolina on I-95 - in fact you have to drive through the truck stop to get to the school. I don't know if it is the proximity to the truck stop, the fact that there is really nothing to do in Ashland for college students or the fact that RMC is mostly populated with very smart, rather well-off students, but RMC is a party school. In fact, it has been listed as a top 20 party school since before I went there in the late 1980s, specifically for hard liquor and the Greek system.

This does not mean that RMC is not a good school. It is a very good school with a great number of respected professors, majors and activities. My freshman year, Thomas Wolfe came to dedicate our library and almost every year we had a Poet Laureate come read for us. My senior year, Joyce Caroll Oates came for dinner and a reading. I was lucky enough to sit next to her at the dinner. For such a small school, we had some incredible opportunities. However, as a small school, everyone knew anything that happened to you.

As I mentioned, I could have had a better senior year. I was no longer a member of my sorority which meant the friendships I had cultivated for the first three years of my college education were not there as a support group and that anyone who stayed friends with me was in for a difficult time. I also had problems with my minor, Education, which were resolved by my not completing student teaching. Then there was the social life, I spent a few months engaged to someone (not from RMC) who I should never have dated, etc. etc. So there I was, almost a graduate, a month and a half left of school and nothing to do - no classes, no assignments, no exams but still on campus. I was BORED! To escape my boredom, I decided to leave school early and start my first job - Assistant Manager for a clothing store. This was 1991, graduating from college meant that you either went to graduate school or hoped that there was a job somewhere, but there weren't many. Assistant Manager for a clothing store for $19K a year was an incredible opportunity for someone with an English degree. Unfortunately, it was not the best choice for me.

Don't get me wrong, I did the job and I did it well. I just didn't do it with my heart. I have never enjoyed shopping or clothes that much, so having to work in a clothing store every day, well, just wasn't a great fit. That's when I decided to make my first big change. At first the idea was to go to Hollywood with someone I had been dating on and off and on again for over five years. He was set on the move and talked me into giving it a try with him - seperate apartments of course. I was excited, this was going to be a great adventure. But, things don't always go as planned. The phone call the day he left for Hollywood ended with "You're something old. I need something new." OUCH! (If you are reading this - I do forgive you for that. :-D) Turns out, this was actually a very good thing for me. Rather than living someone else's dream, I got to live my own.

The first step on my do-over was an internship at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. I applied for and got the internship the week I was supposed to leave for Los Angeles. No more clothing store, it was theater for me. The next five months were very exciting. I attended classes and worked in the development office. I got to listen to the NSO rehearse with no one else in the orchestra hall, walk the miles of hallways when no one was there, go to shows most recent college graduates would not be able to afford to attend and meet some incredibly interesting people. I still remember eating in the staff cafeteria the week the Kirov Ballet was performing. You know, for as svelt as they are - ballet dancers can actually eat a great deal of food.

After the internship was over I tried to find a job on Broadway. The closest offer I got was a position as a producers assistant for a musical called "Jelly's Last Jam." Since the only thing the producer could pay me with was subway tokens, I had to turn the job down. Anyone who follows the Tony's will know that "Jelly's Last Jam" won a Tony that year, and Gregory Hines was the star- hindsight is 20-20. After a month and a half of false starts and being reminded that I was in debt to my parents and without health insurance, I whimped out.

At first, I took a job at TRW Environmental Safety Systems. I enjoyed the job, liked the people I worked with and tried to forget about Broadway as best I could. Then in January, almost a year after trying the Great White Way, I was let go from TRW due to budget constraints. I wasn't sure what to do. Jobs were still scarce. Bill Clinton was being inaugurated that month, so the economy was still, well, not so great. I took a temporary position at MCI hoping that it would help point me in a direction.

Tomorrow - Do-over #1, Part 2 - Telecom or Hollywood...

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