I've always been an artistic dabbler, drawn to all of the ways in which we can express ourselves. Music was my first artistic love. Whether playing furniture like instruments with my father to Van Morrison, singing along to Mariah Carey in the car with my mother, or giving mix CDs as gifts until at least 2014, music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. At four years old, I used my handheld tape player/recorder with detachable microphone to invent the now-famous Rickroll: after laying down my own a cappella version of Rick Astley's career-defining 1987 hit "Never Gonna
Give You Up," I often played it back for unsuspecting house guests. At ten, I performed a holiday lip sync on Christmas night with our family friend David, who is thirteen years my senior and allowed me to not only stage direct, but also serve as his makeup artist. It was no surprise to anyone when I went on to spend seven years in a cappella groups. I kept up with piano for a while, though my classical career ended when I didn't have the fingers to get through even the first page of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata. After that, it was mostly clunky rhythm piano of songs I liked, and close-quarters living in New York doesn't look kindly on that sort of thing. I briefly experimented with songwriting in 2010, but I found that I lacked the musical imagination or discipline to take a song from a shoddy demo to an actual record. They were also songs I would have derided had I heard them on the radio. Real bleeding heart stuff. I was not "discovered" on mySpace.
I caught the acting bug in middle school. Throughout my adolescence, I played such landmark roles as Juliet Capulet, for an acting class in a weird office room in the back of a church, Lydia Lubey, the airheaded mom-next-door in my high school production of All My Sons, a role that cemented me as "a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dreary world," according to my friend Jimmy, and perhaps most notably, checkout girl #2 in the dance trio set to "Treasure Island Trio" in the musical Working. I didn't have any lines, but my dancing did the talking there. I trained in ballet from age five or so, but by the time I hit middle school, I knew that the changes that were happening in my body precluded me from a ballet career. I left the after-school program I was attending, opting for a less intense version. My acting and dancing careers all but ended in college, when I realized I could not do a bit of everything anymore. Dabbling wasn't encouraged or possible; I had to choose. I chose a cappella over dance and theater -- singing gave me an opportunity to get out of my head, and two groups of women with whom I will always be kindred.
At a point though, singing wasn't enough. What finally drew me to writing around 2007 was the immediacy of the medium, the singular control over the output, and its continual work-in-progress nature. I realized I had Things To Say, and simply putting them all on paper was the most efficient way to say them. I quickly discovered, of course, that there is nothing "simple" about it, but where I abandoned my acting career when I had to memorize too many lines, or quit ballet classes when I started to get boobs, or hung up my songwriter hat when playing along with a (much needed) metronome was a bridge too far, I kept writing. I wrote without the dreams of fame and glory that had accompanied any passing acting, dancing, or singing fantasies. I wrote because I wrote. I sang with a band for a bit, which was thrilling but short-lived, as most things in this city are. I do still like to kill it on the karaoke stage though. I've rediscovered my love of dance. There's a bubbling community of women that is learning to let go of insecurities and inhibitions. These women understand how powerful dance can make them feel, and they have learned, are always learning, how to shed the poisonous negativity that holds them back from what they love. They fill me with confidence and inspire me to work harder as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher.
I am a dabbler at heart. And now that I have a better understanding of my strengths -- artistically, personally, professionally -- I'm a dabbler with purpose.
It's also important to remember that Fiona Apple is my spirit guide, and a singular musical talent of our generation, and there is just no way around that.