JUST JESSIE

I keep hearing these reports and discussions about the job market and it’s competitiveness. Educated and qualified young adults are coming out of college and not being able to find a job in their chosen field.  Too many people, not enough jobs.  It seems strange to think that maybe a more unique and creative path might be the one to choose.  Maybe it’s time to start encouraging our children to take the road less traveled and create their own destiny?  This might actually lead to happiness and through that you always have wealth.  It’s true.

 

I am a big supporter of following your dreams and pursuing the thing you love to do.  How else can you live a happy life?  It sounds so hippy dippy or unrealistic.  Shouldn’t we be good little girls and boys and go to college and then get a high paying job in the major we graduated in?  Maybe some of us do….

When I went off to college at Florida State and we sat in the huge school auditorium for Freshman orientation and they asked everyone to raise their hand if they knew what their major was.  I raised my hand proudly.  (Theatre, of course) Then they asked us to keep our hand up if we thought we would still have that same major when we graduated.  I was one of the few that kept my hand raised, everyone else bailed.  It’s hard to think a bunch of 18 years olds would actually know what to do when they got out of school.  I mean, hadn’t we all been in school for 13 years already?  How we were supposed to know what we wanted to be as “grown ups”?  Some of us knew what we wanted to do, but we weren’t sure where it would take us.

 

I remember when I decided I wanted to be an actress.  I was obsessed and talked about it all the time.  We lived with my Gramma for a large portion of my life and she and I would watch old movie musicals together.  She actually took me to see my first play- My Fair Lady at the performing arts high school (which I would later graduate from).  So, luckily, I was supported early on.  I come from a creative family (my mom was a struggling singer songwriter) so they were open minded about my career choice.

 

Although, this did not stop my Mom from begging me to be other things.  I know she thought of me as smart and quick- full of possibility.   I was going to be the first one to go to college in our family (a 4 year college).   And so she wanted me to do something more reliable than study theatre.   She would say, “Why don’t you become a writer?”   Which I would laugh at because the life of a writer seemed less predictable to me than the life of an actor.  But I think I knew from the beginning that a reliable life was not one for me.  And my family had no option but to go along with it because I have always been stubborn and extremely driven.  I saw a vision for myself of what I wanted to do with my time- performing- and it was pretty much what I devoted myself to.  I didn’t do normal high school things like football games and parties.  Really my life was devoted to the theatre since I was 12 years old.  It sounds crazy but I have always been THAT focused on it as being my career.

 

I did all the proper things to help one become a working artist- I went to college and studied Music Theatre.  I worked in Regional theatre and did tours and did childrens theatre.  I moved to the NY and auditioned like crazy.  Within 10 days of being in the city I was hired in my first Off-Broadway show.  So I thought- YES!  I am making it! I ROCK!!  Tomorrow, I’m gonna get an agent and HELLO! I’m the next Bernadette Peters or Sutton Foster.  I was feeling it!  Then I was cast in one of the staples of NYC theatre “Tony and Tina’s Wedding”.  Not a musical, but I was the only female that sang in the show and I had to practice my improvisation skills which always terrified me!

 

I was somewhat lucky early on but TNT did not pay enough to live on so I got a day job to help supplement my income.  I saw an ad for singers and actors needed for a job working with kids.  This sounded like my dream job and so it became that.  I began teaching preschool mommy and me music classes.  At first, I was in shock.  I couldn’t believe that people took a music class with a 6 month old or even a 2 year old.  I had no idea that such services even existed.  How could I?  I wasn’t a parent and I came from Florida, which lacked the extra income like in the Northeast, as well as the artistic appreciation.  (Sorry Florida, I love you- but it’s true)

 

It was a great job and I loved doing it.  My boss used to ask me if I wanted to take over the business and the parents would tell me I should go out on my own.  I resisted.  This is NOT why I moved to the freezing cold weather.  My dream was Broadway.  My dream was  to continue to do theatre until I’m old and gray and playing the beloved Grandma in Pippin.  But then that kind of seemed sad to me.  I would wonder, where is my life going?  Where will I be in 5, 10, 20 years?  Will I be out there auditioning and living the grind?  But then part of me is so driven that I will never give up.  I could never give up.  That is the lamest thing you could do to yourself.  Be one of those women that just gave up on my dreams.  For what? So I could reminisce about the good old days on Broadway.  Ugh- I could do that now.  I realized I am a highly ambitious person in a way that I wasn’t focusing on before.  The business of ME and my talents.  It is called show BUSINESS and I never focused on that part of it.

 

So, I started focusing on what I liked to do.  I was tired of people telling me I wasn’t right for this or that.  It was time I took the bull by the horns and do what they told me at the arts conservatory I eventually transferred to. “CREATE YOUR OWN WORK.” And I did.

I started writing kids songs with my mom and, eventually with my boyfriend, Chris Apple.  We met doing the mommy n me music classes as our day job and we clicked.  He was a touring rock musician who, like me, has an amazing gift with music and with children.  We combined our talents and became Little Rockers.  Doing music classes in our area, starting with 50 people and now we have over 400 people who take our classes and 10 teachers who help us.  We do birthday parties (like crazy).   Soooo many birthday parties that 6 months of parties paid for our entire wedding.  We go all over the tri-state area and do concerts for kids.  We produce videos and even have our own radio show.  We develop curriculum and write our own webisodes.  The sky’s the limit.  We created our own work!  I think both of us wanted to be stars but neither of us realized that we would end up being stars for kids.  That’s what we are and that’s what we are always working towards.

 

Now, instead of reading plays and Uta Hagen, I am reading entrepreneurial books and Stephen Covey.  It is fascinating the way your dreams can alter but still stay the same.  I feel like I am able to use every scrap and bit of myself now.  My gifts for singing and performing, my meticulous brain that won’t leave a good idea alone and even my habit of worry to keep my business on top and always striving.  My love of children and my talents at keeping them engaged. These are things that have always been within me and have always made me complete but were not all being utilized.  Now they are.  They are being tested everyday.

 

Now if only I could work on some more self discipline 🙂


Jessie Apple