Monday, May 19, 2008

Reinventing Myself

I remember a time when I thought I'd be a [famous] actor living with my Mexican Ph.D. wife in California, with our beautiful biracial children. She'd oversee the math and science homework, and I'd help with the English and language courses. She'd be my supportive backbone, and the soft place our family would land or escape to when the outside world encroached upon us.

Unfortunately, my schoolboy fantasy didn't come to fruition. I was urged to change high schools for my sophomore year, and never heard from or saw her again. Her life took a turn for the worst, and I began dealing with teen life on the other side of town in tony River Oaks. I had to discover, or rediscover who I was while settling into a new school, replete with international academic superstars that wept if they made a B in Advance Calculus in the tenth grade.

I was a performer, and no one could take that away from me. I might have excelled in Algebra II or Chemistry, but I felt at home on stage or announcing accomplishments during Black History Month to an audience that hadn't been aware or cared previously.

High school was an awkward time for me, as it was and still is for countless others. I didn't foresee myself as an ESL Tutor, Accent Reduction Coach, or Pre-GED Instructor in Manhattan. I just knew I'd fly off to Tinseltown and become an eventual success on TV and in the movies, as [few] African Americans before had done.

The band director at my first high school nicknamed me Web, short (pun intended) for Emanuel Lewis and Spud Webb. I knew I didn't want to be a clarinetist in what was a formidable high school marching band back then. I enjoyed the challenge of learning sheet music and choreography for the weekly halftime shows, but there was something missing. I didn't want to yearn to be the drum major. Perhaps on some level I didn't like the military/group mentality that's necessary for a marching band.

Awash in the madness of overachievers, bulimic classmates, privileged, or otherwise unfair advantaged peers, I sought to find my place. I had never attended a school with a swimming pool. I had never had teachers doctorates. I had never sat alongside students other than African American and a sprinkling of Mexicans prior to student body that ate lunch on the front lawn, few minutes walk from a [restricted membership] country club.

I'm once again wondering who I am and what it is I'm meant to do during my lifetime, and whether I should lock myself to any one course of study or job?

I have had [various] jobs, but have never set out to have career. A former acquaintance used to poke fun at me: "Tiger [his nickname for me, no reference to the golfer], now, where are you working this week?" It didn't bother me because, he, too, floated between jobs. We'd laugh about it, and move on to the next topic.

My granny was a free spirit, mother of twelve children, and surrogate mother to many others in her neighborhood. I'm not comparing her accomplishments to mine. I know I'm her [genetic] grandson. She danced atop tables in a jig joint as young adult before my grandfather yanked her down with a directive that she'd become his wife.

Where does the knowledge of this history place me in time now? I've worked as a credit collections agent, a rollerskating restaurant host, a software applications trainer, and on a computer helpdesk, all of which were utterly unsatisfying. I needed a job and thought I'd not lose myself while I auditioned for plays and movies. I miss performing on stage, dancing in commercials, and working on a film set. I've started to come full circle [finally].

In recent years, I've focused on writing and editing, and earn my keep as a copywriter. The task at hand is to bring as much as my selves into what I do. I've met and began the foundation for a script with two Tunisian brothers, and from this partnership we'll create a multi-lingual media production company that will pen original short and feature scripts, direct and produce music videos, and commercials.

Who am I now? I'm a Writer/Editor/Businessman. Whatever happened to Urkel? The actor certainly transformed himself from nerd to polished adult. We should all be so fortunate.

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