I got to go home and visit my family for a day after they came to see my sketch show this week! Being home, I was reminded that the last time I lived in that house, I was a senior in high school. Then, I was excited and nervous to move to Chicago and attend Columbia College Chicago— an art college; something I never thought as a potential reality when growing up. This week (five years later), I performed on The Second City Mainstage with friends for 300 people. I had a great time in my sketch show at The Annoyance Theater. I broke 13,000 words on my novel draft. I secured an audition for The Second City. As I was home this week, I was reminded of all of the small victories and milestones I’ve had that are slowly shaping my aspirations of being a professional creative into reality.
I was also reminded that I wouldn’t be where I am today without my home. Belvidere, Illinois, is a quiet town. People grind through blue-collar jobs and live content lives. They love being outside, driving through the park, going to the family-owned sub shop across from the family-owned ice cream stand. Every time I’m home, I have the urge to drive past the home I grew up in that’s now occupied by my cousins, whose kids I hope are forging their own imaginations and memories in that home and the woods neighboring it. Belvidere is where I learned to love education. It taught my thick skin from the ignorant, homophobic slurs and comments made to me for being a male flute player from fifth grade through senior year. I’m straight, but my experience with bullying made me empathize and want to be an ally for those in the LGBTQ+ community. Belvidere gave me the resources to chase what I wanted to do in a community that didn’t have the opportunities to make a career there. I had theater, band, Improv Anonymous, the district’s first creative writing course, which may have been the catalyst in returning me to writing as a career ambition and heavy factor that led me to Columbia/Chicago.
I’m wondering why I’m rambling so much about my life and my upbringing. I guess at the moment I’m feeling nostalgic for my hometown. I’m proud to come from there and want kids growing up with similar aspirations to mine to see that it is possible. I want to give thanks to my family and teachers who encouraged me to keep going. Something as small as saying “you can do it” is enough to give a young mind the confidence to go forward with something. As my dad always says, “be sure to do it for your kids.” I will uphold that promise. I am fortunate and grateful to have the support system I do as I know many other artists don’t, which is why it’s important for artists to support each other.