• Stacy

where it all began

At 24, I was a home owner. My then husband and I had built a home in one of those new neighborhoods with a handful of cookie-cutter floor plans, and called it our own. I'm sure you know the kind. My mother loved my house. And don't misunderstand me, I did too to some extent. But that house would come to be a symbol of the empty shell that my life was at that time. A bad marriage that on its best days was a great show to the world, and even on its good days was full of unspoken darkness. I had somehow left myself behind, and had no idea how I could go back.

Don't worry ... this story doesn't end in that house -- as lovely as it was with its lacquered cherry cabinets and luxurious glamour bath. And my beautiful walk-in closet. The summer I separated from that relationship and sold my house, my fur-baby, Chloe, and I moved into what would become the very first place I had ever lived on my own. I was nearly 28 and having just finished my undergraduate degree {a mere six years late}, my marital status wasn't the only thing that was changing. I was realizing a dream that I thought had long ago died ... but had very recently found again.

This was where my journey began. I found a voice teacher in Greensboro, NC, where I was living at the time who agreed to help me work out the kinks my vocal technique had developed due to a string of bad teachers and the tension that the life I'd been living for the past 7 years would bring. I started working at a local furniture store -- the largest furniture store in the world -- which would stay faithful to me through my graduate school journey. Speaking of which, I got into grad school much to my own surprise and started working on my Master's degree, adding summer sessions to fill holes that my undergraduate education had lacked in music theory and language study. I learned to bartend in the meantime, so that I could supplement my income when I went part time at the Palace of Furniture. In Greensboro, one weekend of bartending {about 20 hours between Friday and Saturday nights} would easily pay my rent. Things were changing ... not the least of which was me.

My part-time job at the Palace of Furniture kept me on my toes -- organizing photo shoots, creating shot lists, styling wardrobe, locating inventory when it all returned to the store {have you ever tried to find a fern that has lost its barcode in a warehouse the size of 3 football fields??}. That eventually turned into copy writing for catalogues, helping to create marketing campaigns, and writing press releases. Before long, businesses were starting to create a presence on social media and when the time came for us to enter that arena, I found myself charged with creating a proposal that would begin our foray into social media. It was something no one else was doing at the time, and I had no idea what I was doing {did any of us??}. But I researched, found beautiful places for inspiration and a couple of mentors, and when I presented my plan to the Vice President of the company, he said yes. So we were off!

And we were pioneers. In less than a year, I found myself speaking at major tradeshows about best practices in social media for retailers. It was exciting and was the start of a fantastic career, but ... remember the dream I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? I had just finished my master's degree, jumping head-first into the audition process. I was auditioning for young artist programs -- essentially the apprenticeships of the opera world. And in the spring the year after I finished grad school, I had an offer from a great company to do my first young artist program. This was an absolute dream come true, and felt like a non-decision. Of course I would go!

Now I have to mention a couple of things to you ... I was by no means making millions of dollars, but I had a nice full-time job with benefits. Oh, benefits like a 401(k) and health insurance! I actually had savings!! But for the love of art, I left my jobs {I was still bartending at the time} without so much as a backward glance, and headed straight into the world of opera aprenticeships. In this world, I lived with a host family {who was absoluely lovely} and made $400 a week singing performances for children, building experience, and getting lots of "exposure." My fur-baby moved home to Ohio to live with my parents, where I would crash between singing gigs. I was living the glamorous life. But for the first time in my adult life, I felt like I was on the path to finding myself again.

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