I am a creative artist, that is the rush. I do not know any artist who is not in a constant race against time. Whether we are trying to meet unrealistic deadlines or just trying to document a good idea brought to life through a dream, there is a sense of urgency that has nothing to do with money. If you are like me, you probably have notes everywhere. Ideas in little notebooks that leaped off the shelves of some bookstore and told you to buy them or you may be more tech savvy these days using systems designed to keep your notes wherever you are, in front of whatever piece of technology may be occupying your brain and protecting you from the real world.

The rush is urgency. We have a need to be heard. This may come from childhood. We may have been ignored or the class clown at some point. We grew up and realized that we could use our powers for good. So, we transitioned into a more structured way of getting attention. You may have a blog, you may be killer on social media, you may be an obsessive with texting. However, you may also realize that your message tends to fall on deaf ears.

When I graduated high school, I walked away from 7 after school activities including Drama Club, Poetry Club, Marching Band, Choir, Cross Country, Tennis (short-lived) and I was the school mascot. The closest I wanted to be to a book was a play script or sheet music. I had so much energy that I didn’t know what to do once I graduated. I didn’t receive much guidance from the counselors at school about post-graduation. That was 1998. I ended up going to a community college (13th grade) in 1999.

Here, I fell into the same routine at college only, I joined the Performing Arts Club, the literary magazine, the Student Government Association and I formed a poetry group. Even though I had a full calendar of classes and activities, I also had two jobs. I attended this college for one year until I transferred to the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 2000. Here, I studied web design. Whenever someone asked me what I planned to do when I graduated, I would say, “I’m going back to school for theater”. Why couldn’t this be my path from the beginning?

I have always known what I wanted to do. If I could rent an apartment in a theater, I would be at home. There is something about the lighting and the stage the makes me feel at home. However, due to years of being miss-guided, I would stand “outside” of the theater in an attempt to make it work in so many other jobs that left me unfulfilled at the end of the day.

In fact, the only time I felt complete in my life was when I was coming home late from a rehearsal thinking “how will I find the money to produce this show” in my head along with the blocking notes from that rehearsal. Of course I also needed to figure out the press release which should go out in the morning to a make-shift mailing list of the publications that came off the top of my head. This is what happens when a dream is deferred, you play catch up!

The rush was the fact that life had led me down so many roads in search of a shortcut to the only place I ever wanted to be. I was making up for lost time. All of the money spent on a degree program that was not a good fit, the four colleges I went to just to seek the validation the world so needs you to have. The rush for me is the long game. Instead of stepping back to take the path I wanted all along, I decided to sprint forward and compile all of the experiences I missed.

My bookshelves are filled with theater books, scripts, playbills and stories. When I wake up in the morning, they are the first things I see. So, why do I keep following the world to jobs that are so far from the source material? Why did I allow so many things to stand in my way? I sometimes wish that someone had encouraged me to pursue my dreams and take the path towards theater when I graduated high school. Instead, the world told me to “fall back” on something more secure.

Little did they know, the “fall back” would only be a setback. So, what’s the rush? I’m making up for lost time. And, though I am a young 34, I still feel like I missed the boat and I have to swim across to catch up. This rush is my drive. It’s why I do what I do. It’s why I need to ensure other people that may be stuck in similar situations that supporting your dreams will secure your future in reality.

Present, I now have NYU credit. Did I need it? For myself, I have already discovered my path. I know what I want to do with my life. Now, I have to convince the rest of the world that I am capable of doing this, or do I? Will it actually make a difference? Whenever you ask someone what the benefits of secondary education were, “Networking” is always at the top of the list.

My social networks were not compiled by hanging out on college campuses…well, not completely. I met all of these people along the way. They helped me to define my own validation standards.

So, I’ll buy a new pair of running shoes, lace them up tight and get ready. I’ll rest when I’m dead and I’ll die when I know I have truly lived. Consider myself validated. No more looking back on the past. Now, which way is forward? It’s my choice, my way.

  • Darnelle Radford, Co-Founder


Filed under 2014, Darnelle Radford, Just Learn Something