Biologist or Musical Theater Star?

The question I’m asking myself today is this: what will I be when I grow up? A biologist or a star in musical theater?

My mornings almost always begin in the same way. I spend an hour or so in what My Hero and I call the quiet room, reading and listening to music. I try to read nonfiction at this time, something good for the brain or soul or both. This week I’m deep in E.O. Wilson’s THE SOCIAL CONQUEST OF THE EARTH which I bought after seeing him interviewed on Sixty Minutes. But this morning I can’t concentrate. I’ve been distracted by memories of the biology I took in high school and college and wondering how could I have found it so boring? Biology and boring are antonyms, I now realize. I know the answer to my question. Back in the day I was too busy trying to figure out who I was and what I’d wear to spend time memorizing the taxonomy of species or the eras, epochs and periods of our planet’s history.

I wanted to be an entertainer, I wanted to be a star on Broadway.

Last weekend MH and I saw the L.A. production of Sondheim’s Follies. Sitting in the audience, the lights dimming, I heard the throat clearing and rustle of the audience settling in, the sounds people make when they’re getting ready to enjoy themselves; and the clichéd butterflies started fluttering in my stomach. In that moment I was eighteen again, sitting in the Geary Theater watching Ethel Merman in Gypsy. In college I wanted to be an actress, trained to be an actress. Those biology fieldtrips to peer into life under rocks or catch butterflies were ludicrously irrelevant.

I got a C in Intro to Bio, and I didn’t have the talent to command center stage – not to mention the patience to train and study. I became a teacher and, in the end, it was a good choice for me. I was a natural in the profession and it gave me time to catch my breath and find my true vocation. But the older I get the more conscious I am of all the things I might have done. I think that if I could redesign the human organism (are you reading this, Dr. Wilson?) I’d extend the middle period of life by twenty or thirty years so a person like me would have time to  teach fifth graders, study the ecology of my garden, write novels and stand in a spotlight and break the audience’s heart with my interpretation of “Or Am I Losing My Mind?”.

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One Response to “Biologist or Musical Theater Star?”

  1. Natalia says:

    Sounds like some regrets of not having enough time and missing chances.
    I look at my day and no matter how busy it is I wish for more time in a day , for more time with kids, for more time to creat and learn and see and explore and find and discover.