“Becoming”

By Shannon Boatwright

Michelle Obama said it and said it really well when she was asked by Oprah why she named her book Becoming

41eRuKxPb3L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ “Becoming just summed it up. A question that adults ask kids – I think it’s the worst question in the world – is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As if growing up is finite. As if you become something and that is all there is. I don’t know what the next step will be. I tell young people that all the time. The truth is, for me, each decade has offered something amazing that I would have missed out on so much. So I’m still becoming, and this is the story of my journey.”

This is taken from Oprah’s magazine, the December 2018, Volume 19, Number 12 Edition.

I enjoyed reading this article so much. So much because I could relate to her whole point of “becoming”.  As individuals, we’re always learning, growing, experiencing, gaining new interests and passions – becoming a different and hopefully better version of ourselves as time goes by.

It’s wild…I certainly never thought I’d relate to a first lady, but the truth is, being a teacher right now at this point in my life’s journey, I catch myself saying to every class I teach, “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! And that’s ok.”

As a Drama teacher, an exploratory teacher, I teach well over 100 students every day, every 9 weeks. With each new class, I have them fill out a questionnaire that is all about them and their favorites, along with a few extra questions, including, what do you want to be when you grow up. It’s my special way of getting to know each student and hopefully find an opportunity to relate to them on some level and connect them to each other via their favorites and possible similarities.

BUT, I always make sure to make it very clear that their favorites will change – possibly from week to week or even day to day, as well as ‘what they want to be when they grow up’ will change and that is totally ok!

I always share my own stories as I attempt to connect with my students…

When I was in elementary school and a Brownie (similar to a Girl Scout), I was on the Mr. Knozit Show – our very own South Carolina, WIS TV show starring Joe Pinner. My Brownie troop went and I was lucky enough to actually get to talk to Mr. Knozit!  And guess what… he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I immediately responded with excitement and pride, “I want to be a dancer!” He responded with, “Oh, like Fred Astaire!?” I looked at him like he was crazy and quickly responded with, “No, like Leroy, from Fame!” Very telling of the times – it was the early 80s after all. It was quite the comical moment looking back – I’ll never forget the look on his face as he looked confused and then quickly went on to the next kid.  A great sitcom moment actually. Anyways, at that point in my life, more than anything in the world, I wanted to be a dancer and if anyone asked me, that was always my response.

Until…I saw the 1986 movie, Space Camp.  Upon seeing that movie, my sights changed dramatically. More than anything, I wanted to be an astronaut! I was so inspired by that movie, it changed everything for me. I became so passionate and serious about wanting to be an astronaut when I grew up, that my parents saved up money and actually sent me to Space Academy in Huntsville, Alabama. It was the summer after 7th grade and I thought I was the coolest kid EVER. I was going to the real Space Camp and I was going to be an astronaut just like the characters in the movie.  So I get there, I’m totally enthralled and thought every aspect was out of this world super cool. I got to experience similar things that I saw in the movie. I was able to get into a contraption that simulated walking on the moon, simulate different missions into outer space, build rockets and…well, let’s just get right to the point and say that although it was a priceless experience I’ll never forget, after two weeks of hardcore space training, I discovered really quickly that I was not good at science and math. Definitely not my strong suits! I was good at making friends, collaborating and “pretending” to be a science and math wiz.  In fact, I was smart enough to pinpoint the really intelligent kids and make sure to partner with them so I could have a successful mission and do well! But by the end of that two weeks, I instantly knew that I no longer had any desire to be an astronaut. But I did know that I wanted to “act” like an astronaut. Now that was intriguing! THAT was something I could do. 😉 Yea, let’s just say that apparently it was the acting in that good ole Space Camp movie that was really igniting the passion within me.

My students of course get a kick out of hearing those stories. And they inevitably always ask me tons of other questions, including why I left Los Angeles if it was acting that I wanted to do. I go on to tell them that my time in L.A. taught me so many amazing things. Though I went out there with the sole purpose of acting, I learned that I had other talents that I was passionate about, along with acting.  I discovered that I loved to produce and direct. I discovered a deeper joy for writing. I discovered that I also enjoyed other jobs within the entertainment industry, besides acting. By chance, I literally fell into entertainment reporting & interviewing, and I absolutely loved it! I realized I was pretty darn good at it. I was intrigued by the challenge of the research and the opportunity to talk with and interview celebrities, sports stars and big wigs in showbiz. Along with acting, this gig, was right up my alley, was so amazing, paid incredibly well and was just flat out super cool.  In my wildest dreams, I would’ve never thought I’d move to California and end up doing a job like that.

And this is when my students REALLY start to question why in this world I’d ever leave that dream gig and move back to SC. Well, another passion in my heart and soul was that of becoming a mother. It meant more to me than any celebrity interview or starring role. So when I became pregnant with my firstborn, I was all about being a Mom. My students don’t really get that and they won’t until they become parents themselves.  But it’s all a fine example of “becoming”.

The definition of becoming is ‘the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state.’  As humans, we indeed transform, we grow, we evolve.  And if we’re lucky enough to recognize and respect the evolution of our self, our becoming, we can live such full, incredible lives!

When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, my angel daughter, Mina, in her toddler years, would say she wanted to be a fairy godmother.  My angel boy, Sawyer, would say he wanted to be Spiderman. They were both very serious about that too. But of course since their preschool days, they’ve moved towards other aspirations. I’ll never forget being at my daughter’s IGP meeting with her middle school guidance counselor where they help figure out what high school courses to take.  The lady asked my girl what she wanted to be when she grew up. Mina had a look of panic in her eyes – she didn’t know! I could tell she wanted to scream it and declare that there were lots of things she wants to do and be. But nowadays the schools want to forge a path for these kids and in order to do that, they always ask that lovely, sometimes dreaded question, as if they have to decide now and stick to it forever.  So I reassure my own children and my students that what we want to be when we grow up changes as we evolve and experience more things in life, and THAT IS OK!

I have a true passion for teaching and hope to have the opportunity to do so, in some form, for the rest of my life. It fills my heart to inspire others and open their minds, so I’m very proud to call myself a teacher. Does that mean that is the finite thing that I want to be when I grow up? Absolutely not. I will continue to grow, to transform, and God willing, use my gifts and talents as I evolve. I am becoming.

Come Alive!

By Shannon Boatwright

“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.” 

– The Greatest Showman

 

I’m one of the millions that has fallen completely in love with the movie “The Greatest Showman”.  Yes, I am a teacher of the fine arts, so one would think, well of course you like the movie, it’s a musical! Anyone close to me knows that I am a huge fan of Hugh Jackman, yet that’s still not the main reason why I adore this brilliant movie.   I have fallen madly in love with this film and its music, because of its message.

 

Just take a look at the lyrics from the song, “Come Alive”…

You stumble through your days
Got your head hung low
Your skies’ a shade of grey
Like a zombie in a maze
You’re asleep inside
But you can shake away

‘Cause you’re just a dead man walking
Thinking that’s your only option
But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day
Sun is up and the color’s blinding
Take the world and redefine it
Leave behind your narrow mind
You’ll never be the same

Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up
To the sky
And it’s open wide
You’re electrified

When the world becomes a fantasy
And you’re more than you could ever be
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
And you know you can’t go back again
To the world that you were living in
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
So, come alive!

I see it in your eyes
You believe that lie
That you need to hide your face
Afraid to step outside
So you lock the door
But don’t you stay that way
No more living in those shadows
You and me we know how that goes
‘Cause once you see it, oh you’ll never, never be the same
We’ll be the light that’s shining
Bottle up and keep on trying
You can prove there’s more to you
You cannot be afraid

Come alive, come alive
Go and ride your light
Let it burn so bright
Reaching up
To the sky
And it’s open wide
You’re electrified

When the world becomes a fantasy
And you’re more than you could ever be
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
And we know we can’t be go back again
To the world that we were living in
‘Cause we’re dreaming with our eyes wide open
So, come alive!

Come one!
Come all!
Come in!
Come on!

To anyone who’s bursting with a dream

Come one!
Come all!
You hear
The call

To anyone who’s searching for a way to break free

Break free!
Break free!

I mean come on! Wow.  I’d say this song pretty much reaches out to about 90% or more of the population. How many of us live without following our dreams? How many of us do not live up to our potential?  We bottle things up, we live within ridiculous confines and stereotypes, we allow others to dictate how we live and hold us back from our own personal dreams; and this happens on levels small and large. Too many of us are asleep on the inside, thinking it’s our only option to live within the narrow minds of those around us. Don’t be that zombie, living day to day in a cloud of survival. It’s time to recognize that we do have the ability to create happiness and success for ourselves and break free!

Major cheesiness there, I know, I know. But listen, here’s why the messages throughout this entire movie are so powerful…

It’s all about being yourself. Your true self. And being proud of who you are. We’re all different and WE ARE MEANT TO BE DIFFERENT!  We all have different talents to share with the world, different amazing bits of beauty, inside and out, to share with others.  There is certainly more to us than living within the restrictions of what others consider “the norm” or acceptable.

This movie presents a message of acceptance and the fact that everyone deserves a chance to shine. And by golly, if there is a dream within you, one that keeps poking at your gut, mind and heart, that’s the world telling you to pursue it! At some point, you have to take the risks to follow your heart and give your dreams a chance. We’ll learn from failure along the way, but that’s how we create success! By allowing ourselves to experience the things that help us to reach our dreams, we will develop a confidence in our unique beauty and abilities.  BUT, we’ve got to take that step to flip the switch if we want to truly brighten up our dark days!

I think it’s time. Ride your light and allow yourself to be electrified. It’s ok to take baby steps as you redefine your life, but let’s get out of the maze and ride our light.

It’s time to…Come Alive!

Dreams

By: Shannon Shull

You sleep… you dream… and for those of us who actually remember our dreams, we are keenly aware that dreaming can be mysterious and mind blowing at times. Our dreams can take us to some pretty wild places, in some really crazy situations, and with some very random people. There are all sorts of dream decoding tools out there, but who’s to say what our dreams really mean? We can only guess at the meaning of our dreams. Sometimes it is clear why we experience certain dreams, while other times it is truly baffling where our dreams come from.

To sleep perchance to dreamWhy this topic? Well, I am a VERY vivid dreamer. I have been all my life. Through childhood and up into my college years, I was a sleep walker and sleep talker. My dear family and bestest buds have all sorts of tales they could tell about me! In my adult years, I’ve even discovered that I’m a sleep-emailer, too! Yes, one night a couple of months ago, I actually emailed myself in my sleep – I don’t remember a thing! Apparently, I picked up my iPhone and sent myself an email, which was short and perfectly typed, yet I had no clue what in the world I was talking about!

When I was pregnant with my two babes, WOW, talk about crazy dreams. When you’re already an incredibly crazy dreamer and you add pregnancy hormones to the equation, watch out! Early on during both of my pregnancies, before the ultrasound that told us what we were having, I had dreams about the sex of my child. Each dream was as clear as could be, and after I woke up I knew in my heart what I was having. Each time I was right on – truly amazing!

In my many years of dreaming, I’ve even developed a true connection to random people and even celebrities because of specific dreams I’ve had. For instance, I have a lovely and special bond with Brad Pitt and Garth Brooks. Yep, I do. Sure, they have NO clue about our unique connection, but it’s there! Though I’m from the South, I’ve never been a big country music fan and certainly didn’t know squat about country music singers back in my college years. But one night I had a totally random, weird dream about Garth Brooks. I won’t go into all the juicy details of the dream, but I saved Garth’s life and he ended up professing his undying love to me. From that dream on, I have always loved Garth Brooks. He’s the only country music star I adore. Remember the Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines album? It’s one of my absolute favorites! Yes, I will forever be a fan of his, and rightly so since I’ve saved his life and he loves me so much! 😉

And I’m sure you’re wondering about my connection with Brad Pitt. Well, I helped save his life, too. Back in my early 20s, like with Garth, I was not a huge fan of the super hot and famous actor. Sure, I thought he was good looking, but I wasn’t gaga over him like most of my friends. I was typically drawn to less mainstream celebrities, like Stephen Dorff and Jared Leto.  But one night I had this amazing, intricate dream about Brad Pitt. He had turned into a total bum walking the streets. With filthy, long hair and a beard, he was totally unrecognizable. In the dream, I helped who I thought was a troubled man who needed a bath and a meal. I took him home and the dream proceeded to move along like a full-on fabulous movie. I never felt scared or threatened by this strange, dirty man and even in my dream I kept thinking, what am I doing? He could be dangerous! But as I cleaned him up, he slowly became recognizable. He was Brad Pitt! He never said a word until the end of my dream. He was this human being who just wanted to be accepted for himself rather than his fame. It was so odd but so refreshing to help someone, and it certainly didn’t hurt that he ended up being Mr. Pitt!

Apparently, I get the vivid dreamer thing from my grandfather, my Pop, who was also a very vivid dreamer. So much so, that the rest of the family encouraged him to start keeping a dream journal. Every morning when he woke, he would write about the crazy dreams he remembered. One year my Mom and aunts even created a book of his writings, “Pop’s Dreams.” We all have a copy of it.  I should really take note and start keeping a journal of my dreams. Some I know I will never forget because they are so special and mean so much to me. After the death of my Pop and my grandmother, Lolli, I dreamt about them all the time, and I still do from time to time. I like to believe it’s their way of saying hello and letting me know they’re ok. It is so lovely to get those hugs in a dream from loved ones passed! When I dream of those who have gone to heaven, it is such a blessing to spend time with them! I don’t mind that I don’t understand how dreams work, I’m just happy see loved ones!

Sometimes, those dreams have a real purpose. After my Lolli passed away 13 years ago, I had a dream that I like to think helped save my life, or at least drastically improve my health. In my dream, my Lolli and I were chatting on an airplane – it felt as real as could be – and she randomly looked at me and said, “I’ll bet you $5 to never smoke another cigarette.” I looked at her and said, “WHAT???” Then she went on to explain to me that if I promised to never smoke a cigarette again for the rest of my life, that she would give me five dollars when I get to heaven. Now, I was never a full-on smoker by any means, but I did go through phases when I was younger in which I would do it casually in a social setting. But, eventually, I could’ve become full-on smoker. I was a sick child that got bronchitis a whole lot, so the last thing I need to do is smoke, so I like to think that this dream was Lolli’s way of helping to protect me. And I’m very proud to say, I’ve not smoked a cigarette since that dream and I don’t plan on it, either! By golly, I’m gonna get my five bucks from my Lolli when I go to heaven! 😉

DreamsDreams are a wild wonder of life. Sometimes they’re frightening and tragic, other times they provide a lovely, welcome escape, or they’re a tell-tale sign of things going on in your life. I could write about dreams for days.  I’ve dreamt of ogres and hunchbacks, flying over the ocean, hanging out with childhood friends in one of my childhood homes, defeating a bad guy with Thor and the Hulk, having a pet monkey, and dancing on Broadway – and that was all just in this past week! No kidding! Yea, I really need to start a dream journal. I could seriously write a book.

Do you have any profound dreams that have touched your life in some way? One of those dreams you will absolutely never forget? Please do share! It is indeed a fascinating topic!