My grandparents were celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary. I was young. Middle school maybe? Early high school? I was awkward, self-conscious. I didn’t know many of their adult friends, although family came, too, of course. Some family came. I think. The family who lived in town came. Right?
I remember so little of that party.
I do remember my love for theater came up in conversation again and again. I’ve always loved acting and I was good, pretty good, good enough that adults were forever telling each other how much I loved acting, bragging about roles I’d played, remarking how I wasn’t afraid to talk to anyone – which simply wasn’t true – and always inside their remarks lurked this assumption that my stage presence carried over into casual party conversation, which — without a raised platform or curtain or spotlight boundary dividing us — it did not.
But during this party in Oklahoma, after I’d carried a platter around trying to make myself busy, after I’d run out of things to bring people, I remember this man who my parents may or may not have liked very much. He was studying Communications and I remember he said, “Communications,” with a capital C. I could hear the capital letter. This young man in college told my Dad, who taught college, that his field of study was Communications – during my grandparents’ 50th Anniversary Party — which also needs capital letters because people should be celebrated for making it through the world together for fifty years and loving each other so long, and I hoped one day, I’d celebrate 50 years with someone, too.
Now even if computer science has become IT for Information Technology, and Communications has been separated into twelve different degrees, at the time of this party, it sounded so simple: Communications. It sounded like exactly what I wanted to do. It sounded like simply distilling what one person wanted to say into its bare essence and then sharing it in a way some other (specific) person could hear. I wanted to know how to do that. Small scale or large scale, I wanted to try that on.
I remember my mom laughing about the idea of studying Communications – how does one study Communications? And even then, I understood her laughter wasn’t about him and it wasn’t about me. Her laughter was about her and how she, in her descent into depression, was beginning to feel that there was a wall – like the theatrical fourth wall I so adored – between her and other people, and to her, the idea of bridging that wall or breaking that wall or de-imagining that wall was so ludicrous; the idea of communicating beyond that wall was so incomprehensible that all she could do was laugh. I got that, even if I didn’t know how to express it yet.
I asked my parents later, “Does he really get paid for that? For Communicating?”
I was intrigued, and suddenly longed to Communicate for a living, with a capital C.
“Well, he’s just studying now – but yes, that’s his goal.”
I took a lot of detours and amassed a few more passions along the way, but eventually, that became my goal, too. Or my life. Or my life’s work.
Because that’s what I do now. I Communicate. For a living.
And my week hit a pinnacle this morning when I – who now shine the spotlight as much as I can on the good work going on all around me – had the spotlight shone on me as a Nonprofit Communicator here on the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog – a space where communication and learning and passion are given breath. And life. And care. And tending. Here. In an online community for my tribe.
I feel lucky because it feels like coming home.