For six months, my new home was on the Oasis of the Seas, and my new job was performing as part of the international ice cast in the featured show, Frozen in Time. My professional performing career had just started, and let me tell you, I had no idea the drastic impact this contract would have on my life.
For those of you that don’t know me, I am an avid planner, am a control freak (in denial until recently), and I like to play by the rules – I know, sexy right. I’m extremely thick-headed but also kind-of-a pushover for the people I care about. I like to know where my life is going every step of the way. I have an anxious mind and therefore I’ve always had safety-net options for if that plan fails. I need comfort, but adversely crave adventure. I’m the type of person that when something is unsettling, I can’t just let it go. I need to fix the problem whatever it may be.
When I joined my first ship in November of 2018, just over two years ago, I thought that this was just a one-time thing. I convinced myself and everyone around me (or so I thought), that this was a one and done deal, I’d do my contract and get back to my ‘real life’ in Seattle. I had interviewed for jobs for a marketing and branding PR agency, looked at apartments to move into with my boyfriend at the time (that one time when I had a stable and thriving relationship) and even had my eye on a puppy that would breed when I got home. My contract was six months, and I was so convinced that this by-the-book life I had planned out for myself was what I wanted.
Those months onboard derailed my life, in the best way possible and I’m grateful for it. I was going to write about this sooner, but put it off. I recently watched the movie “Soul” and it inspired me to get it out if for nothing else but to be able to reflect on it later.
One night after my first contract was over, I was catching up with a friend from college for drinks. I told her everything that had happened, and her immediate response was,
“I am so proud of you. You need to be in control of everything and you just threw it all away to go after what you’re fully capable of…you’re dying inside aren’t you? This is going to be such a great growing opportunity for you as a person, never mind all of the cool-shit you’re going to see and experience”.– Thanks Devri for being proud of me, this conversation really gave me perspective.
I pretty much remember it verbatim because she was right. I never realized how much I needed to be in control of everything and how scared shitless I was to give up stability for a career that lives contract to contract, with someone else deciding if you’re the right fit or not. It still scares me shitless.
If the people that met me from the day I started my first contract until now knew me in college, I don’t think they would recognize me. For one, the physical “glow up” is very real. I’m not implying that I’m hot shit now by any means, I still face battles with my insecurities, but I look back and thank god my mom forced me to go to university first. My face, my body and most importantly, the confidence in my own uniqueness changed from the day I got onboard. That internal light finally turned on. I’m at a loss for words to fully describe the feeling that I am talking about, but if you’ve seen the movie “Soul” you can understand the purpose im eluding to. For those that haven’t, I can say this: I am well aware that I am not at all the best skater in the world, but I do know that by the motivation I have to make sure this is what I will continue to do and by the feeling I get inside, I know this is the right path for me. (That is a very tough thing to say right now in an industry that has been wiped out leaving us all unemployed in this pandemic for almost a year now.)
I’ve began transforming into a person that I think my younger self would be very proud of. The performance life so far has brought me some incredible moments that stand out in their own way, but I want to talk about the ones that came at me full force like I was getting hit by a bus. These experiences helped me come into my own and paved the way for me to learn not be afraid of who I am or the decisions I wanted to make. Despite all the experiences that I am grateful for, there was one in particular that happened at the very beginning of it all and not to be dramatic, but it changed my life.
If this helps you realize or understand that taking risks may be worth it, I encourage you to keep reading.
No 1: About a week into shows, the last night before my installer left.
A little background on how rehearsals for the show works. For the first two weeks I was onboard, my cast and I were on the ice for hours learning the show, and if not, we were in the conference rooms for ship safety trainings. There was a two-week handover period where we would watch the outgoing cast perform the ice show, study our tracks (our character throughout the whole show, which we would be taking over), and pick up little nuances we liked from their own personal flair. During this time, we worked with an installer, who came and taught us our solos, group numbers, set out which elements would go where, fit us into costumes, and essentially got the entire show ready for an audience. When the two weeks were up, we were the new cast and the old cast packed up and went on to whatever was next for them.
After my first show, I cried. I hid it from my cast, but I totally blubbered like a total baby; I was so unbelievably happy. Performing professionally is something that I have wanted to do since I was a little girl. After I stopped my competitive career, I was offered a professional job, but had to turn it down to go to University first. I thought my reality of performing was over until I had that post-college graduate urge of trying to go after it again after four years of being off the ice.
It was day five of that week’s cruise, a sea-day, and the last day before our installer, Liz, left the ship in Cozumel, Mexico. We were having drinks at the crew bar on deck five, and she gave me such a genuine, encouraging heart-to-heart that to be completely honest I loved and hated hearing. It might have been a small conversation for her, one that she has with many skaters, but for me, it was one that stuck. At the time of our conversation, I was in denial, and although her confidence in me gave me butterflies, I felt guilty for hearing “this is what you’re meant to do”.
I always try to keep a journal, because as you can see I process my feelings through writing. I found the entry I made for that day, so I thought I’d just share that with you here to provide a little dimension and perspective. Try not to laugh to hard at the “dear-diary” baby girl vibe that you see on the page.
For those that want the summary, she said to me that I was one to “keep an eye on and that I had a very bright future as a performer”
I denied what she said then for almost half of my contract. But eventually, I had to deal with the domino effect that came with me realizing the truth in her words and I altered the life I so meticulously planned out for myself before. Deciding to throw out a sense of security in all aspects of my life when I didn’t even know if I was good enough to get rehired was the opposite of college Samantha. I ended a love that was so good to not hold them or myself back with any future adventures. I informed the company that had pending hiring status when I got back home, which included a 401K, health insurance, benefits, salary, all the good stuff you look for to build a stable future. It was very challenging learning to let go of the life that was waiting for me, but what’s more unfathomable is that I thought this life was just a temporary stop. Jokes on me for not knowing myself better than that before.
Fast forward and its the beginning of 2021, almost one year since the beginning of the global pandemic that devastated the world and shut down the performing industry completely. Ask me now I still think this was the right choice? Even with no income and an unsettling doubt for what the future holds, I’d still make the same decision one-hundred times over. So thank you Liz for planting that seed of confidence in me and helping me realize what I’m meant to be doing.
Take a little sneak peak into what part of the show looked like!