If I Go There’s Just No Telling How Far I’ll Go

10/19/19

Performed live at “Is This A Thing”

This past July, the story of a 26 year old with a Moana birthday cake went viral on Facebook because the bakery heard her age and assumed when her mother said “Moana” she meant marijuana. The bakery couldn’t imagine that a 26 year old would want a birthday cake of Disney’s story of a Polynesian girl fulfilling the quest of her ancient ancestors and discovering her identity. 

My 26th birthday was last year and I did have a Moana cake. The bakery I used understood me when I said to pipe “Happy 26th Birthday Jax” in gold frosting over the photo of Moana. 

It all started about sixteen months before, the day a friend randomly asked me if I wanted to see Moana. I was 25 and although I love Disney I hadn’t loved a new Disney movie in years. I really only went because I don’t know how to say no. 

For once my people pleasing came in handy. Sitting in the movie theater I saw my 25 year old Irish self depicted on screen in the form of a teenage Polynesian girl sailing over oceans, defying her family’s wishes for her to stay on her island. 

I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
‘Long as I can remember, never really knowing why

The story of Moana is a universal hero’s journey that I would argue we all can relate to, hence its box office success, but I am not the daughter of a chief, I have never been to any of the Polynesian Islands, and I certainly have never sailed the ocean to save my people. Even still, I sat in the audience of that AMC and I cried as if I was watching a movie about my own struggles.

I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try

I’ve been working for my parents for almost two years. They have a property management company that manages buildings in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. I work in the office managing the expenses, income and tenants issues that come in like the tide, heavy and constant. The great dynastic plan is that when my parents retire I take this business over. Similarly, Moana is the daughter of the chief of her village and is expected to become chieftess when she comes of age. 

Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know, where I can not go, where I long to be

I never grew up wanting to be a property manager, and it isn’t what I studied in school. I went to NYU and created my own major, it was called “Fashioning an Identity and The Culture of Clothing” which is code for Fashion Psychology and Anthropology. To be frank, I didn’t have any idea what I’d do when I graduated. I just started working on political campaigns then moved home to do Real Estate leasing. In December. The worst time of year to lease apartments in Chicago. I was struggling leasing when my therapist recommended I go work at Trader Joe’s. They had great insurance, it was a kind of a cool job and it would give me structure. All the things I needed at that moment. 

See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes

See, I grew up performing, I was a member of the Screen Actors Guild before I was four years old because at age 2 I pointed at the television and said “I want to be on TV like him”. The man I pointed at was none other than Michael Jordan and right around my fifth birthday I was cast in an AMF Bowling commercial with him. I tell this anecdote not to brag but to explain that I’ve always believed I was destined for Great Things that I manifest through positive thinking. 


If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know, if I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

I came close a few times, ending up as one of the last two girls auditioning for the lead role in the movie I Am Sam. Dakota Fanning went on to win a Critics Choice Award for Best Young Performer in the role and star in countless movies. I quit performing when I was twelve to concentrate on school and being a kid. I now see the irony in concentrating on being a kid at age twelve-right on the cusp up adolescence. 

I know everybody on this island, seems so happy on this island
Everything is by design
I know everybody on this island has a role on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine

I had long given up on Being A Star. When I came home from working on political campaigns in Tennessee and New Hampshire my mom, tired of me puttering around the house, recommended I take a class at Second City. I didn’t really feel called to take an improv class at age 23 but I am never one to pass up a free opportunity. I ended up falling back in love with performing, over ten years after I had prematurely retired. I realized I could no longer roll with my life, just as Moana realized she had to sail out to sea despite her parent’s wishes for her to stay on land. 

I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I’ll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?

Suddenly I was feeling the urge to perform again but I felt I was too old to chase my dreams of being a Star. Yes, I realize it was ridiculous for someone in their mid twenties to feel this way but that is how I felt. What is wrong with me? 

See the light as it shines on the sea? It’s blinding
But no one knows, how deep it goes
And it seems like it’s calling out to me, so come find me
And let me know, what’s beyond that line, will I cross that line?

I finally took the plunge and got new headshots a few weeks ago. I plan on submitting them to agencies in Chicago and start auditioning for commercials, movies and tv shows soon. The plan is to follow in the footsteps of my hero Moana and find a way to both defy my parents and please them. So, I won’t end up working in Property Management but I will fulfill my Irish ancestral destiny of telling stories, whatever medium that may be and discover my true identity as a gutsy performer. 

The line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know, how far I’ll go

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