Sometimes Coco Chanel Makes Sense

2016 is my year. After devouring numerous “self-help” books and absorbing every motivational quote, speech, and word I could find, I finally decided to stop saying, “I wish” and “I want” and instead, plunge myself into the scary act of living out my dreams. In just a few months, I have made leaps, taken huge risks, and the journey is just beginning. There are people who are concerned and those who think I’m crazy, but to anyone who truly knows me and has followed my journey–to my close friends and family–there is no doubt that my current path is the one I need to take. Allow me to explain.

In early 2008, toward the end of my freshman year of college, I went to a campus exploration event to find ideas on how to spend my sophomore year. I’m the type of person who walks through every isle at the grocery store, regardless of the purpose of my visit. In keeping with that standard, I visited every booth I could find. At some point, I stumbled upon the Indiana University Police Department booth where I spoke to a Detective about the IUPD campus patrol program. I was told that, if accepted into the program, I could be a police cadet and assist with basic security around campus. Oh, and get into games and events that I worked for free and get paid to do it. I had never considered any aspect of security or police work outside of a strong interest in intel for the FBI, but the perks of the job sounded like a good time. I submitted my application.

I feel it necessary to say, I used to be afraid of police officers. Not because I was worried about being mistreated, but because I assumed they thought I was always doing something wrong, even though I have always been a “goody two-shoes”. I thought getting to work alongside them would give me a new perspective.

During the orientation for the program, I was informed I would assist with dispatch for the campus and after a year, would be sent to police academy to become a campus officer. It did not occur to me until much later that this police academy would make me a legitimate, badge and gun cop with arrest power and responsibility. One year passed. Academy was a piece of cake (even with mono) and I was a fully certified police officer. I worked part time for the University while crushing 18-19 credit hours of college courses per semester.

I changed my major so many times during undergrad (Classical Studies–>Criminal Justice–>Neuroscience–>Psychology and Germanic Studies) and constantly maintained a heavy course, activity, and workload that I knew I would need a break from academia before pursuing an advanced degree. Since I already had a law enforcement certification, I decided I would apply for a full time job. I was offered positions at Indiana University and the City of Carmel, Indiana, even after clarifying at both departments I did not intend to stay longer than 5 years.

My first few months at Carmel were wonderful. I was basically in training non-stop: always learning something. My brain was stimulated, I was improving, and after a short field training, I was released on my own to night shift: 5pm-5am. The hours were rough, but I definitely seemed to see a fair amount of action my first year. I moved into an apartment with my friend, David, who basically ensured I didn’t want for adventure. We went rock climbing, he got a dog, we took a road trip across the nation. We got into microbrews, he took me to a music festival, and developed our infamous cookies and porn nights (eat cookies, make fun of porn…good times).

David is an aeronautical engineer and at some point, despite substantially more marketable than I, found himself out of a job. With his ingenuity, he started making LED hula-hoops that he sold for $200 a piece at festivals. Enough to get by on, but not necessarily enough to thrive. This made me appreciate the stability of my job but also made me wonder how well I could fair without it. I saw a vision of myself years from then, trapped in the field for fear of losing that steady paycheck and premium healthcare. It terrified me.

I realized that I kept myself so busy throughout school my entire life that I never took the time to sit down and think about what I really wanted or who I was. After realizing I was trapped and one mild panic attack later, I did a deep self-analysis. I wrote down the things I had always wanted to do, but hadn’t out of fear: fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, fear of poverty…

My greatest desire was to become and actress and a writer, particularly for film. I have always been a constant daydreamer and have often found myself lost in the characters in shows, picturing myself in their roles, trying to decide how I would be impacted in a certain person’s position within a story. This transfer was almost like an out of body experience. I truly felt the scene every time and could recognize those raw on-screen emotions more clearly sometimes than in real life. This emotional high–this connection–was addictive.

In middle school, I purchased my first screenwriting book and took to re-writing pieces of films I didn’t like.  Even though I spent the majority of my life in love with this craft, worked modeling and commercial jobs with talent agencies at an early age, and acted in stage productions, I stopped performing and creative writing in college because I did not think I was talented enough to succeed in such an oversaturated profession. In my reflection, I remembered that even in my youth, I would read about the history of cinema, watch any and every “great” film and sitcom I could get my hands on, I read plays, obsessed over classic greek stories and archetypes and the fundamentals of storytelling. And I retained it. Without even realizing it, I had spent the beginning of my life preparing for the job I had always wanted. Kudos little Katy, for knowing yourself much more than pre-adult Katy ever did.

My second desire was to re-invent my image. I wanted to be leaner, stronger, faster. I wanted edgier hair and less acne. I wanted to learn about cosmetics, fashion, and nutrition. I wanted to walk around looking and feeling like I took great pride in myself. I had always been a tomboy and was always signed up for sports to some degree: soccer, baseball (t-ball, softball, whatever ball), basketball, tennis, cross country, track, rock climbing, Karate, Hapkido, Capoeira, Jeet Kune Do, etc. Toward the end of college, I started weight lifting with some of my fellow officers, which amounted to hitting the bench press primarily. I enjoyed sports but never put in the effort the excel. I’m a lazy athlete, if you will. I needed to learn to push myself and gain confidence in myself.

Lastly, I wanted to travel more: to explore the world and explore myself. I wanted to find somewhere I fit in. I wanted to figure out who I was, how to express myself, and how to identify what I was feeling. My parents had always taken my brother and me on vacation, primarily in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. I had been on two exchange trips to Germany as well. My mother also made sure my brother and I kept open minds about other cultures, educated ourselves, and learned to ask questions tactfully about things we didn’t understand. I was truly blessed to have had that upbringing, as it made me want to embrace the world rather than fear it. At some point however, I became lost. My type A personality made me cynical, my (secret) introversion and shyness made me appear inapproachable and simultaneously afraid to approach others, and my desire to be responsible, rational, and seek approval from others made me feel trapped.

After writing down what I really wanted, I made a list of how to accomplish those goals. I found an acting class close to my place that met on Thursday nights. The teacher, Jim Dougherty, seemed legit and the class website alone was helpful in providing acting resources. I instantly signed up for the class and started taking lessons. I got a gym membership at LA fitness and signed up for personal training. I decided I was going to do a figure competition, get swimsuit lean, and learn my way around the gym. I also started studying for my own personal trainer certification. I signed back up for music lessons with Bongo Boy Music School (I had taken percussion lessons with Ed since the school opened), opting for guitar and songwriting sessions. The songwriting, I hoped with help me reconnect with my muse and also learn to express myself.  I made a plan to travel whenever possible, make time for friends, and maybe even start dating again…maybe.

More than anything, my acting classes finally helped me open up. Guitar and songwriting was a good hobby outlet, but nothing compared to acting as a therapy. I started working with local films and earned enough credits to develop a film reel, make a website (welcome), and an IMDB page. I gained connections, knowledge, motivation, encouragement, and friendship within the acting community. Reading screenplays reminded me of my love for it and I started writing again. I would fall so hard into the stories I was creating that some days, it was difficult to get out of bed because they were all I could think about (it’s called maladaptive daydreaming and I’m determined to be a productive person with it).

Bodybuilding became my permanent stress release and confidence booster. I found out that you can basically mold your body to be what you wanted if you actually understood the basics of diet and exercise. It takes some dedication and hard work, but only about an hour/day. Even with a full time and part time job (adding personal trainer to my resume), I was able to make time to meal prep and train. Hoping to improve my strength and repertoire, I joined a local gym, Barkes Fitness (now The Gym), and trained under Mr. Indiana himself. From this experience, I looked better than I ever had, I became stronger than I had ever been, and I became a better trainer as well! I felt like I could do anything I set my mind to. Some people criticized my more athletic physique and I learned to “ignore the haters.” I was finally starting to become happy with how I looked and felt and I was finally starting to know the person I had always wanted to be and deep down, always was.

Furthermore, I had traveled. Several road trips with friends, adventures in Europe, camping excursions, etc. I went on vacations alone and became comfortable that way. Los Angeles and San Diego became my annual go-to’s. I loved every piece of southern California and every time I visited, I felt home (My friend, Max, an actor in Los Angeles has forever since rolled his eyes and said, “Just move here already.”). My independence became the most valuable thing I had and because of that, I felt this weight. I was not locked down by relationships–anyone who has ever been with me has known I need space. I was no longer held back by money–I moved in with my parents to save as much as I could. My closest friends and family were encouraging me to follow the dreams I had long feared to admit. I didn’t even care about failing anymore. The only thing holding me back was fear of leaving my career, my stability.

I talked to my friend, David, about my life situation. We had lived together in 2012-2013 when he was out a job. In 2013, he moved to Minnesota to start another one that wound up sucking. Not being one to put up with bullshit, In 2014, David flat out quit his job with $3000 in the bank and moved in with one of his best friends in Colorado–no certainty, minimal funds. David did some job searching and was offered a clutch job. Now, one month younger than I, David’s pay doubled my salary last year (and I was making good money!). In sharing that with me, David gave me an ultimatum. He had a new girlfriend he wanted me to meet. A music festival was in town near Indiana he wanted me to go to. He told me if I quit my job, he would by my festival pass and offer me a place to stay in Denver free of rent until I figured everything out. At that point, he honestly could have just offered to buy me dinner and I would have been sold. I discussed my decision with my parents and turned in my resignation the next day. No one at the department was surprised.

I didn’t leave on a bitter note. The friendships I developed throughout my police career are some of my most valued. There is certainly a special bond you develop with people you have to trust to be there for you in your darkest hour–to make sure you make it home safely to your family every night. The life experience I learned was not only necessary for my personal development but also for my understanding of life. My level of jadedness over the years fluctuated but I was able to leave with a positive outlook. I found that everyone has a reason they are who they are. Even in my worst encounters, I learned to work to find the humanity in everyone.

As soon as I turned in my badge, my life had some epic highs and lows. I felt heartbreak and betrayal and all those horrible emotional things I managed to avoid for so long. But then I was given this incredible support and doors started to open. One of my friends in San Diego let me know she would help me find a job if my funds ran out at some point. My cousin, an actor in LA, told me I could crash at his place, rent free, for a while to get my feet wet. Several people put good words in with producers, directors, and agencies for me. I finished a screenplay and the ideas have not stopped flooding. And I finally got the courage to cut my hair. Not just a little. I shaved that shit. And I love it. Anyone who thought they would hate my hair short has since eaten their words. One of them even sent me a Coco Chanel quote, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”

I smile reading that even now, two weeks from my LA departure date. I know I am about to change my life. I’m not looking back.

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