Some of My Past Lives

I was at this art festival last week with my friend, Sally, and at one point, she turns to me and goes:

“Katie, I had no idea you were so into art.”

That made me realize that my college friends don’t know about my past hobbies, besides that I edited my high school yearbook. (The No. 1 question I’m asked about my past: How did you get into journalism?)

I’ve always had a wide range of interests. However, I very much scaled back on that in college. (I was involved with so many activities that I got pretty worn out senior year, earning me the “Most Involved” high school superlative.)

So, for those of you who met me after May 2011, here are some of the figurative hats I’ve worn over the years, in semi-chronological order:

  • Ballet and tap dancer. When I was 3 years old, I took two sessions of a ballet and tap class. I’ve been told I quit because I didn’t like stretching my leg to rest on top of the bar. A few friends and I tried again in elementary school, but that also just didn’t work out.
  • Swimmer. I took swim lessons for a bit at this swim club that sends people to semi-professional competitions a lot. I quit because I wasn’t yet 4 feet tall and didn’t like to swim where I couldn’t stand. (What a kid.)
  • Gymnast. I loved jumping on the trampoline and walking on the balance beam, but I quit because I didn’t want to do flips. (Sensing a pattern here?)
  • Insect collector. “Bugs are my life,” I said at age 5. Well, that’s no longer a thing.
  • Librarian. In kindergarten, I thought the class should have a library, so I got several friends together to make one. Thankfully, at this nearly Montessori school, our teachers got into it and took our pictures for library cards. I also decided the library should have a door, so we made one — out of tape.
  • Tennis player. My mom sent me to a day tennis camp one summer in the sweltering Georgia heat. My tennis instructor made some crack about how it was warmer for us because we were so close to the ground. I was about done after that.
  • Playground activities coordinator. Half of my first-grade class would participate in these elaborate Carmen Sandiego games I made up.
  • Short story author. My first-grade teacher recognized that some of us knew how to read, so to help us avoid boredom, she gave us journals to write stories in. I have books full of these.
  • Karate kid. I took taekwondo for a year or two. I broke a few pieces of wood, so I was pretty proud of that, but I didn’t want to take the tests or anything and actually get a belt.
  • Mardi Gras queen. In first grade, this guy who took karate with me got the plastic baby in the Mardi Gras cake and chose me to be his queen. We walked around the Evansdale cul-de-sac with masks and held hands.
  • Small business owner. I did this thing at Georgia State University where we came up with a business plan, created a product and sold it in downtown Atlanta. At age 7. I made soap with swirls and hearts in it.
  • Basketball forward. Believe it or not, I used to be tall because I grew before half of my friends. I was a forward in basketball until high school and even got so into it that my first Gmail username was “basketballgirl720.”
  • Novelist. In fourth grade, I began writing what I knew to be the next Pulitzer winner: “8563,” the tale of Chloe Blackwood who lived in the year 8563 and had some connection with the 21st century. My friends were illustrators and contributors. I still have the first chapter somewhere. (Also, creepy fun fact: My high school French teacher’s daughter turned out to be named Chloe Blackwood. What even.)
  • Musical theater actor. In fourth grade, I was cast as one of the leads (first lady Martha Washington) in the school musical about the presidents. Singing solo freaked me out, and I never went back. (To performing in a musical, that is.)
  • Semi-professional question answerer. We’d play tons of question-answer games in Discovery, the gifted program class, which led to spots on the elementary school’s Academic Bowl and Reading Bowl teams — and I loved it. Fast-forward to freshman year, when I was asked to be in Academic Bowl … the only question I got right was “Who sang ‘Seven Nation Army’?” I was pretty proud of that one.
  • Singer. I was a soprano in the middle school chorus and absolutely loved it. We had this awesome director, and we won a bunch of competitions. I didn’t have room to take it in high school, but vocal was my “minor” at GHP, this summer program I went to before senior year. I was an alto there.
  • Play actor. My best friend persuaded me to try out for “Alice in Wonderland” in sixth grade; I was cast as Alice, and she as the White Rabbit. I got pretty into acting after that — I was the lead in the rest of the middle school plays, and I was in the few straight plays my high school’s drama department did. I also worked with Atlanta Workshop Players, the Alliance Theatre and Georgia Shakespeare. And my first college tour was at a performing arts school. So, yes, you could say I was into theater.
  • Stage crew member. Remember how I didn’t do musicals? I love musicals and theater anyway, so I’d always be on stage crew for them. I spent years standing on a rickety cafeteria table moving (and stabilizing) a 50-pound spotlight. I’d paint scenery, collect props and clean up backstage. My senior year, I made up my own light cues and directed people to do lights.
  • Softball player. I played second base, shortstop, third base or any outfield position. As I joke whenever this comes up in conversation, I was usually the starting benchwarmer — I just liked hanging out with my friends. This was the first activity to go junior year when my life got crazy.
  • Play director. In high school, I directed children’s theater productions at my middle school. I absolutely loved it. And I absolutely miss theater.
  • Behavioral scientist. I spent much of my first semester sophomore year on my science fair project and had to talk about it at three fairs. I’m still amazed I placed at (and even went to) state, especially after listening to those biochemists sitting across from me explain their projects.
  • Literary magazine editor. I loved lit mag. I edited my middle school one for two years, my high school one for three years and a city one during one summer. Unfortunately, this means I have read hundreds of awful poems and am now impartial to poetry.
  • Forensic scientist. I absolutely loved “CSI” and “Bones” in high school, and I thought I wanted to be a forensic scientist for a while. I even took a class on it in high school at the local science center. It consisted of me and this other girl, and it was so much fun.
  • Herpetologist. I also took a class at that same science center with a guy who regularly goes to the Amazon rainforest to identify new species. By the end of the semester, we basically had to know how to classify almost any reptile or amphibian. I didn’t realize how much I picked up from this class until I went to the Reptile House at the Saint Louis Zoo with my mom and didn’t shut up about reptile and amphibian facts.
  • Photographer. I took pictures with a point-and-shoot for most of my life, but as a 17th birthday present, my parents contributed money to get me a Canon Rebel T1i. I took it everywhere with me at GHP (and am so thankful I did) to the point that people thought I wanted to be a photojournalist. I also carried it around most days senior year for yearbook.
  • Artist. I took AP 2D Design, and while I used some of that time for yearbook, I did make an AP portfolio I’m proud of. And, I mean, I’ve been crafting practically since birth — my mother is the Craft Queen.
  • Pageant participant. Yes, yes, I know. But actually. I was in my school’s Miss Lakeside pageant because I knew I was never going to get the chance to do something like it again, and why not experience it? I danced to Lady Gaga, performed my favorite monologue from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,”and cheered on my friends, so it ended up being pretty fun. As has most of my life, really.
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