I don’t want to look back on my life and think ‘I should have’. I’ve had this attitude since I was a child. My Italian-American grandmother called me a “ruffiana” which means “a free spirit”. One cannot tie a “ruffiana” down. I wanted to experience life, much to the chagrin of my mother. She wanted to protect me from harm. To me that meant missing out on the things that were calling my name.
To this day, it amazes me that even though I was shy, I was fearless.
My fearlessness was given every opportunity to express itself during summer family vacations in upstate New York. Except for my grandparents, the remaining 8 members of my Italian-American family would escape the sweltering heat of New York City and head for one glorious week to the Jewish Alps – The Catskill Mountains.
Dirty Dancing, is the perfect depiction of our vacation oasis. Instead of running through the sprinklers in the park on McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn, we would get to play in the brooks and creeks surrounding our summer spot. There was never a dull moment. Our days were filled with fun and games for the whole family at our annual getaway - Cedar Terrace.
I loved the huge swimming pool. Every day my mother cautioned me to stay in the shallow end. NOT! The friends I made were adventurous; and they were jumping off the diving board into the deep end of the pool. When my mother left, I could not miss out on all the fun. I suffered through a lot of belly flops; but that didn’t matter. I was having the time of my life.
One day, after a dive, I came up to the surface. Lo and behold, my mother was standing frozen on the side of the pool. Her look was one of shock and fury. I was in big trouble. She demanded I get out of the pool. My disobedience required my father’s intervention. GULP!
My mom told my dad what happened; and now he was going to deal with me. My dad never laid a hand on me; but he had a temper. I never wanted to be on that side of him. He let me tell my side of the story. When I was done, he asked one simple question. “Were you afraid?”. Sheepishly, I responded, “No daddy”.
Then to my surprise, he said, “Good, don’t ever be afraid of anything.”
My mother was not happy.
“Ruffiana” All Grown Up
This carried into my adulthood. I’ve taken risks. Even though I was doing well as an administrative assistant, I wasn’t satisfied. I decided I could do more. I quit my job and went back to college. Then, I decided I needed to climb the corporate ladder. I worked full time; and attended school at night to get my MBA. I had no guarantees; but it’s what I had to do to get into marketing.
The biggest risk I took was when I left the corporate world and started to pursue my dream – acting. Who does that at a mature age?
Was I nervous? Yes!
Did I think I was crazy? Yes!
Did people tell me I was crazy? Absolutely, Yes!
Yet, one of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever taken to heart is from author, Joyce Meyer.
"You Have What It Takes to Do It Afraid"
- by Joyce Meyer
Do I Give Up or Keep Going?
Leaving my corporate job to pursue acting and follow my passion was truly a step of faith. I sold my house. I moved across the country to Los Angeles. I didn’t know a soul. I started from scratch.
I had resolve. This was my chance to go after what I always wanted. I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by. If I did, I would regret it and say I should have.
As I have pursued my dream, over the past 15 years, I’ve had to make many decisions. Many times, I was faced with a fork in the road: do I give up or keep going?
I’ve decided to keep going. I’ve waited too long and put in too much effort to give up now.
Have there been times I’ve been afraid. Absolutely!
Corporate had its share of uncertainty; but I could depend on a paycheck. That is not the case with acting as my career choice. I’ve, once again, jumped into the deep end of the pool. It can be scary; but, I wouldn’t give up one moment of this 15-year journey.
All the sweat and tears are watering my destiny. I’m having the time of my life.
It’s all worthwhile, as I remember… it’s never too late to go after your dreams!
- Claudia DiMartino