COMING INTO YOUR OWN

May 3, 2018

I was a late bloomer.  A very late bloomer!

 

On second thought, it took me a lifetime to come into my own.

 

FROM THE BEGINNING

 

From the time I was a child, I always wanted to be an actress.  I would recreate the characters I saw on TV shows and in the movies; and I would make up my own stories and act them out.

 

I was an extremely shy child.  My sister once said she didn’t even remember me as a kid.  I hid in my room or in closets.  Growing up in an Italian-American household in Brooklyn, NY with ten very different, dysfunctional people under one roof was disconcerting.

 

We all needed to find that place to be heard and seen.  For me, that was daunting.  So, I was reclusive.  I escaped into my imaginary world.

 

 

 

I had a vivid imagination; but I grew up in a household of structure and doing all things responsible.  Acting did not fit that picture at all.

 

Looking back, I think my parents didn’t want my hopes and dreams to be dashed.  Their point of reference was my sister.

 

She loved to dance.  She had dreams of becoming a professional dancer.  She was preparing for her audition at the High School of Performing Arts in New York City when catastrophe struck.

 

 

 

My sister dislocated her knee doing a pivot turn.  She was rushed to the hospital and came home with a huge cast from the top of her leg to the bottom of her foot. 

 

She would never be able to dance again.  She was devastated!

 

I was so affected by my sister’s heartbreak that I gave up ballet.  I thought, “If my sister couldn’t dance, then, I shouldn’t dance.”

 

I never put my ballet shoes on again.

 

CHANGING COURSE

 

I took a drama class in high school; and I was hooked.

 

Only I was too shy to audition for any of the school plays.  I justified it by telling myself they were always musicals; and I knew I didn’t sing.

 

It never occurred to me that there were non-singing roles.

 

I would attend every show and daydream about being on that stage.

 

I, then, took the big step and announced to my parents that I wanted to major in the fine arts in college. 

 

 

 

I didn’t major in the fine arts in college.

 

I didn’t know what to do. 

 

I attended community college for a semester.  That didn’t work out!

 

Since I majored in the commercial program in high school, I had amazing secretarial skills.  I could type 120 words per minute. 

 

I decided to put those skills to work.

 

I became a secretary at Helena Rubinstein, Inc.  This was my introduction to the beauty industry.

 

After a few years, I got my first introduction to a corporate takeover. I was miserable and soon left to take a position at a major advertising agency.

 

I did well; but I felt I could do more.

 

After much thought, I decided to go back to college.  So, I went to school full time and worked part time at the ad agency.

 

After four years, I finally got my Bachelors of Business Administration in marketing; and I was ready to take on the world.

 

NOT SO FAST!

 

It was the recession of 1980 and jobs were scarce.  After working so hard to get into marketing, I was told that, unless I had my master’s degree, I had to start out as an administrative assistant.

 

 

 

I was livid; but I needed a job.

 

I did take full advantage of my company’s tuition reimbursement program.  I worked 65-70 hours a week and went to school three nights a week.

 

After three years, I got my MBA from Pace University’s Lubin School of Business and was soon promoted into marketing.

 

I was working around the clock and had no personal life.  Then, to my surprise, I met a man who was European, very cultured and, be still my heart, very attractive.  I thought, "Could a possible romance be in the offing."

 

He invited me to join him at a Segovia concert.

 

 

 

I love classical Spanish guitar music.  I was thrilled and said yes.

 

On the day of my dream date, my boss called me into her office.  She needed me to pull a report together that night.  I told her I had plans.  She just glared at me and sternly said, “I said I need that report tonight.”

 

I got up, went to my office; and I made a choice.

 

I picked up the phone and called Eduardo.  I told him I needed to work late that night and apologized for the short notice.  Before I could get another word out, he hung up on me.

 

We never spoke again.

 

MY WAKE-UP CALL

 

I was such a workaholic.  In October, 2001, it finally caught up with me.

 

I got to work at 7:30 a.m.  I couldn’t breathe.  I was rushed to the hospital emergency room.  My head was spinning.  I couldn’t believe I was having a heart attack.

 

That scare was my wake-up call.  Thankfully, it was only a panic attack; but I realized I needed to re-evaluate my life.

 

In November, 2001, I left corporate America and never looked back.

 

As I was trying to figure out my next steps, I started taking acting classes.  That childhood dream came roaring to the surface.

 

I made the choice to follow my heart.  Since I was more mature, I took a big risk at this later stage of my life to go after my dream of acting.  I decided to go out on a limb.

 

 

 

 

I’ve learned that going out on that limb is scary; but the fruit is so much sweeter.

 

It’s taken me a lifetime to come into my own.  I believe my life’s experiences will only enrich my ability as an actress.

 

I’ve also discovered I’m not the only one who’s figured out who I was born to be later in life.  I am in good company.

 

 

 

I believe the song, Who I Was Born to Be, by Susan Boyle says it all.

 

 

Coming into my own has been a journey; but all the bumps and bruises have been worth it.  I’m free!  I’m confident.  I’m grateful I’ve realized…it’s never too late to go after your dreams.

 

                                                             Claudia DiMartino

 

 

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Claudia DiMartino is a successful business woman turned actress and playwright. She took a risk and left corporate America.  She now shares her life's journey which helped her realize - it's never too late to go after your dreams.

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