by Erin Ashe

Two thousand, nine hundred and two miles away from home. Two thousand, nine hundred and two miles away from homemade dinners, soothing hugs, comforting cuddles, safe neighborhoods, and familiar faces. From the warmth of my Petaluma home of 17 years, I am moving to Manhattan, New York at the end of this August.
When I first received my acceptance e-mail from NYU, I opened it, read the first line, and closed it. I really didn’t care because I knew I didn’t want to go that far from my home; I just didn’t feel ready. I talked to classmates with mutual fears of homesickness who were turning down East Coast schools because of the inconvenient location and reassured myself that NYU was not even going to be considered in my decision of where to attend college.
Then I talked to my mom. “If you don’t go to NYU, you are crazy.” I cried. I broke down and sobbed. My mom was right. My dream is to be on Broadway, to make a living from performing, and in that profession, I really would be crazy to turn down an opportunity to study musical theater at a prestigious arts program in the heart of the theater district. Though I didn’t feel ready, I was denying the fact that this remarkable opportunity may not be available when I am.
I still don’t feel ready. I don’t like talking about it and feel like crying when I do. I feel like crying when I think about leaving the consoling arms of my boyfriend, navigating around New York City without my mom’s color-coded vacation maps, doing homework without having my smart and savvy dad to proof it, wearing all my own clothes rather than stealing my sister’s, having to throw up without my mom there to hold back my hair, seeing my dog’s smiling face and wiggling body during the sparse seasonal breaks instead of every day, being isolated with an all-too expensive plane ticket standing between me and visiting home, and being alone.
But then I listen to my favorite soundtracks of show tunes and I’m reminded of why I am choosing this path. I love theater, I adore singing, and I can’t imagine pursuing a life without either. I yearn to experience the exhilaration of performing for over 2,000 audience members, to grow as an actor, and to turn my passion into a profession. The people I love will always love me and my dog will never stop smiling.
I have the opportunity to train, to make connections, to learn, to watch, to develop. I have a chance to make my vision breathe and pulse with life, with my life. I have a helping hand which, in show business, is not common.
As I cry thinking about what I am walking away from, I smile as I think about the support I carry with me and the amazing future that I am walking toward.