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On Being A Professional Non-Professional (Say, “What?”)

Yes. That’s what I meant.

I could be considered a professional non-professional.

During my senior year in high school, I won an award for a video I produced via our school’s “state of the ’80’s art” television production studio. From childhood through high school I was usually the performer (stage, on-camera) so learning to write and produce videos became a new hobby. There was no digital editing back then. Just a turn of the knob, and clicks of buttons, and glitches. I remember lots of glitches.

I entered Ohio University intent on becoming a video producer upon graduation. I even looked into producing patient films for hospitals. I did well in my course-work in college, but never completely dove in as much as a I could have. That being said, I have my BS in Video Production. A degree.

Only, I’ve never used it.

Upon graduation, and a brief stint in Cincinnati working for a weight-loss company (yep, it’s true), my husband and I relocated to Chicago, and theater returned to my life. I have never had any formal acting training. I was a child actor, who took a break during college, and then jumped back in with a lot of self-teaching after college.

I do not have a degree in acting.

I’ve taken maybe one acting class in my life, with the teacher who taught John and Joan Cusack.

He didn’t like me. That didn’t stop me.

I got cast in countless musicals. Renewed my SAG card and booked commercials. One of which paid enough for a down-payment on our first home.  This year, at 42,  I played a dream role, and won an acting award here in Pittsburgh.

But some would think, without the degree, I am not a professional actor.

The first play I ever directed/choreographed was at the college level. I had no experience. As in, absolutely none. I battled nightmares, and walked, blocked, shouted orders, and choreographed in my sleep because the task was so enormous. I had no idea what I was doing. The principal of an area school came to see it and hired me on the spot to do the shows at his school.  I went on to direct their musicals for 7 or 8 years. I forget.

I  began teaching acting lessons to children. First group lessons. Which carried waiting lists for admission after my first semester of teaching. And then private lessons. My clients were in national touring companies, commercials, have worked with Disney, and got cast in theaters all over Chicagoland. Frequently. I was able to demand a good wage for those private lessons.

I did a whole lot of independent study on directing, acting techniques, etc.

Only, I don’t have a teaching degree. Or an MFA in directing. I have never been trained in how to direct or choreograph. I simply got hired. And did the job. Well.

I am, what some would call, a non-professional.

I was hired by a now Golden Globe Award winning song-writer to teach music and movement to children during those days of being a struggling actress. I didn’t play an instrument. I had never learned one.

So, I picked up a ukulele and taught myself. I moved on to the guitar. And then, electric guitar. I was known as “Jojo, the music Mama”, and went on to teach at several locations.

Without any formal training.


Ah, Beachbody.

In 2010, I transformed my physical strength, my emotional well-being, and my mental clarity. All through becoming a Fitness Coach with a company whose in-home fitness programs and  income opportunity has proven to work for me.

I read countless articles on fitness and nutrition daily. I do research for my customers. I check in with trainers for feedback before I consult on a question or topic of which I do not have knowledge. But my main job? To motivate. Encourage. Hold accountable. To help people dream.

I am a fitness consultant. And while “Wellness Coach” is very overused these days, I seem to do a lot of wellness discipleship.

Only, I don’t have a degree in this area either. I am not a trainer. Or a nutritionist. Or a licensed therapist. And I would never misrepresent myself in this way. Thus, perhaps some consider me to be a non-professional in this arena.

Oh, did I mention that I also get paid to write? And, yep, you guessed it. No formal training there either.

So just what does “professional” mean? And must I be one to have a true impact?

I adored college. And I do believe my coursework offered me the primary skills I have used in these endeavors following that time of formal education. And yet, frankly, even without the hours of training and instruction in the classroom, fine-tuning my craft, or a formal degree to go along with it, I AM a professional.

Never. Stop. Learning.

Risk. Your. Ego.

You may just stumble into a new PROFESSION.

I am a professional actress, writer, and wellness discipler (I like the sound of that.)

I do NOT, however, have the papers to prove it.

But I do have GUT, INSTINCTS, and NATURAL ABILITIES. And the belief that ANYONE can be, and achieve, more than they initially think they can.

(And that means you, too.)

Resist the crutch and the trap of cul-de-sac thinking.



4 responses »

  1. Can I just copy all of this for my post on COURAGE? YOU. GO. GIRL! 🙂

  2. Debbie – me first!! 🙂

  3. Very good post! Risk your ego. I like that!


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