I’ve told this story to my children several times, but it was only a story about what led me to change my college major. It was only recently I realized there is an important moral to the story. This is for my children and anyone else who has a dream:
In the summer of 1986, between my freshman and sophomore years at BYU, I decided to be a Costume Design major. I read books on the topic and I’ve always been fascinated by costumes in movies. The curriculum looked full of interesting classes in sewing, design and history of costume. Most of the required classes overlapped with the other Clothing and Textiles majors and I’d already been taking and enjoying those classes. My first class specific to costume design was a 1 credit class, predictably called “Intro to Costume Design”. It was offered during the second block (or second half) of winter semester. Finally, I would be taking a real costume design class!
I remember that first day of class. It was my first class in the Harris Fine Arts Center, in an obscure room that wasn’t very easy to find. I walked into the room. At first glance the room looked small, but I think that’s because the ceiling was high and the room was pretty full. There were less than 10 students in the class. There weren’t any desks or chairs, but there were a few stools at work tables along two walls. We all found a stool and listened to the instructor introduce the class. First, she said there was no textbook. Yay! Second, she told us we would be asked to help with costume changes for the BYU productions. “Asked to help” really meant “your grade depends on this”. This was a little problematic for me as I imagined the 20+ minute walk home alone late at night across a dark and deserted campus in sub-freezing temperatures. It wasn’t a deal breaker though.
Her next proclamation, however, changed my life. She pointed to one corner of the room. There was a huge structure made out of chicken wire with a face near the top of the 15 foot tall behemoth. The bottom couple feet were covered with long strands of purple yarn attached to the wire. It looked like a giant Barney zombie. No, an UNFINISHED giant Barney zombie. Our assignment, if we chose to accept it, was to spend most of every class time attaching yarn to this monster so it could be used in a play. You know how during the Rose Parade the announcers always speak with high admiration of all the volunteers who happily and painstakingly apply poppy seeds, one by one, to make eyelashes on a character on one of the floats? I’d shoot myself before I’d volunteer for that, and that’s the same way I felt about spending hours and hours tying yarn to chicken wire.
I sat through the class, then walked straight to the Smith Family Living Center where I dropped the class and changed my major to Fashion Merchandising. The next week someone from the theater department called to ask if I would help with costume changes that weekend. When I told her I dropped the class she laughed and said I was the fourth person she called and the first three had dropped the class also. I guess I wasn’t the only one intimidated by the monster.
That one stupid monster changed my major, the people I would meet in college, and who knows what else in the course of my life. Maybe I owe that monster a great big thank you because I have a wonderful life and I wouldn’t change a thing. But as my children get ready to leave for college and follow their dreams, I can’t help but wonder what monsters will stand in their way. Will it be a difficult professor or the challenge of learning something new? Will they face their monsters and defeat them, or will they turn and walk away? I wish I’d tried costume design and decided I didn’t like it, but instead I let a monster eat my dream.