When I was 18, I was working in a rare and out of print bookstore in Austin, TX and lazily attending a mess of random liberal arts classes at the community college across the street. I'd graduated from a Baptist military boarding school early, and subsequently 'suffered' two heart wrenching defeats in attempting to gain admittance to Julliard, and though I can look back on that malaise with the same wry smile as reading my self-aggrandizing childhood diaries, I do acutely remember looking at my options and feeling very "none of the above."
The job itself was a total dream, and still my number one back up in case I didn't manage to become wildly successful in jazz. My grandmother was a bookseller and called in an old favor for her bibliophile granddaughter, and voila I became their only employee. The shop opened at noon (ideal) and I was mostly left to my own devices, or occasionally joined by my boss, Luke -- an obviously extreme literate, and general good time -- or one of the eccentric collectors who would come and have a whiskey, or tutor me in French.
But whatever Sorrel saw in me on her dining room table was the catalyst for everything I could have imagined. I got upgraded from fainting couch to painting studio, introduced to a swath of filthy Italian phrases, chess on trains, regency balls, schooled on not offending Venetians at Carnival, posing nude in an Art Deco harem, literally physically force-dressing me for winter time, and above all encouraged and supported to sing at every single event, party, and opportunity possible until, like learning the other side of poetry, or understanding the inevitability of forever, I became the most true, authentic version of myself as a jazz singer trying to evolve and challenge myself in Europe, and of course offending Venetians and passing out at Mansion parties.
I'm still sort of making wobbly guess-choices, but I do know that everything that has led me to where I am now feels right, and nothing about it seems like the beaten path to any real commercial success, and that feels great. And when Marie Claire did an article on me this year, I definitely felt a wry self-aggrandizing smile when reading the title "The Millennial Louise Brooks".