When I was 12, I decided to run away and join the circus.
Actually, running away is a strong phrase. I didn’t want to run away because at my house I had these fluffy, fuzzy friends called horses (or ponies – whichever you prefer). What I really wanted to do was perform in the circus until after college, then go professional in a big time circus.
Now this dream (contrary to what some readers may think) was not too far out of reach. You see, at 12 years old, I was already performing in a circus as a trapeze artist because the Wenatchee Youth Circus had welcomed me into its family and, after I showed a love of heights and challenges and a strong work ethic, taught me to perform the different aerial acts.
This strange background in the circus arts was complemented by a riding career that started at age three and a music career begun at age four. To add to the out-of-the-ordinary application I sent to Albion College last fall, I am also a student from Washington (the state), which as you know is not exactly Michigan’s next door neighbor. Yet as a circus performer, animal lover, and musician, my background was definitely diverse enough for a liberal arts school.
At this point (the beginning of my college adventure) I am a music performance major with (hopefully) minors in both biology and chemistry, and am a member of the Healthcare Institute, unique academic combinations that undoubtedly bring up the question: What is circus freak/horse girl doing majoring in music at Albion College? (And why is she majoring in music if she wants to go to medical school?)
The simple answer is “Why not?”
What not everyone understands about a liberal arts school is that being completely out of the box and unconventional is totally okay – in fact, it’s basically applauded. No, my major doesn’t help me to earn classes toward medical school, but I love it. Riding on the Albion dressage team takes time away from my studies, but I love it. Being in the circus got me laughed at sometimes, but I loved it. I told myself when I went to college that I would never sacrifice something that I loved simply to conform to what was thought to be the traditional, “better” path.
Obviously I no longer plan to join a professional circus. (Professional circus performers don’t make enough to pay off student loans. Crazy, right?) I also don’t plan on playing music professionally, despite majoring in music performance on the viola.
All I really know is that I love music and I have spent my life studying it; it would be such a waste to me to throw away all the hours in practice rooms simply to study the traditional sciences – and if there is anything the circus taught me, it’s how to be nontraditional. And didn’t Ralph Waldo Emerson say in his praise of transcendentalism that “to be great is to be misunderstood?”
Circus and music and horses compelled me to keep that same level of organized chaos and diversity in my studies.
Few people understand why I chose to study this collage of topics, but to me, that’s okay. The lovely thing about Albion (and liberal arts schools in general) is that you don’t have to decide between what you love and what you want to be. You can be all the different versions of yourself that you want (within a healthy amount of reason, of course). One student can be an athlete and a business major and study a foreign language while still having the flexibility to participate in the drama department, so long as they possess decent time management skills.
And that, my friends, is how (and why) a horse girl-trapeze artist came to Albion to major in music in the hopes of becoming a doctor.
Jessi Fore is a first-year student from Wenatchee, WA who made the journey to Albion on a cross-country road trip with her parents and her show jumper-turned-eventer, Katie. She is a member of the dressage team and plays viola in the Albion College symphony orchestra.