Written by: April Vargo
My once a week blogging has definitely fallen by the wayside in the last month or so. Life has been absolutely crazy, but in the best way.
My husband and I took a vacation in May, one that both of us definitely needed. When we arrived back I jumped right back into lessons, classes, prepping for a presentation, and holding auditions for a show I'm directing this summer. Ever since then, I feel like I've been in a complete whirlwind of new students, show planning and answering emails that feel like laundry - once you get caught up, there's always more in the inbox.
Like I said, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love being busy and I love having several projects going at once. I consider myself very lucky that in the summer months Play.Sing.Act, LLC has been growing. Summer is really tough for most small business centered around the performing arts, as students travel or are involved in activities that keep their schedule super busy. I was super nervous going into the summer, thinking that I would take a hit and wasn't sure what to expect. My June has proved to be completely the opposite. I am growing and receiving new students on a weekly basis. Something, I dreamed of when I started and now is becoming a reality.
I learned a lot on our vacation this past May. Jason and I did a driving vacation from Chicago to Texas (Dallas, Austin, San Antonio), to Louisiana (New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee (Nashville), then back to Chicago. Many of these locations were new to me, and I learned that many of the students I teach live in these areas. It was super cool to see where and how some of my students live.
Living near a city is a very different lifestyle than living in the country. Something that was definitely apparent when driving through some rural areas. You realize how much you take for granted and how much is readily available. I took some time to talk to people in different areas and was absolutely inspired by their stories. (If I ever open a second business, it would be to travel the world to talk to people and tell their life stories....I often tell my husband I should start a tv show - sitting in an airport or getting a camper and driving all over to stop and talk to people - you'd be surprised at what the random person next to you has to offer!)
What really stood out to me was the pride people had in their community, the work ethic, and the kindness they showed to random strangers. Our first night we drove straight from Chicago to Oklahoma and stopped at Clanton's Cafe. It's become quite a famous restaurant for travelers on Route 66, and has been featured on Diners, Drive In's, and Dives as well as Bizarre Foods America. Their food is amazing! The staff is what makes it truly special.
Our server was this young girl who just graduated college....by just graduated, I mean the night before. She came to our table and said, this must be your first time? I asked how she knew, and she said, "well hunny you just look so excited, I knew you must be new!" She proceeded to tell us the history of the restaurant along with the history of the family. This has been a family owned business since it's inception and a sense of pride for the community. Our server has been working there for years, and her sister before that.
She's now a college graduate with a degree in nursing. I asked her what her plans were, if she had a job in the nursing field yet, and if she would be staying in the area? She had already been hired before graduation to hospital in Tulsa (roughly an hour away), but needed to finish her testing to be officially certified. You have to have your degree before you can test. She worked her way through high school and college at Clanton's and now plans on finishing out her summer before starting her job in the fall.
She said she loves her small town, her family's there, a community that has grown up with her - she's never leaving. Her plan is to commute to work (an hour each way). Her comment, it's not that far, this is home. This blew me away in so many ways. First of all, the day after college graduation to be back at work, not off partying or jet setting but setting herself and her family up for the future. The love she has for her community and her family, while still maintaining a passion for helping people.
I started looking around the restaurant and realized the mixed bag of people. These people work hard for what they have. Many are cattle ranchers or work in the oil industry. One of the men next to me, made it a point to tell me he's a millionaire several times over, has two houses in California but calls Oklahoma home. I'd like to point out not everyone in there was a millionaire by any means, but they are proud of their community and the work they do.
The song, Fly Over States by Jason Aldean came to mind, and I realized this is what he meant. Areas of the Country we overlook are some of the most important places to our Country at large, and filled with so many amazing people.
I saw this type of pride as we continued to travel throughout the South. Each area had it's own culture and something else to offer. Some cities and states were more urban, artsy, rural, etc. They all had something unique to offer.
Something else that stood out was our drive through Louisiana. I have never been and didn't know what to expect as you hear that certain areas of the state are still devastated by Katrina. What a beautiful state! We drove along the Gulf of Mexico and while waiting to take a ferry to cross, I watched at least six dolphins playing / jumping in and out of the water. I kept thinking that this is something people pay for, dolphin watching, and here I am sitting on a ferry watching these dolphins. It was so cool!
The rest of the state was equally as intriguing. People from all over have come to settle because, as they said, there was something that got inside of them and made them want to call this home. It was a really cool sentiment - to take such pride and love for a place you live.
There were so many amazing adventures we had, so many sites we saw, and pictures that were taken (Uploading to Instagram is still on my to-do list). There's simply not enough time to share them all. However, what I took away from this trip was a sense of pride, excitement, and rejuvenation. When I came back home I felt re-centered and creative again. If you ever get the chance to get in the car and go, do it! Don't be afraid to drive somewhere new, remote, or far away. Talk to the people, they are what make the area special. I promise you'll come home with a new perspective and a refreshed sense of self.