Connecting the Dots In My Life

It has been almost a year since the TEDxBerkleeValencia event, and I’ve had to connect a few dots.

I graduated from Berklee College of Music with my Master’s Degree and a blank page in front of me. I moved from Hollywood, the hub in which almost every film scorer would love to be submersed, to Oregon. To be more specific, I moved to Southern Oregon which is the opposite side of the state from Portland, the city that’s flourishing with adoration for the arts. Once you leave academia the rulebooks go out the window! They tell you about the steps you should take to advance your career and you’ve heard all the stories about how the great composers of the world got their big breaks but there is something they forget to mention--life gets in the way of it all. I couldn’t afford to live in Los Angeles (if I didn’t want to stay in my parents’ house), and the love of my life was moving to Oregon. Yes! I moved to Oregon for love. So... drop the first dot. I had my personal life in order, now I needed to continue my career... from... Oregon.

Figuring out how to connect (let’s call it my Love Dot), “Love Dot” to my “Career Dot” took a lot of work. You may be wondering, how do you start a career in a place in which you know almost no one? I emailed EVERYBODY (and of course, sent them links sharing my TEDxBV talk) and connected with the contacts I had made at Berklee. I attended events, shook people’s hands, and introduced myself to anybody and everybody. Slowly but surely, I connected the dots. And I’m still connecting the dots.

It started with a job teaching private and group music lessons at the local middle school. Now I am an author for an online music appreciation curriculum, I am scoring a short film for one of my Berklee contacts, I have been asked to speak at the Southern Oregon University, and I am writing a new piece for orchestra that will premiere at the University of Chicago the very same night I deliver a speech to a number of its students. “Do nothing and nothing will happen.” That’s an expression I used when I was on the TEDxBerkleeValencia stage, and that has changed everything.

My speech at TEDxBerkleeValencia has transformed everyone I meet into someone capable of administering guilt upon me. I’m afraid of letting down complete strangers, because what else can I be to a stranger but the embodiment of my philosophy? The event created a stand-alone backbone for me, a timeless and never-ending vat of courage from which I can pull in times of uncertainty. “Can I do this?” It doesn’t matter. I announced my beliefs to the world and now anything less than my very best try would be hypocrisy.

I strive to be who I was on the day I stood upon that stage, and that makes me better in every way. When your hopes and your dreams become more than just a thought in the back of your mind, they are no longer dreams but realities. Say them out loud. Tell your goals to your most obnoxious and chatterbox friends. Let them spread the word that you have plans, and that you know those plans might fail; you know that life will get in the way. But if those plans fall through there are more plans to take their place. I didn’t know if I could start my career in Oregon but I’m trying anyway.

My name is McKenna Smith and I want to be a composer. My plans haven’t gone the way I thought they would, but it’s ok, because I keep making new ones and connecting the dots as I go.