wanna be on top?

Back in the day, one of my favorite shows was America's Next Top Model. It was the only competition show that I ever really got into. I watched religiously, never missing an episode and spending whole days watching marathons of previous seasons on TV (this of course being the time before Netflix so my binge watching was confined to when a network like Oxygen decided to run a marathon).

The show became a near obsession for me. I imagined myself jetting off to photo shoots and even practiced posing and smizing in the mirror.

There was one small problem though.

Okay actually there were 3 small problems. No wait, make that 4.

There were four small problems though.

First, I wasn't rail thin and I never had been. Even as a healthy child I had some meat to me, some muscle. My ancestors were stocky types and I inherited their stockiness.

Okay, no problem. I can lose weight. That was a fixable problem.

It became an even more fixable problem when the show started including "plus size" contestants. These women were around the same size as me. My heart filled with hope: maybe one day I could be a plus size model too.

But then came the second problem.

I'm short.

Like, shorter than 5'2" short.

I don't know if you know this, but models are tall. Every cycle (ANTM speak for season) there was a short contestant. All the judges, directors, coaches, and designers did was point out how short she was and how she needed to constantly be thinking about how short she was. Seriously, it should be the ONLY THING SHE EVER THOUGHT ABOUT.

The short model was usually around 5'6".

That's, um, not all that short.

One cycle they announced that the following cycle would be a petite cycle featuring all short models. Once again my heart filled with hope: surely I could be a petite plus size model!

The shortest petite contestant was 5'5", which is still a full 3" taller than me.

Okay so maybe I couldn't be a petite model. But there's a first time for everything, right? Someone has to break the mold sometime.

Around that time I ran headlong into the third small problem.

I don't exactly want to age out of my career. Given the fact that I discovered the show when I was in college I really only had a few years left to model, unless I wanted to do catalog work for Macy's or Cold Water Creek. But I didn't want to do catalog work for Macy's or Cold Water Creek. That felt like a land filled with sad has-beens and always-wanted-to-be's and I never wanted to be either of those things. Plus I never really wanted to have to start over and find a whole new career. Sure I was cool with switching careers if I just happened to stumble across a better option. But I certainly didn't want to make a switch because I'd reached a (rather foreseeable) dead end.

I was even less confident in my ability to change stereotypes about age in fashion than I was in my ability to change stereotypes about height.

Okay so things were looking bleak for my modeling career. I was a short, overweight woman who would be forced to re-evaluate her entire career path after a few short years.

Then I realized that there was a fourth problem, a problem that dwarfed all the other problems.

I hate being in front of a camera.

It wasn't a weight thing or a confidence thing either. I've just always sort of been that way.

When we were little our parents took a lot of video of us, like most parents do of their young children. While my sister would drop what she was doing and mug for the camera, I would simply look at it and continue what I was doing. 9 times out of 10 I would turn my back on the camera in the process. I would also frequently stop what I was doing or refused to repeat the funny thing I'd just said as soon as the camera pointed my way. I just really didn't have any desire to be filmed and would much rather be left to my own devices, thank you very much.

It wasn't just videos, either. Photos of me grew increasingly awkward as I aged. At a certain point in elementary school I just straight up forgot how to smile in front of a camera. It was like my brain simply stopped functioning when one pointed my way. The photographer (frequently Mom) would tell me to smile. So I would do this weird half-smile thing. It's not the sexy, mysterious half-smile of so many romance novels. No, this was an awkward, wholly unattractive sort of half-smile that made me look like I had bell's palsy or had recently suffered a stroke. Mom would frequently point out to me that I wasn't really smiling, which was baffling because I could have sworn I was. I would try to smile in the next photo but still only manage to produce the same confused, dopey half-smile.

This, as you probably already figured out, is not great for an aspiring model.

Eventually the half-formed dream of becoming a model faded. And boy am I glad it did.

After a series of seven different majors (yes, seven and no, I don't know how I had that many majors and still managed to graduate in four years), I found myself in law school. I kind of wanted to be a lawyer but I mostly didn't know what else to do with myself. The economy had just crashed and there weren't exactly any jobs to be had out there. Graduate school seemed like the only option. That or the Peace Corps but they told me that they would love to have me but the absolute soonest I could be deployed anywhere was 18 months and that still left me with the problem of what to do with my life for those 18 months.

Okay so what graduate school?

Since my seven majors covered a wide range of areas,  I had already eliminated most types of graduate school. Veterinary school was out due to my inability to comprehend and deep hatred of science. Business school was out because good Lord business was boring. Art school was out because I wasn't a talented artist and art just stressed me out way too much.

My final major was sociology. I had taken an intro class and fallen in love. I promptly changed my major to soc and started taking all the electives I could. Eventually I stumbled on the sociology of religion and was hooked. Cults and fringe religious groups had always fascinated me. I think I watched the History Channel special on the Manson family about 6 different times (again, pre-Netflix). I would drop everything I was doing and watch any show that had to do with cults. So when I heard that there were people who studied cults for a living I wanted in.

Soon I landed an internship in the sociology department, working at the Center for Community Research and Development with a bunch of sociology graduate students.

Throughout the internship, something slowly dawned on me. Their life was boring. It centered around academia. They taught. They researched cool things. They wrote about cool things. They published what they wrote.

And then they just...moved on.

Nothing really ever became of any of it. I hated it. I hated how futile it was. I hated gathering all that information for no real reason other than to gather it. Sure I could do market research but that really didn't interest me.

Law school seemed like the last remaining option. Plus people had always told me I should be a lawyer and I really liked reading and writing. I signed up for the LSAT at the last possible minute out of sheer desperation.

Then I took an international law class during my study abroad. The professor taught it like a real law school class and I was hooked. I immediately started researching law schools.

Even once I went to law school, even once I graduated and started working, I still wasn't sure about being a lawyer. I still thought about that PhD or some other third option.

But then I started practicing law. And I got stupidly, embarrassingly excited about little things, things that others would find boring. I loved it, even the boring, annoying, and infuriating parts.

Wanna know the best part? It doesn't matter what I weigh, how tall I am, or how old I am. I can keep doing this job until the day I drop dead.

Even better, I almost never have to be in front of a camera.

Well other than for the firm website photo.

God help me smile like a normal person for that.

And no, I won't watch the new cycle of ANTM. Not unless they bring back Tyra and the Jay's.

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