How I learned at age 8 to follow my passion—and keep following it, day in and day out.
As I walk around every day, I don’t waste any moments. I never even sleep through my alarm or hit the snooze button. I feel like every day is an opportunity to do something fun, exciting, great, important. And I don’t want to miss out.
Maybe not all teenagers think this way, but I do. I believe that life needs passion and purpose. I figured out what my first passion was when I was 8 years old: writing. My best friend’s mom knew how much I liked eating cupcakes and suggested that I write a blog about them. Carrie’s Cupcake Critique was born, and I began tasting and reviewing cupcakes all over the world. Today, my Facebook page, Peace Love + Cupcakes: The Cupcake Club, has nearly 100,000 followers on Facebook—but I don’t do it for fame, I do it because I love to write.
In second grade I had an extraordinary teacher who taught me how to write realistic fiction. She encouraged me to look at my own life and let my interests and activities inspire me. So one day I came home from school and looked through my bookshelf. I realized there was no fiction series about kids who loved cupcakes like I did. Why couldn’t I write one? I took a sheet of paper and wrote a paragraph, what I would now call a “story arc.”
My book was about four girls who wanted to start a cupcake club. When I showed it to my mom, who’s a writer, she was impressed. I convinced her to send it to her literary agent, and five years later, my mom and I have written 10 Cupcake Club books together, started a second series called Fashion Academy, and even had off-Broadway musicals produced based on my stories. It all started by thinking: “I can do this.”
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It goes to show you that no dream is too big, and no goal is too far out of reach. For 10 years, I took ballet at Ballet Academy East in the city. I worked my way up from primary level to pointe shoes, and every year, I performed in The Yorkville Nutcracker. My first role was a tiny Chinese page. Then I was a reindeer, an angel, a gingerbread, a girl in the party scene. For six years all I dreamed about was one day playing the lead, Mary, and I never lost faith that it would happen. After practicing diligently, one night, my phone buzzed with an email: “Congratulations! This year, you will be playing the role of Mary in The Yorkville Nutcracker!” I was so happy, I cried; I couldn’t believe it. It will always be one of the greatest memories in my life, dancing across the stage of The Kaye Playhouse, taking my bows beside New York City Ballet principals Abi Stafford and Jared Angle.
Previously, I’d been too embarrassed to perform in front of people, a little girl who covered her ears shyly when people applauded for her. But all of that changed when I went to Camp Hillard. I had always been too embarrassed to sing out loud. I loved writing and recording songs in my bedroom, but no one could ever convince me to sing in front of an audience. My first summer at camp I auditioned for the musical and they put me in a small part in the ensemble of Singing in the Rain.
The next summer, I decided it was time to stretch outside my comfort zone. I told my parents that the camp play was Grease and I wanted to audition for the lead role of Sandy. They told me to try my best; they didn’t want to get my hopes up. I knew that if I set my mind to it, I could do it. I sang out “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and got the part. It was life-changing: It proved to me that if I continued to believe in myself and build my confidence, anything was possible.
So now I have my sights set on Broadway. I know it’s a huge goal, but it’s what I truly want. I’ve been taking voice lessons, tap classes, theater intensives, and I’ve even gotten an agent. I will keep training and following my passion until I get there. Though it may be hard work, I surround myself with family and friends who support me. When you know your passion, let nothing and no one stand in your way.
There are times when my dreams feel overwhelming—when I can’t find enough hours in the day and I’m frustrated because I want to just hang with friends, take a SoulCycle class, or relax and watch television. Or I have a math test, a Spanish test, and an English essay to write all in the same week! That’s when I remind myself it’s all worth it.
My advice to kids who want to be ballerinas, or book authors, or Broadway stars is: Just do it. Follow your dreams where they lead. Make time for everything that’s important to you.
And don’t ever hit snooze.
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