Stratejoy Essay Contest - Finalist #20 - Deirdre Flynn - Stratejoy


Stratejoy Essay Contest – Finalist #20 – Deirdre Flynn

*This post is an entry in the 1st Annual Stratejoy Essay Contest.  Each day throughout the month of February, we will be featuring one of the 20 finalists writing their answer to the question: How do you live life on your own terms? On February 29th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*


We were in lush northern Vermont. All 26 members of my family crammed into various bedrooms, nooks and crannies. Plenty of board games and packs of cards for all. Laughter and breakfast feeds with God only knows how eggs and pots of coffee. It was my Grandparents 50th anniversary and, in honor of their life and the family they created, we had rented out a house and come north from wherever we lived for the weekend.

One evening we squished into couches and floor space clutching music sheets. Our grandfather had asked my mom to find some of his favorite songs he had loved as a younger man on “The Inter. Net”. With voices joined together, my grandfather standing in front of us with the woman he had been with since he was 17; I realized this is truly what life is about.

I was living in NYC as an actor. I was heading towards the Breaking Point but I didn’t know it then. What I did know was “something has to change” was becoming a refrain in my head; as constant and steady as the sound of a train on tracks.

One of the earliest questions I can remember answering is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. A question asked at an age when we answer “a princess!”, “an astronaut and an alien!”, “a paleontologist!” (as my cousin once answered, the word large in his 4 year old mouth) without any self- consciousness. Days when we believe we will be those all those professions and maybe more. When you believe you will be what you want to be simply because it’s what you want. Why live life any other way?

“An actor” was always my prompt assured response to that question. I remember being dressed in hand-me-down gowns from my aunt, tripping over the hems, out on the front lawn while ‘directing’ the neighborhood kids.

Knowing what I wanted was a defining characteristic of mine. I made all my decisions according to being an actor and, being so young, I was fearless in doing so. Throughout my childhood I performed in local theatres; my best friend dutifully sitting in the front row of all my shows. Closing night in high school
(college in NYC looming at the end of August) I was grinning ear to ear as I took my bow. My whole family standing up in the audience clapping and grinning back.

I remember sitting in the back of the rented van my parents were driving heading down the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Suddenly New York City rose up in all its overpopulated glory. It was love at first sight.

The question of what to be when I grew up came back to haunt me when I actually became a grown up; one who was still living just as I had in my first years in New York and didn’t see the situation improving. The novelty of living as an actor, hand to mouth, in apartments where rain came in through the ceiling light was long gone. Life was defined by how to pay the bills while attending as many auditions as I could. The refrain “something has to change” was growing louder. I found myself looking into the future: What made life matter? Did being an actor encompass that? Was I really a grown up? Did I really want this?

It was a scary edge to look over- one I never had had to do before with uncertainty tinged with fear.

But look I did. It was not the easiest of gazes. Real change is real.

Realizing stability was crucial to finding my way, I went into a corporate job alleviating financial stress. Yet despite the respite, I hated the job. I found I felt even more removed from who I was and what I was good at and felt at a loss and trapped.

With the wisdom of hindsight I now see the yo-yo of creating my own path as a blessing. Twilight is a part of the journey. The unhappy tedium of the corporate job sharply outlined for me the non- negotiables. Revealed them to me just as much as being broke and being an actor had revealed to me what I could and could not live with. Clarity is a rare and beautiful thing to be able to realize and explore.

My terms: I needed to be engaged and interested with my time, not staring at the clock eyes twitching from boredom. I wanted a flexible routine, to work as part of a collaborative. I thrived when challenged by creating and thinking on my feet. Be in a place where the cost of living didn’t so define what I could do for work. A place where relationships flourished because pointed words were not a constant requirement (NYC subways I am talking to you here). I wanted to give to and with my life.

Sometimes life is about compromise and in the compromise finding the balance.

And finding a balance I did, in way I had never thought about but was better than I could have imagined.

I quit my job, fundraised $10,000 and moved to Thailand for a year to work with The SOLD Project. I taught English to at-risk kids, I established SOLD’s volunteer program, lived in the middle of a rice field, learned Thai, how to ride a motorbike and detoxed from a decade in New York. The bottom line of living was distilled down to its purest form- to give love and be loved. It changed my life.

I now live in Oklahoma City working on the front lines with anti-human trafficking organizations. I can’t say I have it all filled out and figured out but that’s OK. Maybe you never do. Perhaps it’s what makes life an adventure and worth living. But I trust myself and this path. I know who I am, what I can give and deeply believe in the work I am doing.

I like who I’ve grown up to be.

I may not have gone where I intended to go.

But I think I ended up where I meant to be.



Deirdre Flynn is a  former actress turned  Corporate America moonlighter turned Anti- Human Trafficking advocate.
A long time resident of New York City, she left the big city lights for Thailand to work with The SOLD Project; a program  preventing child exploitation through educational scholarships and additional resources for at-risk  youth.
Since returning to the USA, Deirdre moved to Oklahoma City where she has been blogging and working with various anti -trafficking organizations raising awareness of sexual exploitation within the United States. Learn more about her leap at or on Twitter @DeirdreWFlynn.





*This post is an entry in the 1st Annual Stratejoy Essay Contest.  Each day throughout the month of February, we will be featuring one of the 20 finalists writing their answer to the question: How do you live life on your own terms? On February 29th, we will open the voting to YOU, our community, to select the winner of the $500 prize.*

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