My name is Tom Ingrassia…and I’m a Detourist.
Music…that’s all I ever wanted. Music and he chance. But, growing up in the 1960s, my school’s music teacher and the band director told me that I wasn’t good enough…that I didn’t have any talent. But I had a dream….Here is how it came true:
In 2001—at age 48—I chucked a successful, 25-year career in higher education administration (I was assistant dean at a university business school at the time!) to pursue my lifelong dream of working in the entertainment industry. You see, when I was 11 years old, I fell in love with show business when I saw The Supremes on The Ed Sullivan Show. That very night, I told my mother, “I’m gonna meet them someday.” Yeah, right. I’m an 11 year old white bread boy living in a small town in upstate New York…what did I know about meeting celebrities? Well…
…In 1972, I met Mary Wilson of The Supremes when I interviewed her for a college project I was working on. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and she took me under her wing, mentoring me and nurturing my dreams. We became good friends. I was on my way. It had been less than eight years since that little boy told his mother, “I’m gonna meet them someday.”
And then it happened. In 2001, Mary offered me a job as her Executive Assistant and Creative Director of her merchandising business—Supreme Legacy. This WAS my dream come true. I was scheduled to accompany Mary on a 6-month cross-country theatrical tour. 6 months in Europe was to follow.
I resigned from the university on September 10, 2001. The tour was scheduled to begin on September 16. Well, we all know the devastation that occurred on September 11, 2001, and the chaos into which the entire world was plunged. When I woke up that morning and turned on the television, my first thought was, “oh, my God…what have I done?” My second thought was for Mary Wilson, who was living in New York City at the time. Was she OK? Fortunately, she was. Within days, however, the entire tour collapsed. With the chaos, confusion and uncertainty, theatres were calling to cancel engagements. Cast members couldn’t fly in to NYC for rehearsals. The world, the tour—and my life—were in shambles. I had left the security of my university job to follow my dream—and now that dream was shattered. That little boy in me grew up real fast! What was I going to do? And that is when I heard a little boy’s voice somewhere deep inside me say, “You didn’t come this far to fail. This is YOUR dream. Pick yourself up and make it work.”
It took a couple of months for things to settle down. Mary called to ask me to come to NYC and work in her office, helping her to reorganize and get some new projects off the ground. And that is exactly what I did—5 days a week, I was either in NYC or on the road—traveling by bus from my home in Massachusetts on Mondays, and returning home to my wife on Friday nights. I needed the money—I had nothing. It was tough for the first year or so. I had to learn so many new things. I was away from my wife for weeks at a time. Money was tight. But I loved it—this was, after all, what I had dreamed of doing for over 30 years.
I worked for Mary Wilson for the next 5 years, and did some pretty amazing things. During that time—at the urgings of my former academic colleagues—I also started going out and giving talks about living into your dreams and pursuing life with vision, courage, determination and passion.
In 2008, I formed The MotivAct Group, through which my business partner and I offer seminars, workshops and individual coaching focused on clarify, setting and achieving your goals, managing stress, and enhancing mind/body balance. I have written 2 award winning books—One Door Closes: Overcoming Adversity By Following Your Dreams and Reflections Of A Love Supreme: Motown Through The Eyes Of Fans. I am currently working on my third book, about inspirational teaching. I host a weekly, 3-hour radi show—The Motown Jukebox—on WCUW 91.3FM in Worcester, MA, and I have been named Best Radio Personality twice in regional media polls. I travel all over the country with my motivational programs and lecture programs about the significance of Motown in the 1960s.
I am living, breathing proof that dreams DO come true. I DID find a way to make a difference in people’s lives. And it all started with the images and music coming out of my family’s TV screen 52 years ago. And—despite the detours, obstacles and speed bumps—I have never looked back.
That is why…I #LoveMyDetour.
This post is part of the Why Not Wednesday feature for Amy Oestreicher’s #LoveMyDetour movement, celebrating the “beautiful detours” that unite us all. Are you a Detourist? Learn what a Detourist is here, and share your story here. Together we’re stronger!”
- First, read the Guest Post Guidelines.
- Write to me about it by clicking here!
- Paint your detour, take a picture of it, and tag it with #LoveMyDetour, to be part of my Instagram Detour Challenge, or tweet me!
- Use #LoveMyDetour to scrapbook your travels and know you’re not alone!
Safe travels, Detourists!
Watch an inspiring TEDx talk about getting through any “detour” in life! #LoveMyDetour [click to tweet]
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