Answering the phone call to a dream opportunity - Jeopardy!
- Previous story: Ypsilanti's Jason Idalski takes a turn on game show Jeopardy!
Langston Hughes once asked what happens to a dream deferred.
But what about the opposite? How does it feel when a dream deferred ... happens?
How does it feel when a dream that you'd reconciled yourself to never achieving as recently as four months ago comes true?
How does it feel when a dream so tenuous it would still be a pipe dream if not for a random email from a friend goes your way?
How does it feel when you achieve something after you've failed seven (or maybe eight or more) times?
As you might guess, it feels amazing.
On Oct. 8, I will be appearing on Jeopardy!, a show I've watched since I was 2 or 3. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and the past few months, especially as it pertains to my Jeopardy! appearance, has hardened my belief.
I'd always been a game show/trivia fan and taken the Jeopardy! online test since I was a student at Eastern Michigan (I once stepped away from a poker game for a half-an-hour to take it). Some times I'd done better than others, but in the end it added up to 100 percent fail.
The 2013 test was the easiest I've taken yet, and I figured I'd passed easily. I'd read that emails for auditions usually go out in March and auditions are in May. When April came and went, I figured that so many people passed they couldn't accommodate them all and I was one of the unlucky ones.
At the beginning of May, after seeing the Facebook post of a friend, on a whim I drove to Chicago on a Saturday morning to audition for a new quiz show on GSN, The Chase. I passed the written test, played a mock game and had hopes of being called back the following day but when they called that afternoon it was to tell me they weren't interested. (The person who sat in front of me during the test was on the premiere episode.)
The drive home was a long one, even though my not getting picked meant I could see my sister graduate from college the next day. I dwelt on the audition. Did I ham it up too much? Did I try too hard to stand out? Was it my looks? Did I just not know enough? I started to think that maybe it wasn't meant to be.
On May 21, I got an email from a friend saying that a mutual friend had a Jeopardy! audition in Detroit in July (really glad the year I passed the test is the same year there was an audition in my backyard) and when was mine? I still figured that I didn't have one until I checked my spam folder. Fortunately my friend was prompt, as I had to respond to the email within two business days.
I auditioned with about 20 other people the morning of July 14 and left cautiously optimistic, even though I somehow lost one of my forms and my first impression with one of the people in control of my fate was asking for a replacement.
On August 1, the one-year anniversary of Stephanie Jass taping her first five Jeopardy! wins (many thanks to Stephanie for being an awesome source of advice both for my audition and for the taping, by the way), my iPhone got a call from "Culver City, CA." My eyes nearly bugged out of my head and, as a co-worker put it, I looked like I was about to jump out of my skin. When the producer identified himself and asked how my day was, I answered: "I hope this call means it's about to get better!" (It did.)
It's been one of the more incredible months of my life on a few levels. How did it end? You'll have to watch (7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 on WDIV) to find out! (Another happy coincidence/"everything happens for a reason" nugget is that Stephanie's first episode aired Oct. 8, 2012.)
I'm the type of person who often thinks about and wonders what might've been, especially at month's end.
What if my friend hadn't sent that email? What if I hadn't checked my spam folder? How would my life be different unaware that an email from Jeopardy! had come and gone?
Would I have passed the audition without the learning experience of Chicago? What if I'd gotten picked for the Chase and had to tell the Jeopardy! people that I was ineligible?
I don't know the answers to any of those questions. And I'm incredibly glad I'll never need to.
Jason Idalski is a 2006 Eastern Michigan University graduate and a Web/mobile producer and SEO specialist at MLive, AnnArbor.com's affiliate website. A Warren native, he also worked as a sports writer for AnnArbor.com.