Ann and Mike Nolan: Dream Chasers
When a freshman daughter calls late one night and informed her parents that she has decided to switch her major from accounting to theater, most parents would react with discouragements or confusion, to say the least. Ann and Mike Nolan, on the other hand, are not most parents. They are dream chasers.
Both Ann and Mike Nolan always dreamed big, more impressive they made those dreams a reality. Growing up my parents took their three children backpacking around the world after 20 years of saving and planning. Together we visited roughly 42 countries. We trekked in the Himalayas, Alps, and to the heights of Machu Picchu. We sailed in the Galapagos, down the Nile River and saw where the waters of the Negro and Amazon merged. My Mom and Pop biked across the country in two different directions, from Port Angeles to Bar Harbor Main and from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. In the past year alone, my father has submitted Mt Rainier while my mother competed with her rowing team around the Puget Sound. Life for my parents was not about completing the task in front of them. It was about fulfilling your personal dream. I was so fortunate to grow up seeing a beautiful world full of wonder, excitement, culture and art.
Ann and Mike Nolan both attended Gonzaga University. With that said, my parents never told me I should attend their alma mater. Instead, they encouraged me to find a university that would suit my needs. I decided to attend Gonzaga of my own volition, it was undoubtedly the best decisions of my senior year in high school.
When I phoned my parents to inform them I was planning on changing my area of study, I remember exactly how my father responded. He said he was proud that I would be following the career where I would find fulfillment and passion. He told me I should not worry about making money. I should worry about making the world a better place. This was the first time I ever heard my father say this, but as I think back both my mother and father made an example of this ideal throughout my entire life. Ann and Mike Nolan dedicated their lives to educating children and encouraging them to for-fill their dreams and find their passions. My father works as a high school guidance counselor and my mom as a school psychologist. Both for the Port Angeles School District. They always knew these careers would never bring immense wealth. Still, both of these careers have allowed them to help thousands of children over the past three decades years to make the most out of education.
Not too far into my new theater and dance studies one thing became abundantly clear, a lot of performances where in my future. Port Angeles Washington is roughly an eight hour drive from Spokane, and my parents have made the trip three or four times every year since I was a freshman. My parents have never missed a main stage performance that I took part in.
In my junior year, I organized a flashmob to promote the Gonzaga Boundless Dance Club. All students were invited to teach their parents the dance and perform together. I excitedly called my parents informing them that this time instead of just watching me perform they would get to participate. Though I never considered my parents to have stage fright I was slightly surprised by the response, apparently dancing around in front of people is not everyone’s cup of tea. Yet after working a full day at a public high school and driving eight hours, my parents stood with me in the Gonzaga dance studio trying to learn the flashmob. The next morning without fail Mom and Dad showed up at college hall on time, pale with nerves, but they are all the same. The last time either of my parents danced in front of people was at their wedding 31 years prior, but when the music came on both hopped up and joined the dance. I not sure either my mom or dad enjoyed the experience. However, they did not partake in that flashmob because of their ardent love of dance. They did it because they wanted to show they support their daughter.
This semester alone my parents will make the sixteen hour round trip on four separate weekends. Once to view Alive With Art, an event I am organizing and directing that celebrates over 30 student artists at Gonzaga. A second time to see the student choreography concert I will be dancing in and showing choreography. A third time to see the spring dance concert, this will be the fourth spring dance concert they have seen since my freshman year. The fourth and final time would be for my graduation in May. It would be so fantastic if, at graduation, I could show them just how much all the constant support has meant to me, by informing them that they are the parents of the year.
In reality, I should be nominating my parents for more than the past year and even the past four years at Gonzaga University. Throughout every trial and tribulation my parents have ever faced there has been an unwavering support of love and commitment to every one of their three children. With that said, my senior year would not be as joyful or successful, without the support of Ann and Mike Nolan. Both have always shown up in person to support performances. They call and chat about my involvement, activities, basketball and school work. The most amazing part of my parents cheer-leading is that my parents always encourage me to follow my own heart and stay true my person.
I am happy to be receiving a diploma as a result of four years of hard work from the Gonzaga University a school I am proud to have attended. I am blessed to call Ann and Mike Nolan my Mom and Dad. Both gave me a childhood full of traveling, hiking and adventures. They always set an example within their lives by following dreams and make a difference in the world. Both told me to strive for my passion and follow my heart. Even if, they never truly wanted to dance on the stage, they would do so to show support for me. Ann and Mike Nolan are without question the parents of the year.