Anchored Amidst The Storm

by

Charles White

 

 

 

 

headshot_gallery_03aYou may not recognize her name, but I’m sure that you will recognize the numerous movies and TV shows that she has appeared in. Karla Droege has amassed an impressive resume that includes supporting roles in Big Fish, Talledega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby and co-staring roles in TV shows like House, America’s Most Wanted and Foxworthy’s Big Night Out. Given the success that she has found as a professional actress living in Los Angeles, it would be so easy for Karla to get swept away in the glitz and glamour, but her faith keeps her anchored.

Karla Droege spent her childhood immersed in the charming Midwest town of Valparaiso, Indiana where she lived with her parents and extended family. With a population of less than thirty-thousand residents, Valparaiso is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

“Growing up in Indiana was a wonderful childhood,” Karla shares.  “I was so blessed to be raised by amazing parents amidst a very supportive extended family. They have always been there for me, cheering me on. The town I grew up in, Valparaiso was a safe and lovely community.  I don’t know what it is to be going through the difficult teenage years today, but I certainly speculate that it is much more challenging.”

However even in this idyllic setting, her teen years were not without some rough patches. She still had to deal with challenges such as body image, but emerged with a great outlook that really helped to ground her.

“ I know when I was a teen it was hard to feel good about body image,” Droege explains.  “It must be monumentally more intense now. Being a part of the entertainment industry, I am constantly making choices about the projects that I will and won’t participate. Will my choices matter? Maybe not, but I believe it is important for each of us to try.”

For Karla, living life is more that a spectator sport. In the words of Emile Zola, “one is not living if they don’t live life out loud”.

“I feel very strongly about not living chained by your fears,” Karla offers. “I believe that our greatest dream will always hold our greatest fear – there is farther to fall. There is no guarantee that you will always get what you want when you follow your dreams, but going after it will guarantee you a life of excitement, challenge, learning, growth, great joy and great sorrow…a life lived out loud. Please don’t let me get to the end of my days and look back and wonder ‘what if I had tried…?’ I want to look back and, win or lose, know that I sucked the marrow out of the life God gave me.”

Karla is the first to admit that the strength to follow her dreams comes from her deep faith in Christ. It is this faith that has allowed her to remain grounded amidst the seething torrent that is Los Angeles and the entertainment industry.

“My faith is the foundation of who I am and every choice I make,” Droege boldly proclaims. “I’m grateful everyday for this touchstone, especially in Los Angeles where it is incredibly easy to get swept up in the tide. One of the first things I did when I moved here was to find a home church. It took me a few months of searching, but I finally found an amazing place called Ecclesia. For me, the centeredness of going to church, being around and accountable to other Christians, and worshipping God are what make me who I am.”

Karla’s love of acting came at an early age. As a child, Droege felt called to the stage. This calling was a constant in her life throughout high school and college, where she graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts before ending up in Los Angeles. Despite the struggles, she has come to realize that acting is more than just something she enjoys doing. For Karla, it truly is a calling.

“It’s not so much that I chose acting, but more that acting chose me,” Karla explains.  “As a child, I always gravitated towards the stage and found great joy in it. Once I got into it, I realized how incredibly difficult an industry it is to break into. I tried to quit a few times and do something else, but I always came running back. However, one day I realized that I loved it so much, that it was impossible for me not to do it…No matter the outcome.”

This sense of call has permeated the entirety of Karla’s life, including how she defines success. True to her struggle to live life out loud, Karla defines success in terms of doing what she loves and building relationships, not simply garnering accolades and collecting a paycheck. gallery_5aa

“I am now smack dab in the middle of a place and a culture that puts high value on youth, fame, money and being thin,” Karla says.  “It has been enormously difficult to combat that. Recently, though, I had the amazing opportunity to be in a stage production of a play called Leading Ladies. We had the most marvelous time both in the rehearsal process and during performances. The character I played, Meg, was a dream role for me, and I have spent the last three months walking on air.

This project led me to a paradigm shift in what I qualify as success and for me it certainly includes having the opportunity to perform, but along with that is the sense of being a part of something, to be building relationships, and ultimately to be doing work that glorifies God. I’m not any younger, any more famous, certainly no richer and not any skinnier – but I can absolutely say that I feel incredibly successful.”

What advice would this accomplished actress offer to young adults: be an active participant in your own life.

headshot_gallery_02a“Take the time to figure out who you are and what it is you want. Pray about it. Ask to visit those who work in jobs you think might be interesting. Read. Keep looking until you discover it – doesn’t matter how old you are when it happens. Everyone around you will have a different opinion, so if you look to others you will never find peace.

Once you do know, do it. Know that it might not turn out exactly as you thought, but if you pay attention and stay open to the possibilities, I’m willing to bet something amazing happens along the way. God is pretty wonderful that way. And even if it doesn’t, you won’t be sorry you tried. But I can guarantee you will be sorry if you don’t. This is your one chance…take yourself on the great adventure. (Which is my life’s theme song – The Great Adventure by Steven Curtis Chapman – give it a listen. Good stuff.)

Finally, while on that adventure, we don’t always have control about what happens to us, but we have control over our reaction to it. Choose to be happy! I’ve known people facing the most dire circumstances who always have a smile. Not a fake one, a real smile because that is one thing you can control. So choose to be happy. That, in and of itself, is success right there.”

It is so easy for us to become obsessed with fortune and fame that we store all of our treasures in clay pots. However, we forget that we have treasures so vast that they will never fit into any vessel, such as the love of our family and friends and the love of a gracious God. Karla’s life is witness to this fact. She cherishes the journey that she is on and the ability to follow her dream, wherever that dream might lead. Wherever she may find herself, she knows that Christ walks beside her and encourages her to live life out loud.