I was 13. I was standing in the living room at a friend’s house holding a pack of matches when I read “apply now”: the first two words of an advertisement for a clown school in Florida.

What enticed me then about going to clown school had more to do with the limited list of jobs I thought I could do as an adult and less to do with the actual desire to become a clown. (Actually, I was afraid of clowns.)

There were no Wal-Marts in Maine at the time, so becoming a teacher or factory worker were my only career options, or so I thought. Not bad options. But at 13, they seemed like very dull, very adult options. I share this story because ever since the Circus Conservatory of America set up shop at Thompson’s Point in Portland, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the circus.

When the Sea Dogs and the Red Claws came to town, I imagine some folks felt about those teams as I do about the Circus Conservatory of America. Anyone passionate about baseball or basketball had to be over the moon with excitement to know that they would be able to watch highly skilled players right in their own backyard.

For me, the prospect of watching highly skilled acrobats, jugglers, musicians and contortionists in my backyard is just as exciting.

It’s worth pointing out that not all circuses are alike. There’s the classic “shoot a beautiful, thong-clad, eye-candy female out of a cannon” kind of circus (as in Ringling Brothers), and then there’s the nouveau hip “androgynous aerial performers climbing a 50-foot-high sculpture” kind of circus (as in Cirque du Soleil).

It is my understanding that the Circus Conservatory of America will train their students in the Cirque du Soleil type of circus arts. I’m interested in the Cirque type of circus – and I’m still afraid of clowns.

If I joined today, I would skip the clown college and go straight to Thompson’s Point to become a physical actor.

“Through gesture and other non-verbal skills,” a physical actor “can interpret a wide range of roles and emotions,” according to the career page of Cirque du Soleil’s website.

My friends will attest that I’m in a constant state of wide-range emotions and, over the years, have played dozens of roles: waitress, fundraiser, administrative assistant, short-order cook, performer, house painter, social-media-doer, salesperson, stand-up comedian and ballroom dance teacher.

“Our physical actors,” the website goes on to say, “must be passionate about live performance and have a creative spirit that allows them to improvise with an audience.”

Charades is my favorite game.

It continues: “To be a physical actor, you can also be a comedian, a mime, a drag queen, a giant or a small person.”

Short, but not technically “small,” am I.

And my favorite part of the job description: “Qualifications are completely irrelevant.”

I show up, I throw a nutty, and they give me a job is how I see it.

My research into becoming a physical actor led me to a long list of circus job opportunities: tent rigger, brand ambassador, maintenance crew, mechanics, digital marketing, social media, animal care attendant, stagehand, tour bus manager, train crew, salesperson and ice team maintenance.

In other words, if you are an unemployed carpenter, engineer, public relations expert, electrician, plumber, laborer, graphic artist, dog walker or Zamboni driver, consider joining the circus.

One Saturday on a gorgeous winter day in Portland, with snowflakes the size of quarters falling, I saw a man dressed in orange pants juggling fire in the middle of Monument Square.

Imagine if there were more men in orange pants juggling fire in the middle of Monument Square. Imagine if there were more dancers, more clowns, more unicyclists and more tightrope walkers. Imagine if there were more people doing jobs that made the rest of us laugh.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]