freelance dancer

Choosing Life

In a year long quest to be more open, honest, authentic, real, and other words of the like; I’m sharing something that I haven’t really discussed or care to talk about. Quite often I get asked why I’m not dancing professionally or why did I not follow up on those goals I set for myself after I graduated college. It’s a difficult question. One I loathe because it has taken me years to come to grip with the reasons and the direction my life took instead. For years I dealt with jealousy when I saw friends live out my dreams and do what I always wanted. I had thoughts of “I am more talented, yet here I am not dancing and they are getting all the attention” or “everyone thought I’d be the one dancing in a company not them”. There were also some other darker thoughts but I don’t feel like going down that road…

 

There are a few answers to this question of why I am not dancing professionally. It’s definitely not for a lack of trying. Honestly, I tried too hard. I gave my heart and soul to dance. It was all I wanted (that and to be skinnier and the most fit dancer in my college company). These are my most used answers-all valid and true:

 

*I suffered performance anxiety in every audition. Every time I auditioned I crumbled. I could not handle the pressure.
*I met my soon to be husband. I fell in love and sometimes when you love someone you change your own path. I wanted him to be successful and followed him encouraging him along the way.
*God’s plan for me changed.

 

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Pic by Katie Norrell

 

Then there is the answer that I don’t answer with very often. I don’t use this answer unless I am completely comfortable with someone or like now. I do feel embarrassed and ashamed of this answer. I feel that people won’t really understand or grasp it. Do you want to know the true answer to why I’m not dancing in a company?

 

I’d be dead.

 

That is not an over exaggeration. If I would have been one of the few to make it in a company I know I couldn’t handle the stress of the grueling schedule, accompanying lifestyle, and standing up to my own perfectionistic tendencies let alone the standards of a company. My dream, along with my addictions and eating disorders, would have killed me.

 

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Performing with the Moonlight Minx Parade Jan 2018. Photo by RAW Tulsa

 

I took me years to come to grips with that final reason and to be OK with choosing recovery. I know that sounds cliche, but to those who don’t know what it’s like, sometimes you think your pre-recovered life is better. It’s screwed up thinking but addicts are not known for their logic. I would try and hide this. Then I’d be dancing or performing in other endeavors and people would constantly ask my why I’m not doing more. I wasn’t comfortable telling people I chose life over my dream. I still live in the past knowing that I could’ve been more. I still sometimes see myself as that young dancer who was on top of the world–who had people loving her when she danced, who wanted to create pieces on her. That young dancer who would’ve been happily dancing in the corps because dance is life and my dream would have come true.

 

However in the deepest parts of me I know that to be dancing and performing to that high caliber you need more than talent. You need to be mentally healthy and physically en pointe. At the time I didn’t have healthy coping mechanisms. I had the passion, the drive, the ambition, the talent–but abusing laxatives, compulsive exercising, and restricting caloric intake negates any of the former. I was coping with the fact that I felt inadequate about my technique/talent. In a world where there is always someone better than you, it can be difficult to stay confident. I was coping with loneliness and the isolation. I was suppressing my anger and emotions from an abusive relationship.  Pretty much I was a hot freakin’ mess.

 

While I may not have danced in a company I did dance professionally for a few years. I became a dance teacher. I was a cabaret dancer/burlesque performer. I performed in local companies on occasion. Now I just take class when I can while pursuing my passion of teaching yoga, wellness, and trying to bring dance conditioning to OKC (my way of contributing to the dance world). I am also happily married with the best furbaby on the planet. I’m living in a big(ger) city. I have some fantastic friends. Things I would have missed out on if my life was what my college self wanted. So am I sad that one part of my life is “over”? Yes. But I am happy that I chose life.

 

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Photo by Matias Cortez

A Year of Entrepreneurship

Time moves so quickly that you never really know what month it is, let alone what year it is. Is it still 2015? All my dates still say that…Luckily Facebook has this thing called Timehop that keeps track of all your memories, important dates, and crazy poolside shenanigans from your glory days. On days that you’ve posted something in the past on the same day you get a little notification and you can stroll down memory lane. Timehop is actually my favorite thing about Facebook. Timehop helps me to remember those poolside shenanigans, when my husband proposed, and “celebrated” my one year of being a entrepreneur.

Timehop

It was last July when I set out to open my own yoga studio because I wanted to be a small business owner, was unhappy working for other people, and felt like it was my path. Well, that was short lived. I decided to close my studio because I soon found out that I wasn’t mature enough to handle running a business, that it didn’t bring me happiness, but more anxiety and stress. In January I decided to do something probably even harder, become a freelancer. What was I thinking?!  I made things more chaotic. I had to find new spots to teach, plan months ahead of time, network harder, find opportunities to capitalize on all while not loosing my ever loving mind-not that I had one to begin with. However, becoming a freelancer and doing what I truly wanted has helped me to discover my path to what I’m suppose to do…for the time being.

Here is what my past year as a entrepreneur has taught me:

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  • There is no such thing as failure, but opportunities to grow. Yes, this may sound EXTREMELY cliche but it’s the truth. I didn’t really understand this till one of my yoga mentors showed me that what we perceive as failure is a judgement, judgement gets us nowhere. What “failure” really is an opportunity that was mis-timed and nothing is a failure if you can learn something. So what did a I learn from this “failure” of a yoga studio? That I need to have more years of business experience, more stability, and being able to commit wholeheartedly to one thing. It also wasn’t a failure because I did have people come to class and show interest, I just couldn’t run a studio yet.
  • The people who need your service (whatever skill you provide) will find you. Not working at a yoga studio makes filling classes harder. I’ve only had 2 sold out classes/workshops in my six months of freelancing. Sometimes I have three people, sometimes ten, sometimes one, sometimes I cancel. I could go back to thinking I failed, or I should just go to a yoga studio, or I should start selling MLM “superfood” to make money. But no, I spin this. I recall what I was told in teacher training, “those who need yoga at that very moment will be there, those who like your teaching will find you”. It’s all about perception isn’t it? Once I make the shift I’m instantly happier and can go on with my day.
  • Dedication takes on a new meaning. In yoga we talk about  being dedicated to your home practice, being dedicated to yoga, but you also need dedication to the self-employed lifestyle. You have to be dedicated to the hard work, networking, social media, and creativity that comes with being your own boss. How can you continue on when a month’s worth of classes and workshops weren’t packed and you were counting on that money? How can you be dedicated to bringing quality classes to your students and building relationships with them? How can you be dedicated to positivity and not get carried away by the storm of negativity?
  • You will find what you are made of. No, I’m not talking about sugar and spice or snails and puppy dog tails. But, what your soul is made out of. Owning your own business or seeking employment that fits your terms will highlight parts of you that need work or bring light to parts of you that you didn’t know existed. I always knew I was strong because I overcame an ED but I never knew what resiliency was till I had a few kicks in my face. I never knew I had a strong business mind, that I could figure out how a website works, that I really am a good instructor/educator, I found confidence, and that I my arms are strong enough to transition from bakasana (crow pose) to chaturanga
  • Surround yourself with other creatives and entrepreneurs for they will be your encouragement, competition, and inspiration. Over the past year I have met and befriended more creatives and entrepreneurs than I can count. It has served me in more ways than one. Not only are these people who can impart wisdom, advice, or act as a sounding board, they are also competition. They spark competition which deep down increases my drive to do better or serve a better product. My creative friends also feed my creativity which help me offer unique programming. I use my love of small business, what my friends offer, and see how yoga can fit in with their business. That is how I started Third Thursday Yoga & Art, Breakfast Yoga, and my blog AUM in the Arts.

What have you learned this past year, or past seven months? For my entrepreneurs out there, what has being an entrepreneur taught you?