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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The One Where I Run Away To Join The Circus

Hi there,

I know we haven't talked in a while but let me explain why.

Photo by Amanda Rebholz
Life has been really busy between a career I thought I should have and my passion for the arts.  For the last year I have been leading one life behind a desk in an office and another in front of an audience on a stage. I have been doing a balancing act that came at the expense of my friends, free time and emotional well-being. My two lives are wildly incompatible and the moment where I have to choose has been rapidly approaching.

I had been avoiding making any decision until the beginning of October when I found out that my current position in the company I have been with since receiving my Supply Chain degree was in jeopardy. It's not like this came as a shock to me since I have been unhappy for some time but it was an emotional upset in that it forced me to make some tough decisions.

I had been plotting the safe expected route all of my life and only allowing myself to dabble in things that brought me joy. I had been conditioned to believe that if I did all the things that were expected of me there was some kind of distinct pay off in the end. I think I had imagined some kind of award or banner with the text "You did it! Now you will live forever and never die" The joke was on me because the longer I have followed the safe and expected path the more I realize there is not celebration of perfectly achieved success at the end nor does it exist.

I decided to take a few days to consider my options, receive some good advice and look for inspiration. I chose to use that time to answer some hard questions. For the first time I answered truthfully even if the implications could potentially shatter the world I had carefully constructed for myself.  I could write volumes on the baggage that was opened and the fears confronted but they will be different for everyone so there is only so much value to commit it to writing. Let us just say there were good things about never examining my happiness too closely. I never had to question if I was satisfied because society told me I was and I grieve the loss of an old life where everything was simple. Alternatively I saw opportunities I had never allowed myself to consider before and ways of being happy that I thought were for others and not me.

At the end of it all I decided that rather than looking for another corporate career job immediately I was going to take some time to see where I could go with the aerial and performing arts. It was probably the hardest choice I have ever made. I was giving up the stable life I had been raised with for something unpredictable and while it was terrifying stepping into the unknown the sense of relief I felt was immediate.

Photo by Hannah Havok
 It has now been a month since making the decision to leave the traditional work force but my life is still in the process of decoupling from it and will continue to be for the next 3 months. While I have already turned in my letter of resignation I am staying with the company a little longer to help my boss find and train my replacement. I continue to field questions from strangers at work who want to understand what my plan is and why. I cannot answer them with any sort of certainty because I do not know the answers but that is part of what I like about this new life. I get to make it what I want and make the rules for my success.

There have been ups and downs in the process and there will continue to be. For example while I did not receive any particular satisfaction from my contribution to the company I was cocooned from failure by a behemoth corporation. In making the decision to leave I can no longer be a passive cog in a large machine instead I have to be my own entity. I will now feel failure immediately and acutely but if I succeed I know it is because of my will to bring something into the world. I am lucky in that the new opportunities I have already received after making my decision are filling me with a sense of hope for what the future has to offer...even the scary bits.

As I am writing this I know it sounds like the decision to leave the day job for a dream was simple or obvious. It isn’t and it wasn’t. Some nights I cry because I don’t know how it will turn out other days I get on a lyra and think this is what I was meant to do. I continue to be thankful every day for my friends and family who have contributed advice or supported my decision in some way. I don’t know how this will turn out in the end all I know for sure right now it that I can try.

If you are interested in helping my start my new life in the circus and performing arts please consider visiting my Go Fund Me Campaign. There are a couple of large investments that will go a long way to helping me becoming and independent performer. I have tried to create a number of perks at the different contribution level as a thank you for your support.

So this is where I am in my artistic journey. What are your current struggles? What are your dreams? Leave me a comment below.

I am going to leave you with a quote from Bill Watterson that has been helping me…

"Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You'll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you're doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you'll hear about them.

To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The One That's Still Good

Remember when you dropped the last chip on the ground and you picked it up, inspected it for dirt and then popped it in your mouth? You know that brief exposure to the elements didn’t negate the delicious of the chip or its suitability as a snack. The 10 second rule saved us once again from wasting what is still good.
The moral of the 10 second rule has been important this month since I am simultaneously working on more aerial pieces than ever before including 2 duets, 1 silks burlesque piece and an audition number. I also noticed several of my fellow aerialists are struggling to keep up with show cases, competition applications and their own performance ambitions. While we are all trying to juggle these competing requirements without losing our minds the ethics of recycling material were discussed on more than one occasion.
The knee jerk reaction is to create something new, wonderful and stunning for each show. I have to admit that when I first considered revisiting material it felt like a cheat but then I realized I should be applying the 10 second rule to more than just my food. I had worked on a silks piece for 3 months and only performed it once for a very select audience…it was still good. Of course there were changes in musical selection and a move to tailor the dance for a new audience but in the end this will allowed my best efforts to go further. Rather than scrambling to have something completely different for every show I want to give the audience a polished performance from my library that has been custom fit for them.  

This approach won’t work for every performance but it does give me some breathing room. I feel free to develop new material at my own pace knowing I can call on acts that I did not discard after one show.

So I guess what I am trying to say is scoop your performance chips off the floor and savor the crap out of them.

Do you ever feel pressure when creating new material? Do you sample your greatest hits? Leave me a comment below.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The One About Splits...kind of

I have neglected my blogging duties but I assure you it is not due to any inactivity. I have been trying to navigate a number of new opportunities this year and I am not entirely sure yet what my take away has been. I feel like I have yet to synthesis some useful bit of information I might impart. So instead of some technique or theory I have been pondering I want to take a second to remind people to celebrate accomplishment no matter how small and love the process.

My example came yesterday while practicing a new aerial dance when one of my instructors mentioned that my splits are improving. Because historically splits are my worst skill I was confident that she was just be being polite. For the last year I have spent my time with dancers who have had effortless perfect splits and over splits. During the first few months I lived in abject shame when it came time to stretch. All the girls would fan out their legs perfectly and I would be sitting on the floor with my legs at an acute angle. To an outsider it probably looked like I was militantly resisting the exercise when in reality I was trying my damnedest and failing spectacularly. I have continued to work in tiny increments towards being more flexible but I have accepted that a full split is not something I am likely to achieve. Despite a pessimistic outlook, my curiosity was piqued by the comment so I decided to compare my splits from last night to where I was last year. To my surprise, while I am still a few inches shy of flat splits, my best effort has significantly improved.

This isolated example reminds me that during all the time we spend training it is easy to focus on what we can do today and want to achieve tomorrow. Sometimes it is easy to forget where we started and what we should be proud of.

Have you ever focused on a goal so much that you missed the other accomplishments along the way? What are you proud of today? Leave me a comment below.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The One About Simplicity

Recently I have enrolled in an aerial variations class which has lead me to think about exploring the known and what benefits it might hold for your practice.

Jennifer Cody's students showing 6 variations on a single move
I have found it takes a lot of guts to spend time developing around moves or skills your might have learned in the first few months of practice. For me there is fear of not including enough fancy moves in my own routines. Conversely, many people who I look up to in the hoop and aerial community have an emphasis on mastering and expanding on what are often thought of as basics. Some of my favorite performances don't involve lots of tricks but about the quality of core skills and inventiveness around known moves. It is legitimately more exiting for me to not know what will happen next rather than just see a difficult trick.

I have decide to try and be more mindful of whether I am filling my work with flash or innovation. To that end I have been working on a standing challenge we have in the variants class to develop a whole routine around a single base move. It's significantly slower for me than just stringing together tricks but I think the final product will have a more organic feeling in the movements. 

A Simple Manta To Remember
  When first joining a skilled community there is a desire to be included. Like any good student you practice the basics to become accepted by your peers. 

You spend time building a vocabulary. 
Photo By Nikki Arnold

You discuss technique
Hoop Path Point Technique
Photo by Hannah Havok
But don't forget your first words.

Remember simple can be beautiful

Photo by Hannah Havok

Simple is complex
HoopPath style Balance
Photo by Hannah Havok
This is what I have been thinking about for the last couple of weeks. What has been your inner mantra during practice?