Sooo for the past three weeks or so I’ve been just about entirely MIA…have you noticed? (…sorry about that…) It’s been an emotional month of stumbles, successes, and tremendous growth, let me explain:
Since I arrived in New York two years ago, I’ve struggled to contend with these dangerously high expectations that I unknowingly/unintentionally set upon myself…expectations that I assumed everyone else had taken stock in. The sick thing is, I’ve had no way to confirm that anybody else besides me actually expects perfection. I’ve been telling myself that any grade less than an A is wrong, that any choreography not selected is bad, and that any dance I don’t get cast for is an indication that I’m fat and ugly. Naturally.
What I’ve realized after watching The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame, two Ted Talks by Brené Brown, is that I have a serious issue with both vulnerability and shame, who saw that coming? Now artistically, this blows. For two years now, my work has been stifled by this need to be perfect, and my unwillingness (and what sometimes feels like an inability) to show myself some love, prevents any real sense of positive emotion from existing…I can’t help but wonder, what happened to my passion?
(Brené Brown’s talk on vulnerability…check it out!)
I know I sound entirely dramatic and maybe even slightly (or not so slightly) neurotic, but at the same time, I’ve been struggling with this choreographic block, performance anxiety, and body image, while trying to be the perfect straight-A student for far too long; this isn’t me.
Sophomore year of high school for example, my AP English teacher told my mom how he admired my willingness to take a B so that I could have some balance in my life…balance = dance after school…hmmmm
As of lately however, the consequences of maintaining all of these unfair expectations (that may or may not actually exist), are weighing heavily on me…and now I have an eye twitch… I have set myself up for a process that’s entirely unfair, and even more importantly, unrealistic.
Brown shares that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change, and without it, new work can never be conceived or even acted upon; consequently, this need to be perfect in an imperfect world forces a wedge into the (…my) creative process. So essentially, I’ve turned into an artist that’s afraid of creating new art…for fear of….ummmm….
What am I so afraid of showing to the world?
Umm…light bulb alert…vulnerability is not synonymous with weakness. Failure is a natural human experience, and without it, the natural dichotomies of life can’t actually exist; you can’t have the highs if you’re not willing to take the lows. I now understand (…duh…) that I can’t selectively choose my emotions, as numbing one will numb them all…I WANT THE HIGHS, DANGIT!!!…so it looks like I’ve got to start taking some lows.
While I’ve been trying to justify my choreographic block and performance anxiety, I think it boils down to me still …kind of…feeling like an underdog. I’ve only ever been a student, so when I look around at my peers who came into this program with years of life experience, I’ve convinced myself that I have nothing to offer in comparison; additionally, as I anticipate graduating in a year, I can’t help but panic a little bit. I’ve turned all of this into a psychotic thought that if I’m perfect here in NY, then my chances of being successful (out there in the real world) will increase by default. Sick, I know. I’m done with lame excuses.
The good news is, as I continue to invest in experiences that are not-dance related (novels/live performances/online discussions/etc.), the whole-hearted passion that I observe in other people essentially invigorates my own. At this point in my artistic journey, I’ve identified these past few weeks as a necessary (humbling) check-point; before I can go any further, I’ve got to slow down to reflect on where I’ve been. My time here has been an incredible whirlwind of experiences that I’ve barely been able to keep up with. I’ve got a lot to be proud of, and deserve to take a little timeout to celebrate.
It’s finally the end of the semester and even after all of this, I wouldn’t change a thing. Part of being an artist is being able to slow your roll from time to time in order to give yourself a fair shot at life. It’s far too easy to get wrapped up in the fast-paced world around you, and sometimes all you need is a cute little breakdown to spice up your life and to show you the reality of your growth. Perfection doesn’t actually exist, and the harder you (I) try to achieve it, the further away it runs.
New motto from here on out: