Tag Archives: Mental Health

pity-party post alert

As the semester quickly takes it’s final turn (my last semester ever!!!), I’m finding that all of this forward momentum that’s felt so great for so many weeks has lately started to feel like it’s all working in retrograde…and not in like the fun way…

Let me explain.

1. My body. I went from eating really healthily and working out regularly to practicing the total opposite habits. I want/need anything with a high-calorie count in my mouth (ALL THE TIME), and the only walking I want to do is to and or from the refrigerator. I mention this first because you know how important it is to me to take good care of my body and mental health—like a healthy person would and should, and I’ve been doing everything but these past few weeks.

p.s. I’m 100% certain that #1 has, in a sense, caused the rest of this downward Laban spiral to feel so overwhelming…

2. My research. I was feeling great about my work and creative explorations at the beginning of the semester, and then all of a sudden, I just reached a plateau. I’m currently in the process of building three different pieces and you know, writing my thesis…and well…I have…nothing…I feel like I’m just sort of chasing my tail round and round, pretending that each rotation is bringing something different to the situation. It’s not.

3. My relationships. I mentioned in my last post how necessary it is to have normal people in your life…and I still stand by that, but there’s something to be said for the support you get from the people who share your immediate community. But what happens when that environment gets poisoned with unnecessary competition, and you can’t actually trust that those relationships are healthy anymore? All I can hope for is that whatever toxic energy has contaminated the air will just as quickly skedaddle. I can’t handle mean people anymore. I just won’t.

Stravinsky and Nijinsky

Stravinsky and Nijinsky…friends till the end

So this is sort of a pity-party post, but also a real-talk post, as life has sort of handed me lemons as of late. I have a few choices here, folks. I can take the lemons and my new love-handles and make the best friggin lemonade you’ve ever tasted in your life…OR I can take these lemons and make lemon bars that will undoubtedly make my new love handles grow and grow and grow…gross.

We’re talking money versus muffin-top. Easy choice, right?

It’s times like these that remind me how important it is to take some downtime, and to be confident in my imperfections. I’m the only me in the world, and I might as well enjoy it.

So what’s my plan?

Since it’s still sort of the first week of April, I’m going to set a few public goals, and I suggest that you do the same based on whatever it is you’re needing from life at this moment.

  1. I want to eat food that not only satisfies me, but also makes me feel good.
  2. I want to workout at least three times a week…even if it means Dyva-stomping on the tready for just 20 minutes at 3.5mph. Just something!
  3. I’m going to spend at least 30 minutes a day doing something fancy for myself…that doesn’t include mindlessly laying in bed. I want to do something that makes me feel good for purely selfish reasons.
  4. And finally, 20 minutes a day writing for my thesis, because you know…it’s gotta get done at some point within the next six weeks…no big deal.

When I asked my baby girl, Stravinsky if this post was too much of a pity-party, she said…

Bitch please, everyone needs a pity-party every once in a while.

So enjoy the party…and the lemonade that’s on its way!!!

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the inner circle of concert dance

So open disclosure, I’m totally going through my quarter-life crisis right now…as in, one of my friends cut out a magazine article the other day about how to survive a quarter life crisis…before I ever actually came out and said anything about going through my quarter life crisis. This is my life, friends…I’m turning 25 in a few days…it’s officially the beginning of the end…

So with all of that being said…

The more people I meet and the more work I do within the world of concert dance, the more I realize how small that world actually is. In some ways, it’s extremely reassuring to know that the inner circle is actually somewhat attainable, and that it’s all essentially just one incestuous pool of love and talent…that is, once you make it into the inner circle.

I feel like the few opportunities I’ve had in the past few months have demonstrated the potential for all that this incredible world has to offer, and as I mentioned a few weeks ago…I now know that I really do WANT IT ALL! The thing is, I sort of feel like I’m standing on the peripheral (the wings, if you will…), impatiently witnessing all of the fun, not quite included yet…but closer than some…and hissing at anybody that threatens my potential spot a few years down the road.

Sometimes I wonder (okay, lately I’ve been consumed with wondering…) if once I’ve graduated there will actually be room for me as a contributing member of the love/talent pool of incest? What opportunities are going to be around when I’m no longer engaging in residencies and faculty repertory classes within the Brockport bubble, but rather, I’m just one of the other 200 white, female dancers showing up to an audition?

I haven’t even graduated yet, and I already have some serious professional-dance FOMO.

mind if I join you po-mo'rinas?

Mind if I join you po-mo’rinas? (AKA…Can I play???)

Here’s the thing, it wasn’t even two weeks ago that as I sat in Dumbledore’s office discussing my future she said, “Nicole, the world is yours. How exciting!” …Is it though?

I have been incredibly blessed while at Brockport and have had numerous opportunities to perform and embrace the world of concert dance for all that it is, and I truly have nothing to complain about. Sometimes though, I can’t help but wonder if there really is a seat for me at the round table of real-life dance. The question as of late has become, why do I feel so incredibly threatened by just about everyone? How competitive is it really going to be to find work once I’m up against all the other “Nicoles’ from all over the country?—and what about the up and comings? Where will we all fit???

I will say that I do have a few enlightened moments from time to time as I work through this awful and uncomfortable QLC, when I not only sort of see things clearly, but I think I can see the glitter in them as well. Even as I type this, I have to remind myself that success is all relative to how you choose to define it, and that there will be room for me at that round table…when the timing is right. My job now (…as a student) and in the future (…life post graduation) is to stay true to myself while I continue to work hard.

The good news is, there is only one me in this world, and as long as I “do me” well, nobody else can compare.

Good things happen to good people, and if I’m spending my days wishing for every other dancer in the world to slip on ice…then I’ve pretty much wished some inevitable trouble upon myself. Competition does not have to exist if I choose to engage my mental energy in other, more constructive ways…like fostering healthy and supportive relationships with those dancers (not slipping on ice) as we engage and establish our own inner-circle of sorts. These people who I worry about taking my spot one day may actually, and probably eventually, create new spots for me to fill…again, when the timing is right. The world of dance is small, yes…but it’s only exclusive if you choose to perceive it as such.

The fear of missing out will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if and only if that’s what I choose.

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my milkshake…yours too

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking (again) about body image–but less about what I look like and more about how I feel in the studio.

As dancers, we spend our days standing in front of mirrors just trying to GET BETTER for hours at a time. There’s always room to improve as an artist, new styles, better efficiency, etc. etc. etc, but what other profession do you know promotes such a vain mission statement? I propose an addendum, I think there’s a second part missing that needs to plastered on the walls of every dance studio in the world:

GET BETTER within the potential of your own facility…nobody else’s.

I feel like a lot of us grow up with this image of what a dancer should be, but the thing is, that dancer doesn’t actually exist. The posters that lined the walls of my room as a little girl, (and probably yours too) were posed bodies that may or may not be stunning dancers when they’re not sitting in a pile of rose petals pointing their beautifully arched feet. It was my own thoughts that made her the dancer I strived to become for so many years.

what I think I look like (…not really…sort of…)

In real life I’m normal sized, in the studio however I’m a little bit thicker than what you’d probably imagine a ‘dancer’ should look like, mostly because I have curves…

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…but no, you can’t touch my humps.

…I said it…

I will never be that dancer wearing pointe shoes in a rose petal extravaganza, I will however be the dancer athletically moving in and out of the floor faster than you can say “unrealistic ideals”. It took me a while to realize that I still win.

me in real life…winning.
photo: Rebecca Puretz

We assign importance to certain ideas or images based on our own personal value sets, and devalue others without giving much thought to where our own bodies fit into that spectrum of extremes. If we work to create an environment where our individual quirks are looked at as positive idiosyncrasies rather than stepping-stones that take us further away from perfection, then we no longer have to hate ourselves for failing.

Being healthy is more than just eating by the guidelines of the food pyramid; you have to think healthily before the rest can follow.

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Owning my inner RAB

So as the semester quickly winds down, I’m just as quickly losing my mind. While I’d love to say that I’ve conquered the aesthetic of cool at this point in my life, I’m pretty certain that in this past week (regardless of what my posts may have been indicating), I’ve been more of an RAB than anything else; this post is me owning it. I’ve definitely taken the time (all of last weekend) to veg out on the couch with Tyra, but sometimes life gets the best of you, and simple reminders are all you need to bring yourself back to the good side.

So in the spirit of finals season, I offer to you some of the more sane ghosts of This is Major’s past…consider these your simple reminders.

How to be a Dyva

Conquering Deadlines 

Dance Family Love

Why you should make friendship bracelets

And how to OWN whatever it is you’re doing

Actress Tyra Banks at the 2000 Cannes Film Fes...

Wink.

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the aesthetic of cool

In an ideal situation, you’d get by in life without ever making a fool of yourself. In an ideal situation, Dumbledore would have never walked in on you (me) in a wide-stance doing a quality rendition of I Whip my Hair at 8:00AM. In an ideal situation, you’d (I’d) have the aesthetic of cool so far ingrained into your being that you would never have to walk away from an event replaying it in your head over and over again, grimacing at something you either said or did, and wishing that you could take it back.

The aesthetic of cool runs way deeper than just the vernacular dance (…jazz) that we all know and love; the aesthetic of cool is honestly your golden ticket to success.

While there are many shades of gray in between the two extremes of cool to chill the F out, when you cross the threshold into “you’re freaking out”…things usually aren’t too pretty at that point. When I’m in panic mode, I’m not entirely certain that I’m in complete control of my attitude, temper…or even my facial expressions; and especially in the case of the former, that can’t be cute or even kind of fun to be around–I also often walk away from those kinds of situations feeling a little embarrassed…

I currently serve as the concert coordinator for my department where it’s my job to organize the semester-auditions for the dancers, casting, feedback, concert-auditions and then each show. While I’d like to believe that I’m in complete control of every situation as it happens, I have my fierce assistant Brooklyn who loves to remind me (often) when I cross the not-so fine line from “cool” to “chill the F out, you freaker-outer!”

Example: Last week during feedback when we were running 1.5hours behind, how many people could tell just by looking at my face that I wanted to cry and make sweet love to a Happy-Meal while rocking in the corner and singing Britney’s Stronger??

(The answer: Probably everyone…)

It’s a pretty clear indication that you’re approaching dangerous waters when you’re paralyzed by the energy-sucking drama of the life that you’ve surrounded yourself by– CHILL THE F OUT, Dyva!!! It’s during these times that I find it necessary to remind myself of what the aesthetic of cool actually means, and then I instantly find the strength to cakewalk my way back to sanity.

 Aesthetic of Cool|esˈθetik əv koōl|noun

“…the control, transcendental balance, and directing one’s energy with a clear purpose in mind.”

**Quoted from Jacqui Malone’s Steppin’ on the Blues, what a Dyva

•Sonya Tayeh, that bitch owns the aesthetic of cool!

Anytime I meet an artist in the dance community that has “made it” (we’ll discuss what it means to make it another day…) I’ve noticed that the dancers I want to be instant-best friends with are the people that are so secure in their craft that they can’t be bothered by the drama of freaking out over trivial nonsense. HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!?!? (…there I go again…)

Sonya being fierce.

Because our careers are not only made by our talent, but also by who we know and how we market ourselves, I think mastering this cool should be top priority.  People want to be around other people who are :

  1. Engaged
  2. Indispensably talented
  3. In control of themselves (…don’t be an animal)

I also have a feeling that this may have a little something to do with taking a daily slice out of that humble pie we talked about; when you’re able to keep things in perspective and see things for what they really are, (you’ll still probably love on that Happy-Meal) but all of a sudden you’re free from all of the drama.

Time to share, imagine that we’re sitting in a friendship circle, what are those situations that push you into the danger zone?—and how do you maintain your aesthetic of cool?

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weighing in

Here it is…and I’m sorry to have to do it, but I just NEED to address this; it’s my turn to weigh in on the issues surrounding dancers and body image.

Little known fun-fact about yours truly, I’ve been hefty, skinny and all shades of grey in between. On a scale from Like It—Love It—Gotta Have It, when it comes to food, I GOTTA HAVE IT…at all sizes! I love food, and there are definitely days that I have lived to eat rather than eaten to live.  (I may have put myself to bed once at 5:00pm just so that I would stop eating and could instead feast my thoughts on breakfast the next morning…but that’s another story for another day…) I’m not sorry.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that skinny is not synonymous with happy or even necessarily fit; and really, if you’re using the term skinny in the first place…we’ve got bigger issues to address.  To me, “skinny” implies an unhealthy lifestyle of crash dieting (consisting of fake-processed foods full of chemicals and additives), diet soda, and a big gust of air to wash all that fun down. Instead, what we should all be focused on is pursuing a healthy lifestyle of balance, awareness, and of course glitter.

Errbody needs food to live…we all literally GOTTA HAVE IT!!!

Now I’m not here saying that all dancers have eating disorders (like what??? that can’t be fun?), but I will say that when you spend the majority of your day, every single day, in minimal clothing standing in front of full length mirrors, you can’t help but compare yourself to everyone else standing around in those same full length mirrors…

Cue the body-bashing:

My thundies (…thunder-thighs…) look huge today, I wish my stomach was flatter, I’m so huge, I should not have had that bagel this morning, no more carbs this semester…you fatty-boom-batty!!!

Would you say this to a five-year old girl???? THEN DO NOT SAY THIS TO YOURSELF!!!

As a dancer, the pressure to fit a “mold” can exist, and shifts depending on where you’re looking for work. It can definitely add a thick haze of consuming-insecurity, especially for real-bodied dancers (like myself) that are also trying to make it out there in the real world. So what do you do?

You wake up, smell the full-fat vanilla chai latte, and accept that you’re a normal, healthy person in society!!! You learn to cook delicious meals that are made from real food and real ingredients, and you do your research to learn about your body’s needs and how you can meet them. Most importantly,  you step off of the scale, DYVA!!!  You’re body is fully capable of making beautiful art, curves and all!

Tune in to how your clothes fit and feel, how your skin and nails look, how you’re sleeping, and what your general energy levels are like on a day-to-day basis. Redefining what it mean’s to be healthy requires a mindful-participant that’s willing to slow down and listen to what his or her body is actually saying, and as dancers, we should already fit this mold.

Now most of the dancers I know and love share my passion for food, and truly do enjoy it…in moderation. Not everybody is built the same, and it would be awfully boring if we were. As I’m finding on my own journey, the key to happiness and health is embracing whatever body you were blessed with and treating it….or rather, YOURSELF like a goddess, because why would you deserve anything less? Just some food for thought

Skinny Bitch is sooooo 2008, I nominate 2012 as the year of

HEALTHY BITCHES.

Enjoy your latte.

**I may be biased as a fellow-Spartan, but check out this blog by Rachel Wilkerson: She’s a real girl with a real body, and she isn’t afraid to use real-talk to discuss her journey. I’m borderline obsessed, and think that you’ll be too.

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