Hires, Pliers, and Nose Rings

She screwed her eyes tight, shutting out the light, trying to shut out
the realization…

SNAP.

“There. Take a look.”

She opened her eyes.

Blue eyes she didn’t recognize stared dully back into her own. It was
a cleverly painted face, individuality concealed under a thick
shellack of conservative pale foundation, Feminine and Sexy all
covered up with non-offensive and subtle tones. Nondescript earrings
and a slick, severe bun, meant to be noticed and then promptly
forgotten… Gingerly, she fished the broken half of her nose ring from
her face. The empty hole glared at her.

Her eyes dropped to her suit: pressed, starched, crisp, corporate
and fresh from its plastic garment bag. She didn’t know the child in
this costume, this bland business face…

His arm around her shoulders jolted her out of her reverie. “You look
so grown-up!” he said with a proud laugh, his smiling face appearing
behind hers in the mirror.

She turned to her father, holding the wire cutters in his hand and the
other half of her nose ring.

Déjà vu hit her in the form of another face, another tool, another
state, and another state of mind…

***

A dusting of freckles lay sprinkled across her tanned nose, and her
face was screwed up in a look of intense concentration, willing the
pliers not to slip…

There.

She stepped back to survey the results. She turned her head from side
to side, examining her nose ring that she had just pinched closed, her
uncontrollable curls fanning out in all directions. It was July in
South Carolina, and the heat hung on the air like a shroud… any
attempt to control her hair was simply an exercise in futility.

She sighed and smoothed her vintage apron over her cloth skirt.

Kind of a wild outfit, but what the hell. Fashion is negligible, I’m living amongst a damn circus, she thought wryly.

The thought made her breath catch in her throat for a moment.

I can’t believe I’m here, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m so lucky. I’m so
damn lucky…

***

“—Lucky.”

“Huh?”

“Spacing out already, nice. Try not to do that in your interview,” he kidded.

“Sorry,” she said, forcing a grin, “I was a million miles away for a
minute there.”

“I said, ‘You sure are lucky.’ I can’t believe you got an interview
in Chicago in a field you’re not experienced in,” he said, shaking his head. He clapped her on the shoulder. “Welcome to the working world.”

With a teasing grin and another shake of his head, he headed for the
garage, wire cutters and the twisted metal remnants of a gypsy
identity she knew and loved in hand.

“I just wish I knew what I was working toward,” she said to the empty
house and the warring factions of her mind.

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Life After Cirque

Ah, the joys of public transportation. The train has just made its much-anticipated lurch forward – only two hours behind schedule. Good ol’ Amtrak, reliable in its perpetual tardiness.

After six weeks of living away from home, I’m finally coming home to St. Louis.

I began broken.  I lost two people that were dear to me, one to death. Everything I had prioritized for the past five years suddenly was no longer important.  The thought of redefining myself in a completely new city was wholly unexciting… and downright frightening.

My mornings were marked by that weight of dull dread that sat on my chest. The days were marching forward but I was stuck, paralyzed by indecision. Every once in awhile I would grudgingly allow myself to hope that today would be the day where I would find that magic road map for my life. It’s hard to find that clarity when you honestly aren’t sure where you made the wrong turn.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. And I don’t want to grow up.

I went away because I had to, for my sanity and to figure out what the hell I wanted out of life. All I could figure out in Columbia MO was that I was miserable and that I had no idea where to go next. I opened my email one day and out of the blue I come across an offhand message from Natalie Brown: “You should visit sometime and come train with us.”

The next thing I knew, I was on the phone asking if I could come the next week.

I was expecting to learn a lot from both Natalie and Asharah. They are phenomenal dancers that I have followed for years now, both with a completely different skill set to offer me. I knew their classes – Natalie’s American Tribal Style and Asharah’s Suhaila-based classes – were areas that I wanted to train in, but I wasn’t really anticipating how much I would gain from actually living in a house with other artists.

Natalie and Asharah became a little family for the month I was there. We would cook good meals for one another, discuss and sew costuming, train and do yoga together, work on pieces together – we managed to teach Natalie and perform the Suhaila Level II drum solo with finger cymbals and most of the Level III layering while I was there.

I realized there that I hadn’t taken a belly dance class since November.
I realized that I really had missed that more than I thought.
And I realized – and witnessed – how incredibly important it was to have community… to have those tiny families, those scrappy bands of people that share your weird. Where you can create, and grow… and heal. Few people get the rare opportunity to have several of those families. I’m one of the lucky ones that could call many places home.

I had many really incredible experiences this trip. I got hypnotized and thought my name was Susan. I cried during the best Reiki massage ever. I fell in love with quinoa (it’s a complete protein!). I saw one of the most incredible puppet shows of my life. I got to perform with Columbia Alternacirque at their Art Bar Show. I made my first fairy costume. Fractals helped me see a link between science and God. I drove to Atlanta to TA a workshop with Natalie and Asharah and dance a solo in the show.

And I had dance epiphanies!

1) The moments of silence and stillness are just as powerful – and just as important – as the movements themselves. I am always convinced my choreography is not interesting enough. I will sit and nitpick a 20-second section of choreographies for hours upon hour, trying to perfectly represent every beat, note and lyric. And I realized that this a form of insecurity and fear Natalie helped me realize that I need to allow myself to hold out some of the longer phrases in the music. Already I can tell that this concept is going to be very important for the development of my dance style.

2) Be honest in your song choice. Asharah helped me through a bit of a quandary when I was trying to pick my solo music for the Atlanta show. I really wanted to dance to “Song for You” by Alexei Murdoch, but I was afraid that the audience wouldn’t get it, or it wouldn’t be impressive enough, and I was debating if I should go for a “crowd-pleaser” song. Asharah reminded me that honesty is everything in any form of art that we create. I chose “Song for You.”

3) Learn how you work best. I worked harder on this Atlanta solo more than I have worked on any one individual solo, and a lot of the work I did was not accomplished on the dance floor. I had every note of my song memorized. I recorded and watched videos of myself dancing to the piece. I developed a pretty complete framework for my entire piece listening to it on repeat on the drive to Atlanta for several hours and had choreographed large chunks ahead of time.  I danced my piece out at the workshop space and ahead of time on the stage I would be performing. For the hour before I went on, I stretched with my iPod and visualized myself dancing the piece repeatedly. I did some emotional prep. By the time I went onstage, I felt like I could surrender and let my body remember and retell the story I had spent weeks teaching it.

I’m so excited because I feel like I conquered a pretty big fear. When you improvise, it almost feels a little safe. If you look awkward or weird, you have the “I was just making it up as I went” excuse ready  to defend yourself. If you try and fail… it’s a hell of a lot more painful.  Now I have a completely different idea of how I am going to approach choreographing and performing in general. I feel like a giant door has been unlocked.

One of my good friends told me once his goal when he travels is to live in places, not just visit them. Natalie, Asharah, Nate, Chris, Kendall, Amanda, Aaron, Jessie, Gina, Maria, Susan, Dana, Gina, Jaia, Maria, James, Victoria, Lacy, Christy, the Moodys, Mark and Wendy, Josh, Tom, Fred, Darbuka Dave, Christine, James, Ambur, and countless others… this was so much more than a visit. Thank you.

Welcome to the Circus…

The heat clung to me like a second skin as I sat in the darkness, feeling the drums and hearing the music swell louder and louder. In the small space illuminated by painter’s lights, a fairy with flaming metal wings entered slyly, carrying a small bowl of fire. Fire eaters solemnly filed in to receive the flame, and then there was an eruption of movement as dancers came whirling in, like leaves scattering over a forest floor.

Welcome to the circus, Megan.

I came to the Alternacirque the week of their monthly show at the Art Bar in Columbia, SC. 8 months out of the year, hoopers, fire performers, belly dancers, musicians, magicians, and freestyle dancers gather to put on a free show in the parking lot of a local bar. What started four years ago as a small show has grown to have audiences of several hundred people, and the community — including the Art Commission here and other local dance companies — has sat up and taken notice. The first night I was here, I got to sit in on a rehearsal in Natalie’s backyard, and it truly is something to see. I can’t wait for Friday’s show.

Coming to South Carolina has been extraordinarily good for me. I’m eating better, dancing every day, getting inspired by the talented artists that filter through the Circus House (where I’m staying). This whole trip is kind of a detox for me — I’m mourning the losses of my old life and identifying what I want to bring with me into the future. I’m cutting out bad habits, and I’m establishing new practices.

Seeing Natalie organize costumes, makeup, hair, musicians, dancers, staging, and keeping practices on track has been helpful to see, since someday I hope to establish my own artistic projects in a similar vein.

Right now I’m making no big life decisions, just sitting back and letting the circus life sweep me away. It feels pretty damn awesome.

Happiness is a Learned Condition

It’s just never easy when I travel.

I really thought this time I was doing pretty well – I got to the airport at around 6 for a 7:45 AM flight. I was actually packed before the last minute since I moved everything I own last night into storage in St. Louis for a few weeks. I had time to get up to get up and have a cup of coffee.

We get to the airport. I open the trunk and realize… I forgot my purse.

Some of the more colorful curse words in my vocabulary immediately came to mind. I truly am a danger to myself and others while sleepwalking through the wee hours of the morning the way I do; I always forget something mildly important – you know, just my driver’s license, my debit card, my cash, and my phone. Little things.

After a white-knuckled, anxious journey back and forth from where I was staying to the airport, I get my purse and get going on checking in. I managed to make my flight. My connection, however, had some issues. It was a few hours late arriving, and then right before takeoff, the pilot informs us that the plane had a flat tire. Once they started to work on changing the tire, they realized the brakes were fubared too.

I’m a little perturbed that we didn’t notice the flat until another plane told us. I can’t  imagine landing a plane with a flat tire is all that safe.

On the flight here, I started reading Tom Robbins’ “Another Roadside Attraction.” Early on in the book, the protagonist talks about style:

“The most important thing in life is style. That is, the style of one’s existence – the characteristic mode of one’s actions – is basically, ultimately what matters… happiness is a learned condition.”

Happiness and I have a complicated relationship. At this point, I really don’t know if the path I chose will make me happy. I am a procrastinating worrier who likes to have a clear plan but rarely does. And today is Day 1 of a fairly unscripted period of my life.

I do know that I feel truly alive when I travel, meet new people, experience new things…  I feel a fierce joy from being independent and from the amount I learn simply from throwing myself into a new environment.

But in exchange for those feelings, I sacrifice… comfort. Familiarity. My pride occasionally  when I realize that this lifestyle sometimes means I must rely on the help of others just as much as it is an exercise in independence and self-reliance. And as much as I have been craving to get out of Columbia and back on the road, it scares the shit out of me. When I’m not worrying about money, I’m worrying about what the heck I’m going to do once I get to St. Louis. I’ve had this conversation more times than I can count at this point:

THEM: “Oh, so you’re moving to St. Louis!”

ME: “That’s the plan.”

THEM: “So you have a place there?”

ME: “Nope.”

THEM: “A job?”

ME: “Not really. I’m broke, and I’m going to Florida and South Carolina for an undetermined amount of time first.”

THEM: *Awkward optimistic comment followed by a look of concern*

But… I’m trying to learn how to be happy, and part of that includes figuring out what makes me happy and how I can incorporate that into my life. I’ve struggled with the concept of being content with my life for years, a trait I recognize in many around me. If happiness truly is a learned condition, then we must be a society of masochists. I see so many good people stubbornly marching on a path — career-wise, relationship-wise, financially — that clearly makes them miserable with some odd sense that perseverance will alter their contentment with the final outcome. But if the pursuit is unfulfilling, then a person’s “characteristic mode of actions” would seem hollow and empty –would the final outcome be any different?

What happened to us that rendered us incapable of identifying what truly will provide a fulfilling existence? I might be young, but I’m old enough to know that the pursuit of the American Dream is not a recipe for my personal fulfillment. I don’t know what is, but I’m willing to try to figure it out. And I’m enjoying this quest immensely.

So I’ll be a nomad for awhile. I’ll figure out how to get through the next few weeks somehow. I’ll stress, worry, probably cry.

But I hope those moments will be outweighed by the joy I feel from seeing my family and studying what I love more than anything on this planet with two dancers that I truly admire.

I’m learning, I’m learning…

On the Road Again…

Within about five minutes, I knew tonight would be my last night in Columbia.

“Hi, Megan…” I heard my mom’s voice on my voicemail. “Well, ” (pause) “Granpa Joe died, he died this afternoon.  They’re thinking that the funeral will be this Friday.”

My Grandpa Joe. He was an odd guy. But a good odd — he sent me $2 bills and a Calvin and Hobbes book for birthdays, he told me that there was a law that allowed those over 40 years old to swear freely when I called him out when I was younger… he was a smart ass, but everyone liked that about him.

I love him, and I will miss him.

But as my good friend Steve pointed out, the good thing about knowing someone is about to die is that it gives people a chance to really find connection with their loved ones, say everything that needs to be said, and truly process everything. I’m so grateful for my family, and I’m looking forward to heading to Florida to celebrate his life — and ours.

I was planning on starting to move things to St. Louis this weekend, but it’s been pushed up a bit — I’m currently frantically packing in order to move everything but my furniture to St. Louis tomorrow.

Wednesday I leave for the funeral from St. Louis to Fort Myers, Florida, and I will stay through the weekend.

Instead of flying back to Missouri, however… I have decided I need to get out for awhile. I need to explore and train more and get refocused on my dance. More than that, though, I think I need to really put some thought about what I want in the next part of my life.

So I’m finally getting out of Columbia! … And guess where I’m going?

Columbia.

Well, Columbia, South Carolina. I’m truly running away to the circus this time — I will be staying with Natalie Brown (check out Alternacirque and Delirium Tribal) and Asharah and training with them. I’m really excited, both ladies are phenomenal dancers and pretty bad ass women in general.

How long will I stay there…? Who knows.

Then it’s back to St. Louis to figure out my life.

Columbia peeps: I need to get all my furniture and my car at some point, so I will be back. At that time, I want to have a soiree and party with all y’all, so get ready. I imagine I’ll be back in July sometime.

New Year’s Resolutions v. Old Year’s Reflections

I hate New Year’s resolutions. Every year I set three or four completely unreasonable expectations for myself (“I will never eat chocolate again”; “I’m going to go to the gym every day”; “…I suppose I could limit my Taco Bell visits to once every two days?”), and each year I last three days or so before I mess up and then say, “To hell with it!” (Cut to Megan, sitting depressed on her futon, chasing a Crunchwrap Supreme with an entire box of Fannie Mae).

Furthermore, resolutions have an inherently negative nature — “What’s wrong with you THIS year? What do you want to fix?” No, thanks. I have resolved to be done with negativity (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Goals are great, I’m not knocking that — I just feel like our culture takes an inherently positive thing — self-improvement — and interprets it all wrong. Besides resolutions seeming to always have a negative flavor to them, it always seems like there’s a lot of talk, and little action. And it makes sense why SO many resolutions fail and why so many people don’t act on their resolutions. Many resolutions go against months — and sometimes years — of habitual behavior to the contrary. Getting into a daily exercise routine, for example, after two years of limited activity is a DRASTIC departure from your old habits, and therefore can be very difficult.

Please don’t walk away with the idea that I am saying, “Don’t make resolutions, because you’re going to fail.” I’m saying that maybe the problem is in HOW we set New Year’s resolutions.

So I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions this year.

Instead, I’m going to do some Old Year’s reflections. Instead of resolutions, I am going to analyze 2009 in its entirety, see what I’ve learned, and see what I want to bring into 2010 and what should just stay with 2009.

Want to try? Here’s what I’m doing:

1) CREATE A YEAR IN REVIEW

I found it enormously helpful last year to write down, month by month, what happened in my year. Old calendars, datebooks, etc. are helpful in remembering. Besides being kind of fun — I tend to forget some things I’ve done — sometimes you can spot patterns when looking at your year as a whole. Here’s my 2009:

January: Working at the Columbia Tribune, one of my favorite jobs ever. Was a flamenco dancer in the MLK breakfast in town! Found out I got the job as the Bellydance Superstars merchandiser.

February/March: Touring the US with BDSS. Completely changed my life. Drove a Penske truck across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Delware, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Utah, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. THEN I had to drive the truck from Detroit to L.A.

April: Flew to California to get Level II certified in the Suhaila format — also life-changing. It was physically and emotionally one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Worked and auditioned for BDSS at Raqs LA.

May: Went to Japan and Canada with BDSS!

June: Worked Raqs America in Washington, D.C. for BDSS… decided I needed to be focusing on training, and decided to leave the merchandise post. It was a hard decision — the BDSS gang is an awesome bunch. Asharah workshop!

July: A lotta sitting around.

August: Got second place in the Pro Tribal Soloist category at the MAQAM bellydance competiton in Chicago. Started Odissi lessons!

September: Eco Art Fest in Columbia, started teaching classes in Jefferson City.

October: Burlesque show in Kirksville with Lola van Ella, St. Louis Burlesque fest, AMY SIGIL WORKSHOP! GREAT month.

November: Artica fundraiser show — Love and Loss in One Act. Went to Florida to visit my grandpa. Planned trip for January to study with AMY SIGIL!

December: Training, training, training, creating, training… preparing for Amy Sigil and 2010.

2) ANALYZE

I still remember it — in December 2008, I became convinced that “2009 was going to be my year” — that something amazing would happen. And looking back… I had a heck of a year. A lot of positive growth, a lot of travel, a lot of new opportunities and new acquaintances.

I learned some hard lessons. I’ve learned living life on the road and touring is an experience that you can try to explain to someone, but it’s hard to understand how simultaneously awesome and difficult it is unless you’ve done it yourself. I learned that people sometimes represent someone they’re not. I’ve learned how it feels to be physically and emotionally drained — and how powerful you feel when you overcome it. I’ve learned that the more I connect with the universe and the more good energy I put out, the more good the universe sends my way. I’ve learned that experiences aren’t “good” or “bad”, necessarily — they are an opportunity to grow and learn. I’ve learned that the best judge of my self-worth is myself.

3) TAKE WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED… AND APPLY IT.

  • I’ve learned that I really love traveling. I would definitely tour again, if given the opportunity. I hope in 2010 I get more opportunities to do so — and I should pursue those opportunities.
  • Through all of my adventures in 2009, I have had some really important people in my life to help me through it. I’ve learned I am very empathetic, and I absorb people’s energies. Therefore, in 2010, I want to invest time in my relationships that manifest good energy — people that care about me and people that I would do anything for. I’m done with toxic people. I’m so fortunate to have so many caring, wonderful people in my life, and I want to give my time and energy to them.
  • The highlights of my 2009 are mostly centered around (surprise, surprise) dancing. I feel happiest when I am dancing. I want to earn more opportunities to pursue what I love in 2010 by training hard, nourishing my body to feel good and healthy, and by constantly focusing on creating positive energy.

4) GIVE THANKS FOR WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN.

I am so fortunate to get to do what I love so frequently. I’m grateful that I have had so many people help me through tough times — thank you. I’m grateful I got to travel and see a larger scope of the world. I’m grateful that I have been released from commitments that could have prevented me from pursuing my future. I’m grateful for a wonderful, supportive family. I’m grateful for Amy Sigil, Asharah, and everyone in BDSS, since they have changed the way I am pursuing belly dance. I’m grateful that people are reading my blog 🙂

Happy almost New Year, everyone. 2010 is going to be one hell of a year.

I’m Engaged.

Everyone, I have a very important announcement to make. I’ve been in a relationship for four years now, and something really special has happened to me that I want to share with you. After a long courtship, I finally have decided to make the most important commitment one can make.

I’M ENGAGED!!!

…What? Oh, no, my boyfriend didn’t pop the question yet. I realized the other day that I am engaged to belly dancing. Sound ridiculous? Probably. The other night I found myself thinking, “All right, belly dance, you win. You make me want to work hard and be a better person. I am completely and utterly addicted to how I feel when I’m with you, and I can’t live without you. I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you and build a future with you.”

Then it hit me: “…wait. Did I just propose to belly dancing?”

Nothing makes you question your sanity more than realizing that you just mentally proposed to something intangible. Believe me, I understand if you think I’m crazy. Belly dance can’t snuggle with you, give you a foot rub after work, help you raise a family. But for me, belly dance makes me feel good and special every day, it keeps me sane, it helps me create goals, it gives my life passion and purpose… if that’s not a relationship I could make a serious commitment to, than I don’t know what is.

So I’m going with this, as crazy as it seems. Starting now, I am committing to this dance and I am committing to making my dreams a reality, 100%. I will dedicate as much time as I can to my training. I am relishing the thought of working my ass off to get what I want. I am so excited to continue developing my voice and style as an artist, and I am craving opportunities so I can really start working on getting my career started.

Now I just need a wedding planner.

There aren’t a whole lot of books dedicated to the subject of breaking into the world of belly dance. A lot of famous dancers I have talked to have readily admitted to me that a whole lotta luck and serendipity factored into their success. My friend Nichelle Lawrence once told me, “I never dreamed of being who I am. I just… kinda fumbled into myself and my identity.”

But I do think certain things can help you create opportunities, build connections, and help you do what you love to do. I am reminded again of some of the best advice I have ever received, courtesy of Petite Jamilla: “Be your own business.” And because of my new commitment to this dance, I am putting a lot of faith and work into the business side of my art. But I’m slowly learning there is more to it than just the business side of things — along with being a shrewd businesswoman, I need to work on the product — me. Think about this if you are married, engaged, or in a relationship with someone who you could see marrying — how much has that person changed you for the better? I feel that belly dance has changed me for the better, and now I need to work on being the best person and artist I can be as I take this huge next step.

Recently, I have been fortunate enough to talk to several amazing, incredible, hard-working artist who have been where I am now and have figured it out — they are doing what they love and they are successful at it. The more I talk to these women — Nichelle Lawrence, a freelance photographer; Kandice Grossman, a belly dance instructor, choreographer, director and producer; Suzanne Vansickle, a costume designer and manufacturer, the more I observe several key things that these women are doing to further their success.

Ladies and gents, I give you… a work in progress. It’s not a foolproof plan to “make it,” but it’s what I’ve gleaned in my short time trying to navigate this crazy, sparkly, world of belly dance.

1) Figure out what you want to say. Nichelle (who I am considering paying to be my life coach; the woman is just so wise) asked me this one day: “What makes a great belly dancer? What is it about their dancing that intrigues you the most and is what YOU want to watch?” I thought about it, and I tried to explain to her what I connect to the most while watching a dance. Nichelle looked at me and said calmly, “You want to know how to find your voice? Start there.” That element is where I’m starting from in my discovery to add something unique and special to this art form that is ME.

2) Start believing in what you can offer people. I had a lot of hesitation putting myself out there because I harbored insecurities that people would not like what I had to offer. Then I realized something: There is going to be someone (maybe many people) who absolutely do not like what I want to create. And that’s ok, as long as I’m happy with what I am offering. Have confidence in the product you are selling — you.

3) Put yourself out there, again and again and again and again. Asharah stressed to me the importance of an internet presence, and she’s right. Get a website. Get quality videos of yourself on Youtube. Get visible. Get people interested in learning more about YOU. Perform as much as you can at as many events as you can. Study as much as you can with as many dancers as you can (although I personally think having a primary instructor helps tremendously, someone whose skill far exceeds your own and who inspires you at least weekly). You’re marketing yourself — show people that you have something to offer.

4) Collaborate with others. Talk to other artists. I can’t even begin to stress how much I have learned simply by asking people about their artistic journey. Not all of these people were belly dancers. The most important thing is simply to listen. Open yourself to ideas. Never stop learning, processing, or analyzing.

5) Put out the vibes you want for yourself. Try to do one selfless thing a day, or once a week. If someone helps you out, do something for them. Don’t it because you feel obligated, or because there is some score to balance out. Do it because it’s making you a better person and because if we all can help out one another, we can go farther than we would fighting to break into this world on our own. Help out other artists that you admire. Barter. That energy, that good vibe, what you put out there is what people are going to want to give back to you. Work hard, stay humble, never forget those that helped you along the way. Without them, you would be less of the person and artist that you are today.

6) Write. I am someone who ordinarily is not inclined to keep a journal. But once I started dancing, I found out it was essential. If you’re reading this right now and you’re thinking about skipping this idea, I urge you to reconsider — just try it for a little while. Write down your ideas, journal when can’t get that little voice out of your head that’s telling you can’t do it, journal not only about dance but about you as a person — your hopes, dreams, insecurities, frustrations. I feel like if we want to be artists, we need to figure out what we want to say. But if you don’t even know who you are, how can possibly hope to find the means to express it? That’s the true beauty of art — an artist finds a depiction of herself or of her reality and expresses that in a way that resonates with people.

7) If you really want it, commit to it. I am working part-time right now. I have minimal health insurance that my parents are graciously helping out with. There have been more times than I care to admit where I’ve had less than $10 to my name. Awhile back, all I could think was, “I need to focus on making money right now. I need to figure out what to do. I don’t have time to devote to dance, that just has to go on the back burner right now.” My heart wasn’t buying it, though. I was miserable, even though I was trying to make these sacrifices in order to be happy. Now, I realize, I need to adapt to what I have. I need to find loopholes. I need to budget my money and live frugally. I can’t lose sight of what I want for myself just because times are tough, now is just a time where I need to work harder. I’m committing to dance, even though now it’s more difficult than ever. And you know what? Every since making that commitment a few days ago, I have felt better than I have in six months.

8) Fight for your happiness. A week or so ago was one of those $10-in-my -bank-account days. I was sitting at home, wondering why I felt so hopeless and depressed. I was feeling like no matter what I did, no matter how much good I was doing for others and despite my hard work, the universe was just not throwing me a bone. It’s so easy to give in to that despair and give up. But then I got mad. I thought to myself,  “Goddamn it, I am working hard. I am living a good life. I’m a good person. I deserve to be happy, and I am going to fight for my happiness. I refuse to let the circumstances and the sadness overwhelm me.” It’s proving to be a really important life motto for me. I think this is really important as an artist to maintain. As artists, we’re vulnerable. We’re exposing our innermost selves for the world to see and judge. The losses, let-downs and frustrations, as a result, can be incredibly crippling. But fight for it, because you deserve it.

I’m committed. It’s going to be difficult at times, I know that. But I’m a romantic — I’m willing to sacrifice for something that I truly love with all my heart.