Get On Without It

I’ve been dancing since I was 4. So at 22, that means I’ve been dancing for 18 years. You could say I’ve grown up through, and with dance. It is every bit a part of me as the color of my eyes and how tall I’m not.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons through my dance training. I’ve learned a lot about the person I am, and the person I want to be.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I think the way I do because I’ve been a part of the dance world for as long as I have. Dance culture has been ingrained into every fiber of my being.

And one thing I’ve noticed about my thoughts, is how paradoxical they’ve become.

My mind, a self-ascribed dancer mind, is full of these paradoxes. Seemingly contradicting concepts systematically try to work together, sometimes to my advantage, and sometimes to my disadvantage. I can be both proud and disappointed in myself all at once, and that can get exhausting.

I can push myself to go to class and rehearsals 5 days a week, sometimes even more. I can challenge myself to stretch farther, jump higher, turn faster.

But the hardest part for me, right now, is finding pride and confidence in myself in spite of any criticisms or critiques, and sometimes without the support from the people I admire and respect the most.

Let me clarify, as I’m sure I’ve said before, I have an amazing support system, full of family and friends who have been with me throughout this crazy journey. They’ve encouraged me, and given me the kicks in the butt I might not have wanted, but definitely needed.

Instead, I mean that I find myself searching for support and even crazier, compliments, from my teachers and mentors, that I often don’t find. To put the record straight, I greatly respect and admire my teachers and realize that their job is to help me develop my skills and potentially find a job, not coddle me with unending compliments. And sometimes they do compliment me when I’ve done well, especially in the classroom. But in general, it is not in the culture of dance for a teacher or choreographer to always compliment their dancers after a performance. Their job is to help guide you and help you improve for the next show.

Black Gazing, Photo: Jason Ayer

And truly, I could deal with that. Having the opportunity just to dance for an audience is a compliment in itself.

But for me, what really makes this all harder is when I hear of the kind words and positive feedback my peers have received while I hear nothing. I get stuck in this weird loop of wondering if I didn’t do as well as I thought, wondering how I’d messed up, and trying to analyze my performance to find my flaws. All while feeling so proud of my peers but also a little bit jealous.

I know, jealousy is not flattering, but I think we’d all be kidding ourselves if we denied ever feeling jealous. Again, I need to be clear that I have, in fact, received positive feedback from many teachers and choreographers after performances. And I am honestly very appreciative. But, as a perfectionist people pleaser, I am always striving to get that feedback from those who don’t usually give it out.

I’ve been thinking about all this recently. I was presented with an amazing opportunity, and I thought I did well. Friends, family, even acquaintances offered their praise and approval. One of my choreographers gave me wonderful feedback that I will never forget. But I still found myself disappointed that some teachers I respected most could not find any words to say to me. And I found myself becoming even harder on myself when I heard of the praise they’d bestowed on my fellow cast members and friends.

So now I’m stuck in a place where I’m desperately trying to find my own confidence and satisfaction in myself; trying not to think that I need feedback from everyone to validate myself. Which is so hard because my crazy brain is telling me that you will get nowhere without other’s approval. Which I guess is sort of true, especially in the dance world, but the logical side of my brain tries to remind me how that is a very unhealthy way to think. And I have more agency than I allow myself. Plus, in this day and age of self-love, I should really try and find satisfaction in my own performance and only think about the feedback I have received, instead of the feedback I haven’t.

It is hard though, and definitely something I need to work on. But hopefully I will be given more opportunities in the future to keep practicing.

Suite of American Dances
Photo: Jason Ayer

USC Dance Company is trying to attend the American College Dance Fest this year, and we need your support! Please consider donating to help us cover the costs of the trip, it’s an amazing opportunity and we can’t wait! 

USC Dance Company Fundraiser!

I Stopped Checking The News

Choice Meat

When you’re preparing meat,

You must be sure to pick the choicest cut.

Look for one that is trim,

Beautifully sculpted by The Butcher.

 

When you have picked your prey,

Pounce on it!

It’s yours to take, wouldn’t want it to go to waste.

At the register, make sure you don’t overpay.

Remember, the customer is always right!

 

Now that you have your delicious new purchase,

It is time to head home.

When transporting your choice piece,

Handle with care.

You don’t want to spoil her before you even begin.

 

Preparation is key.

Tender meat, is the best meat.

Don’t be afraid to really use your hands,

Get in there!

She won’t mind.

 

When she feels soft and pliable in your hands

You’re ready for the next step in your conquest.

It’s time to give this mouthwatering piece of meat

A good rub of seasoning.

 

I recommend that this seasoning

Be a unique blend, special to you.

She’ll appreciate that.

 

Satisfied with the seasoning, it is time to turn up the heat.

Time to stick that sweet girl on the grill.

High heat is best,

She’s not afraid of your fire.

In fact, I’m sure if she could speak,

 

She’d even say, she wants it.

 

Take your time with the roast.

You’re in charge. No need to hesitate.

Master chef knows best.

Really make sure she gets the full treatment.

Leave no edge untouched.

It’s ok if your handling gets a little rough.

 

You’ll see her swell

Under the heat of your fire

You’ll know when she’s ready,

She’ll practically scream.

Soaked through with sweet juice.

She’s ready for you.

 

Don’t worry!

Don’t second guess!

You were wonderful.

Mr. Master Chef, remember?

Look at that beautiful piece of meat.

 

Some Context on “Choice Meat” – 

At the moment I’m taking a creative writing class, and it is really challenging me to think outside the box and is pushing me to make myself vulnerable through my writing. “Choice Meat” comes from an assignment in this class. 

I didn’t think of “Choice Meat” spontaneously in one sitting. For a while I’ve been thinking about how I feel identifying as a woman in our society. And how other women are identifying themselves and being seen in our society. 

Like most people, I get daily news reports to my email pretty much every day of the week. Most of the time I read through them. But for a while I stopped reading them because it was just getting to be too much. 

But I still find myself scrolling through news stories that people post, and watching the short videos that people share. It wasn’t long before I read stories and watched videos about the women in Hollywood accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. It was horribly disheartening, but perfectly believable. Along with other influences, I decided to take my feelings about these women’s interactions with Weinstein and use them as a stimulus to write “Choice Meat”. 

 

I wouldn’t call it “Silence”

In the wake of the protest in Charlottesville, a slew of violent Semitic acts, and the call for the removal of Confederate statues, many people have found their voice. Others haven’t, and a re-occurring war cry from progressives is that silence is compliance.

I have stayed largely silent on these issues. And it is not because I can condone anything that happened in the name of white supremacy.

I’m a Jewish American, and I don’t know how to talk about Charlottesville and the rise of anti-Semitism. 

And it’s not because I can “see both sides”. To be honest, I’m not willing to look at both sides. For me, there is no justification in anything that can be said by a side that touts a Nazi flag.

I know how fortunate I am to be a member of a family who has found opportunity in the states. I identify with American values and culture. And I am proud of the potential I see in my country.

But I am absolutely repulsed by American citizens who can wear and wave a swastika and think that they are representative of our great nation.

There is nothing patriotic about the protestors and terrorists who demonstrated in Charlottesville and the subsequent acts of hate and vandalism that occurred after. 

In addition to my American identity, and in cohesion with my American identity,  I have a strong Jewish identity. And my Jewish identity can’t fathom why anyone could ever even consider recreating the demonstrations and reviving the rhetoric of such a repulsive movement and period in world history.

The atrocities inflicted by Hitler and his Nazis in World War II and The Holocaust are not something to be taken lightly. And it really shouldn’t be. There is absolutely no situation in which people should ever consider following the hatred, ignorance, bigotry, and violence of the Nazi mandate.

When I see a swastika flying over an angry crowd of white men, I am afraid. I am also livid. Because I know that only a few decades ago people like me looked at these crowds, and maybe without realizing it, saw their doomed demise.

And that strikes a cord. Everything changes when you realize you could be personally involved.

I didn’t live through World War II and The Holocaust. But that doesn’t mean the gravity of such a tremendously horrific period in history has not been ingrained inside of me.

I can’t look at a Nazi flag, Nazi armbands, or the Nazi salute without feeling nauseous. I have learned about the MILLIONS of people like me who were systematically, and brutally murdered FOR NO REASON other than hatred and ignorance.

I know I’m not the only one who took history classes and learned of the atrocities the Nazis committed.

So can someone please explain to me why people who belonged to a nation that fought AGAINST the Nazi party could later adopt Nazi dogma?

If you’ve read this far, and are thinking, “Well I’m not Jewish, so how can this affect me the same way?” I have an answer for you.

It wasn’t just 6 million Jews that the Nazis killed during World War II. The death toll reaped by Hitler and his Nazis reached approximately 11-12 million. If 6 million are Jews, that leaves between 5-6 million people of OTHER backgrounds and identities who were also senselessly murdered because they didn’t fit into a ideologic  and irresponsible “aryan identity”. You might’ve fallen into one of those categories.

If you’ve read this far, and are thinking, “It’s a race issue today. It’s not the same as it was.” I have an answer for you too.

You’re right. It is largely a race issue. I have no disputes. I’m just telling you what I see when I look at the news and see stereotypical white men waving Nazi flags, wearing Nazi armbands and doing the Nazi salute.

When I see these abhorrent images, I am afraid, I get nauseous, I get angry, and I get upset. And you should too. This is a humanity issue. No matter what racial, cultural, ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, or political background you come from or identify with, you should be sick when you see these images and you should instantly want to denounce such hateful displays.

At the core of almost every belief system, there is something about the way we should treat others. And usually it tells us to treat others with respect and dignity. That should be a basic human right. And these protestors and terrorists are threatening and violating basic human rights.

Our country may have been founded on the independence of white men, and the notion that all white men should be free and equal, and are entitled to basic human rights. But that doesn’t mean, in the 21st century, we can’t rewrite that mandate to better fit the identity of the United States of America.

We have the ability to take American history and values, the very core we were founded upon, and extend them to all citizens who live in this nation. We are the people, that our constitution addresses. It is up to us to  end the exclusionary biases the country may have initially been founded on, and extend the rights and privileges once only afforded to white male property owners to all the faces of American citizens that reside in our nation again.

I don’t have a concrete plan that will eradicate hate and foster peace and unity. I know that is a lofty goal. But I don’t think it is unreasonable. Humans come in all colors, shapes, and sizes and it is about time the entire human race accepts this.

 

 

“Emotional Issues” Is Not An Insult

Recently I wrote a post and angered someone to the point that they lashed out at me. I accept and understand why I made them upset. I just wasn’t expecting their subsequent actions.

In their onslaught of criticism they threw this phrase in my face:

“Clearly, you have emotional issues”. 

Out of almost every unkind thing that was said to me, this one cut the deepest. I try to use this blog as a platform to express myself, and push myself to be honest – especially about struggles I face. I know that I have read blog posts and articles where people expose their insecurities and weaknesses in hopes that they will find confidence and understanding, while simultaneously offering someone in a similar situation the same.

I write and publish because I hope that something I’ve said resonates with a reader, and hopefully helps them in some way. 

So when the jab at my mental health was thrown in my face, it cut me right to my core. Up until this point I had respect for this person, but such a low and immature blow quickly demolished much of that.

In some regards though, they were right. I do have “emotional issues”. I deal with them every day. My greatest “emotional issue” manifests itself as anxiety. 

My anxiety is not something I like to talk about with many people, but it definitively affects me as it often dictates how I’m feeling and what I feel like I am capable of achieving on any given day.

That being said, I’ve worked very very hard to be productive and functional despite the feelings of anxiety I experience so often. I pride myself on my ability to do my best not to let any anxiety I feel define every aspect of my being. And I pride myself on the ability I have developed to face my anxious feelings personally and privately.

Because while my anxiety might affect how I act and speak, it is ultimately my own personal, private struggle. I get to choose if it is addressed by others as well as by myself. 

Amidst the criticism the statement that “I barely knew them and what they had been through” was also made.

Again, there was much truth in their statement. However, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the irony in that phrase. I was being told that I didn’t know them, and thus shouldn’t make assumptions based only off the information I did know, or thought I knew. Yet this is exactly what was being done to me.

Most of the criticism being thrown at me was only based on half truths or knee jerk reactions. And while I could see how I upset them, I couldn’t justify their choice of actions. They decided to only see a version of me that was a villain. And assumptions were made about my character based only off of isolated statements and actions. There was no confrontation for clarification, just assumptions to justify their side.

In a clear attempt to wound me, they took an instance where I put myself out there and shared a struggle, and used that to mock me.

They knew nothing of the struggles and challenges that people with “emotional issues” face, but decided that this was a good way to belittle someone. “Emotional issues” shouldn’t always be seen as a weakness.

People who struggle with their emotional and mental health don’t ask for these challenges and often are actively seeking out ways to overcome them. 

I have contemplated sharing my personal experiences with mental and emotional health on this blog several times. But the truth is I am just not confident enough. I am too scared. For me, my mental and emotional health is a very private issue. It’s a challenge I am still learning how to face. I won’t say that it is unconquerable, but it is definitely not something that will be easily resolved. I understand the ramifications of keeping my personal struggles private, if I don’t speak about them, people won’t know and could make assumptions.

But I hope that we as a society are on a path that doesn’t vilify mental illness or emotional stress. I hope that at least one person might read this and feel reassured that it is perfectly normal to struggle with emotional and mental health and choose to confront these challenges privately. Not everything has to be shared all the time.  I also hope that at least one person might read this and realize that it isn’t fair to attack someone’s emotional health to belittle them, because it can do far more damage than just being a petty insult.

(S)uper(he)ro

So I finally got to see Wonder Woman.

And I’m still kind of geeking out about it.

Organizing my thoughts about this movie is beyond difficult because as soon as I start talking about one aspect of the movie, I think of another one and immediately wantto talk about that as well.

So I’ll do my best to make this cohesive but it will probably just end up as a frazzled mess.

We’ll just start from the beginning – ish. (*Spoiler Alert*)

The fight scene on the beach of Themyscira between the Amazons and the German soldiers was riveting. Strong, fearless women faced off against the infamous German army of the “war to end all wars”. They had some killer moves, and were ferocious warriors. What made me even more excited was the casting of these warriors. Each woman was strong in her own real life, with titles such as “heptathlete”, “Olympic bobsledder”, “Crossfit champion”, “professional fighter”. Instead of having to learn a completely new skill set and embody someone else’s strength, these women applied their already honed skills and showed the world their true fortitude.

I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology, so the whole concept of Amazon women and the Greek gods was really cool for me to watch. My whole life I’ve admired the goddess Athena for her wisdom, courage, and strategic abilities. There was the obvious intensity and ability of fatally accurate fighters, but there was also the knowledge that no one should ever rush into war. As a collective the Amazons believed their purpose was to protect mankind, not punish them even if they were unworthy of protection. The Amazons believed in restoring good to a world that had been clouded by evil, and many stood by that mankind was not actually inherently bad.

This belief in goodness is not something I feel like we see very often, especially in superhero movies. So many superheroes, from all franchises, are clouded by a dark past. Within DC, Batman and Superman both lost their parents in brutal ways and carry that weight with them. Diana/Wonder Woman may be naive of the brutality of the human world, but she has such a strong belief in the goodness of mankind that it is refreshing and uplifting. She is not driven by a need for revenge or any other feeling of foreboding responsibility. It may take a while but she truly believes that she is capable of protecting the world from evil forces, not because she has failed elsewhere but because that was what she was created to do.

She’s a breath of fresh air amongst a multitude of dark, tormented superheroes that are probably meant to mimic the gravity of human responsibilities. 

Despite being naive for probably the first 2/3s of the movie, Diana/Wonder Woman comes to realize that although mankind may be inherently good, they can easily be influenced by evil. Despite this she holds steadfast that she must protect them and try as much as she can to be an influence of good among so many influences of evil. Diana/Wonder Woman must also realize that her greatest power is within herself. Her ability to defeat her enemies is not entirely reliant on an external factor, like her “god-slayer” sword.

Now if that’s not beautiful, inspiring, and empowering, I really don’t know what is.

Diana/Wonder Woman is a role model for us all to make the right choices amongst so many easier, wrong choices.

Because I’m a nerd for literary devices, deeper meanings, and social implications I truly had a field day watching this movie. There are topics of feminism, corruption, love, choice, and so much more all in this one movie.

Feminism. I know it’s a scary word to some people. It shouldn’t be, but that’s ok. In this movie there’s a wonderful scene where Diana/Wonder Woman is told to wait outside while Steve Trevor goes into a room full of men discussing war strategies. Instead she decides to go inside and see for herself. The beautiful thing is that she doesn’t go in simply to rebel and go against traditional gender roles. She just does not understand why she wouldn’t be able to enter. She doesn’t see gender the way society does, with one gender being “superior” or “better equipped”. She sees humans as just that, humans. This is the broad goal of the equal rights movements. We are all people, humans, who should have a seat at the table and have our voices heard. It’s as simple as that. I’ve heard the insane argument that Gal Gadot was too beautiful to be Wonder Woman, that her costume sexualized her body because of its length and fit. I think that is absurd. No one flinches when male armor is crafted to fit and show off their muscles. Or if they just don’t wear a shirt at all. As far as the skirt length, let me know how this is any better? Ancient Greeks wore skirts, and if the Amazons are based off an ancient Greek society, wouldn’t it make sense that Diana/Wonder Woman also wore a skirt? For goodness sakes, there’s an entire scene dedicated to pointing out that her outfit as Wonder Woman is based off function, and that the women’s clothing she was forced to cover up with was horribly impractical. Also, nowhere in the basics of feminism does it say that women can’t be beautiful. All it says is that women should have control over how they want to look, and no man/woman/society can tell her otherwise.

Love. Steve Trevor can be argued as her love interest. And he loves her for all the right reasons. He definitely sees her as beautiful, I think everyone who has seen this movie can agree that Gal Gadot is a vision. But he is inspired by her determination, her strength, her vitality. She refuses to give up even in the face of the impossible and inspires Trevor to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of doing right by the world. There’s also the ever powerful love of family felt amongst the Amazons on Themyscira. Queen Hippolyta loves Diana/Wonder Woman unconditionally, and there is an overall feeling of camaraderie and love felt among the Amazons that keeps them functional and lends to such a deadly fighting force. There is even love among Steve Trevor’s little band. They too walk into an impossible situation not only because of the heady feeling of heroism, but because they are a family in their own right. No doubt, they’ve seen some horrific things in such a devastating war, and they have each other’s backs through the trauma.

Choice. Diana/Wonder Woman has the choice to leave her island home and venture into the world. She has the choice to go into battle when the odds seem stacked against her and her band. She has the choice to continue on being Wonder Woman even after she realizes the susceptibility mankind has to evil influence. Choice is becoming a controversial subject these days, but Diana/Wonder Woman holds true that it is an ever important right and privilege.

The social implications of this movie are undeniable. Young girls now have a new strong, fearless, determined woman to look up to. A woman in a leading role, not a supporting role. She is beautiful, inside and out. She is compassionate, she has strong morals and a level temperament. She is fearless, both as Diana and as Wonder Woman. She is not afraid to stand up for herself and those she loves, even in the face of adversity.

So why is this movie so important to me?

This movie made me laugh and cry, and for a good bit I was perched on the end of my seat impatiently waiting for more. You see, I am one of those little girls that needs to see a strong woman with a good heart battling evil. As we get older we become more jaded, more suspicious, and overall more pessimistic. Right now it is especially hard, what with the change in administration, constant conflict, and especially the changing beliefs in what rights and roles women should and shouldn’t have. Diana/Wonder Woman is a role model for me, someone that reminds me to keep fighting. Someone that reminds me to keep speaking up for myself and not letting myself be bullied by those who don’t get me, or think they know best.

Wonder Woman is more than a princess, more than a soldier, more than a woman. She is an inspirational figure for both men and women, a hero our world needs today.

15 Tips For The High School Graduate

While home for a short break between my third year at University and the start of my summer job, I was asked to give the graduating class at my high school a few post-grad tips. I’m not much of a public speaker, and on top of that I didn’t really prepare much to say. We only had a few minutes and I was nervous.

As luck would have it, on my drive home from the school I thought of a multitude of tips and advice that I wished someone would have told me after my high school graduation.

1. If you’re not going to a 4 year college, that’s okay. No one walks the exact same path. It is more than okay if you’ve chosen a path that takes you across the world, to a technical college, into military service, into the workforce, or anywhere that is not a stereotypical 4 year college.

2. Go to class. This seems like a no brainer, but when you get to college there’s a newfound independence. Only you can hold yourself accountable. Going to class isn’t always fun. In fact, a lot of times it can be very boring. But I say go to class because it’s the easiest way to learn the material you’ll need to know. The more hours you put in the classroom, the less you should have to do outside the classroom.

3. Make at least one friend in your classes. There will be days when you can’t get to class. That is life. But if you’ve become friendly with at least one person, you have someone you can call in order to catch up on information. You also have someone you can ask for help if you are not ready to go to the professor.

4. Meet your professors and TAs. I have gone whole semesters without talking to my professors. Lecture halls can hold 200+ students and that can be very intimidating. If you aren’t comfortable approaching the professor, approach the TA. Yes, they are there to make your professor’s life easier, but they are also there to make your life easier.

5. Read your syllabi. Especially if you have to sign it. Your syllabus is a contract between you and your teacher. If there is a grade dispute, you can go to your syllabus and have written proof of what was promised. Schedules and assignments will change – things happen. But if you find a grade dispute, you can reference your syllabus as evidence. (I’ve done this).

6. Prioritize. There are many aspects to this. First, prioritize what work needs your attention most. If you are struggling in a class, especially one that is imperative to your GPA or your major, you might want to consider putting that work on a higher priority than another class you are doing well in. C’s get degrees. Now, I wouldn’t aim to get a C in all your classes, because that will not turn out best in the long run. But if you’ve worked hard, and done the best you can in a crummy situation, be proud of that C. You have still passed a class. Finally, prioritize school and social obligations. By all means you do not have to be holed up in the library every night. But if you find your work slipping because you’ve chosen to ignore your academics in lieu of social encounters, you might need to take a step back and evaluate what your goals are and what it is going to take to get there.

7. Ask for help. No one expects you to be able to do everything on your own. So many mistakes are made in this stage of life, and that is okay. Do not be afraid to go to a peer, a colleague, a coworker, anyone you trust, and ask for help. Everyone struggles, but no one has to do it alone.

8. Be respectful to yourself and others. Respect goes a long way. You will get farther in life if you show the people around you respect. You are more likely to succeed with respect, and you are less likely to find yourself in trouble if you are respectful. It’s also extremely important to have respect for yourself. You deserve that.

9. Call your parents. At the end of high school most people feel like they need to get as far away from their parents as possible. You might. Sometimes some distance actually does make the heart grow fonder. Just don’t forget that your parents still love you and need to hear you say that you’re doing ok. My trick? Call your parents when you’re walking to class so you only have a finite amount of time to talk to them. You’ll be happy because you didn’t have to talk to them for an hour and they’ll be happy because you called.

10. Don’t forget about your friends from home. You’re going to meet so many new people, no matter where your path has taken you. But it is important to keep in touch with old friends. You’ll be home for a school break or something and want to see them – you can only spend so much time with your family.

11. Take care of yourself. Eating some semblance of a balanced diet is important for your health. Also don’t be afraid to go to the doctor if you feel sick. We get one body, so treat it well. The same goes for mental health. This time in your life will throw new challenges your way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to a specialist or someone you trust to discuss what is on your mind, and how you’re feeling. Maintaining good mental health is just as important as maintaining good physical health.

12. Use protection. 

13. Get involved. Find a group, club, or organization that you feel passionately about. It doesn’t have to be the biggest group, but if you care about the people, the cause, or the mission statement get involved!

14. It’s okay if your roommate situation doesn’t work out. You and your best friend might not actually be compatible to live together. It doesn’t mean you have to stop being friends. It also might not work out with the random roommate, or the roommate you talked to a couple times on Facebook prior to moving in. It happens, there’s nothing wrong with you.

15. Follow your passion. Some people’s passion is to become an engineer, businessman/woman, a scientist, a doctor, or maybe a lawyer. We need all those people. But some people’s passion is to become a musician, a composer, a film producer, or a dancer, and we need those people too. If you find yourself on a path you are no longer passionate about, it is okay to change your path. You may find yourself transferring schools, changing jobs, or changing majors and needing to stay longer in school. All of this is okay. Be proud of yourself for being true to yourself. Success is not measured on a definite scale. You determine your own definition of success, and it is up to you to achieve your goals.

Graduates, congratulations on completing such a monumental achievement. Graduating from high school is no small feat, so you should be proud. Now you’re headed onto a new chapter in your life. There is no reason that you can’t succeed so long as you are prepared to put in the work. Remember that you don’t have to do it all alone, there will always be people willing to help you.

To My Forever Friends,

We are in the throws of graduation season, where hopeful graduates turn their tassels and throw their caps. Some are heading into the “real world” with a plan; a job awaiting them and a new home to explore. Others are heading back to their parents’ houses to strategize, and still others are embarking on travel adventures for further self discovery. Whatever path is taken, it will be great.

For clarification, I am not actually graduating. I have just finished my junior year and I am simultaneously flaunting and dreading my newly acquired senior status. 

But  I watch as my social media feeds are flooded with notices of graduation and future plans, pictures of smiling faces and popped champagne bottles. Many of these faces I only somewhat recognize – friends of friends, or people I’ve had minimal encounters with, as is the nature of social media. But then there are the other faces, of friends who I see every day, friends who might as well be family. And to see those faces, radiant and confident, makes my heart swell to the point of bursting.

I am immensely proud of my friends who are graduating; my friends who are moving on to the next chapter of their lives. They’ve been a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration for my past 3 years of college. Many of these men and women I’ve known since my first year, and have substantially shaped my college experience. They’re a wide variety of people, with a wide variety of accomplishments and goals. They’ve brought diversity and understanding to my life, unknowingly influencing my choices and decisions.

While there is so much appreciated variety, I would actually like to focus on one particular group of individuals. My forever friends, my dance girls, my people. 

When you spend hours upon hours, day after day, with the same people, you are bound to have some sort of relationship with them. One would assume, since we are part of a dance program we wouldn’t get along as well as we do. One would assume that there is alway an underlying tone of competition. And I’m sure to some extent there is. But it’s not strong enough to cause distress, or keep us from being a family. Because that is what we are, family.

The seniors who are graduating from our dance program are unlike any women I’ve ever met. They are fierce, ferocious, unstoppable, inspirational. They have the ability to be blunt and honest, and still caring and kind. Maybe they don’t know it, maybe they do, but they are the reason I continue to dance. Every day I would walk into the studio, good day or bad, but it would become infinitely better upon seeing them. They inspire me every day to keep trying, to fail and to get back up, to experiment and be fearless. With them I can laugh, cry, joke, and being serious. They work harder than any other people I know, they are driven and courageous.

Each and every one of these individuals has so much to offer, and I am eternally grateful for having the opportunity to learn and grow with them. While we all share a common passion, these women bring diversity and unparalleled value to our program. I have learned so much just by listening, and watching, as they navigate through their own choices, in the arts and in the aspects of their lives I was privileged to witness.

 

I honestly believe I share a special bond with these women. They were the role models I needed to help me brave my first 3 years of college. They were some of the first people I met when I started my college stint. They have seen me in triumph, doubt, and even failure. Without knowing it, they set an example for me, one that I wanted to follow. I will miss them beyond words as they carry on and follow the paths they’re creating and discovering. But I count myself lucky just to have known them.

To my seniors of the USC Dance Program, I am immensely lucky to have known you, to have been able to call you my friends. Thank you for including me, for supporting me, for inspiring me. I am beyond excited to see what you accomplish, and to continue to support you and be your biggest fan. These words aren’t enough, I could never truly express how grateful I am to have spent 3 years together. And while your time in our program has come to a close, I refuse to acknowledge this as a good bye, because I never believe it is. Just a see you later. 

 

So forever friends, see you later.  

Let’s Dance.

A month ago, in the height of intense rehearsals and immense pressure, I had several moments where I just honestly lost my shit in front of my boyfriend. My body ached, my feet literally bled and bruised, my head was full of notes and patterns, and I was having constant internal existential crises.

After one such melt down, he just turned to me and said something along the lines of, “if it causes you this much pain and makes you ask yourself so many questions, why do you keep doing it?”

I kind of just gaped back at his question. My fatigued brain whirred around with potential answers, a few profound and a few snappy, but not a single one seemed to sum it all up. So I just shrugged and said “because”. So angsty.

But the question kept coming back to me, as much as I thought I could shrug it off.

I was beginning to ask myself why. With all the uncertainty, physical pain, emotional rollercoasters, and mind bending situations did I actually want to pursue a career in dance? And then this of course led to the internal panic attacks of how if I really didn’t want to dance, and if I chose something else, how long would I be in school, and would I have to transfer to save money? Also, what the hell would I do if I didn’t dance??

Once I got past the initial stages of internally being in hysterics and externally trying to play it cool, I started to re-evaluate.

USC Dance Company cast of Who Cares? NYCB dancers: Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, Emilie Gerrity, and Brittany Pollack

Yes, dance is usually financially unstable. I will definitely hold many jobs to keep myself alive. Yes, dance monopolizes times and often throws other commitments to the wayside. There’s a huge chance I will miss family events, or events of friends because of a dance commitment. And yes, it takes a toll on you. Definitely physically, and most likely emotionally.

But I can’t just walk away.

USC Dance Company cast of Raymonda Variations NYCB dancers: Joaquin De Luz and Megan Fairchild

Dance is a part of me the same way I say I’m from Atlanta. It has affected everything in my life. The way I carry myself, the way I process information, the way I see and hear things. Dance is the way for me to both be myself, and be a completely different person. I know I’m a complex person, and that probably is partially because I consider myself an artist. But I think in an interesting way dance has been a means of expressing the complexity.

I don’t think the complexities and challenges dance proposes should be masked. Maybe it’s supposed to look easy, but we don’t have to continue that facade when we speak about it. There are so many beautiful things that the arts have offered me, discipline, creative thinking, drive, fitness, strength of character, individuality, the list goes on. While I still plan to pursue dance in the future, I know that no matter what happens, being given the opportunity to dance in any capacity has created the woman I am today. A woman who I am still discovering, and am learning to be proud of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take It Light

So, in an unfortunate turn  of events I lost my wallet while I was out the other night. I lost everything. My drivers license, my credit card, my debit card, my insurance card, a handful of gift cards and some cash. I also lost my house key and my student ID that I use daily.

You may say “Maia, how on earth could you lose all that at the same time?” To which I answer, I have no idea.

I was having a really great night. I was out with my friends, not a care in the world, and we were having a wonderful time. Then one after another, little problems and tiffs started to arise. In my haste to leave the bar (I am 21, do not fret) I didn’t double check all of my belongings on the way out. I was sure I had my wallet and cell phone when I got in the car, and could’ve sworn I put them on the seat between me and my friend. But when yet another disaster occurred, double checking my belongings was pushed to the back of my mind. When things finally settled down, I dug around the crowded back seat and fished out my phone, only to find that my wallet was nowhere to be found.

The next day I searched every place I could think of. I called the bar I visited, I retraced my steps, I searched the car (3-5 times), and even called the police station. I enlisted help from my friends and even posted on campus wide pages. Unfortunately, as time wore on it became more and more evident that my wallet was not to be found. So I began the journey of canceling and reordering what needed to be replaced.

To be completely honest, when I first realized my wallet was M.I.A., I kind of had a meltdown, border line tantrum. Thankfully, the only person to witness my tears was my ever patient boyfriend. After he talked some sense into me I went to bed, still full of worry, and managed maybe 3 hours of sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things that were missing and the potential cost of replacing things (it wasn’t low).

Unfortunately, there is little hope that I will find my wallet. However, everything is not all gray skies.  I did realize some positive things from this little fiasco. First off, I have some pretty great friends. It’s easy to forget in the whirlwind and stressful environment that is college. But the friends I did ask for help were very sympathetic and willing to look with me. Second, I have the most amazing mother in the world. She spent close to 45 minutes on the phone with me walking me through what I needed to do to keep my accounts safe. She let me vent my stress about the situation. And she went to the store and the post office the same day to send me things I needed from home to start rebuilding the lost contents of my wallet. I also learned the hard way that you should not bring your entire wallet out with you. And you should probably carry something more substantial than a wristlet (take note girls!).

Throughout the whole process of searching, canceling, etc., a mantra my parents like to use kept crossing my mind. It goes:

“Take it light, but take it.”

Throughout this terribly inconvenient lesson, I actively tried to remind myself that yes, this sucks, but it could be worse. And this is just a small setback that I need to deal with. I lost some stuff that I would have preferred not to lose. But the important things can be replaced, and it’s not the end of the world.

Mr. Trump, President

On November 8th, 2016 Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States of America. On January 20th, 2017, he was sworn into the presidential office. In the weeks after the election results were published, conspiracy, doubt, and disappointment surrounded Mr. Trump’s ability to uphold such a dignified office. Slurs and insults were crafted and thrown his way, his nominees were heavily criticized both in their hearings as well as by the general public, and the phrase “not my president” has been splattered across social media, blog posts, and shouted at rallies and protests.

In the last 24+ hours since the presidential inauguration Women’s Marches have overtaken several major cities in the United States as well as cities abroad. Women, men and others have taken to the streets to make their opinions heard on a varying range of issues from equal pay to the right to choose to have an abortion. And of course social media is plastered with images from these marches, as well as opinions both supporting and disagreeing with the rallies and protests.

On a larger scale, citizens are already in a state of distress over proposed changes on long standing issues such as healthcare, education, environmental policy, and support of the arts. And again, social media is a platform for average citizens and people of influence alike to share their views.

As I scroll through these posts the wings on my heart beat ferociously, excited by the number of people  willing to stand up for what they believe in. But there is also a ball and chain weighing down my heart that grows heavier when I look at both the changing of our government and the people who can’t see past the radicals on both sides.

I feel torn in a million ways as I try to digest as many differentiating opinions as possible.

From here on I will unabashedly share my opinion, here’s your warning.

Women’s March
Columbia, South Carolina
Photo: Megan Brockhard

Women and men alike marched together across the globe in support of equality. Please don’t assume that the views of radical feminists are the sole views of those who spent their time marching. Please stop saying that the marches are exclusionary and that you must believe in “x, y, and z” in order to march. You can disagree on the issue of abortion, but agree on the issue of economic equality and still march. Again, I reiterate that not all those who marched are radicals. In fact I think you’ll find that a large majority of those that participated in the Women’s Marches are moderates who do not agree with all the opinions of their fellow participants. They just felt the need to speak their dissent, and these marches were the perfect platform.

Women’s March
Columbia, SC
Pictured: Chloe Evans

There are many types of feminist. Please stop shaming men and women who say they are a feminist.At its grassroots, feminism simply means believing in the equality of the sexes. You can do that in heels, boots, tennis shoes, sandals, dresses, pants, shorts, skirts, bathing suits, leotards, jerseys, makeup, dreadlocks, bald heads, long locks, tattoos, piercing, pearls, and so on.

I guess my biggest point is not every person who marched, or identifies as a feminist is a man hating, baby killing, socialist who wants women to rule the world.

Like many who marched, I have struggled to accept that Mr. Trump will serve as the 45th President of the United States of America. I cannot bring myself to call him anything besides Mr. Trump, or Donald Trump. There are a lot of things that concern me regarding the turnover of power in the White House and Congress But I’ve promised myself that I will wait and see. So many supporters of Mr. Trump have lashed back at anti-Trump criticism with statements like “He hasn’t even done anything yet”. And you know what? To a certain degree, they are correct. But I can not see him as an innocent man.

I also don’t see him as a stupid man. That’s why his empty promises, allowance of prejudice, and immature comments are inexcusable to me. Mr. Trump can argue all he wants that he never made fun of a disabled reporter. But that is not what the public saw. And instead of apologizing and using his influence to make a statement in support of the disabled, Mr. Trump went on the defensive. In fact, Mr. Trump goes on the defensive in many situations when an apology would have shown true character and strength. His defensive actions and subsequent inability to take criticism degrade my respect for him. A man that takes to Twitter every time he is criticized in a public forum is simply acting immaturely.

Trump supporters often also advocate that Mr. Trump is not prejudiced, hateful, racist, or sexist. Maybe he isn’t. But there is no doubt that a very vocal part of his following fed off hate and prejudice. During his campaign we saw his supporters heckling African Americans, calling Secretary Clinton horrible names, insulting Muslims, slandering immigrants, and more. Even if the worst was not said by Mr. Trump himself, he let the hatred of others permeate his following and did nothing to quell the anger and replace it with unity, peace, and acceptance. Mr. Trump undeniably played into the polarization that plagues our nation.

Finally, and what might concern me the most about Mr. Trump, is his view of women. He’s said it himself, Mr. Trump loves women. Apparently he can’t get enough of them. Can’t keep his hands off of them. And that makes me nauseous. Rape culture goes beyond the physical act of rape and into the way we talk to others, talk about others, interact with others. Mr. Trump’s derogatory statements about the way women look are distasteful and unnecessary. Mr. Trump’s quote “Grab them by the pussy” is abhorrent. I don’t care how old that recording is, and I don’t care the circumstances under which those words were muttered. They are disgusting. Do not rationalize it as “locker room talk”. Men and women agree that there is neither a time, nor place for such foul language to be used. Mr. Trump’s attitude towards women mostly worries me because of the position of power he has held, and the huge increase of power he has just obtained. Mr. Trump has been a respected businessman of wealth and means. He is influential, there is no doubt. So when he treats women, humans, as though they are objects, he is setting the example for others to do the same. Wether he means to or not. His actions make it seem okay for that guy in the bar to think it was okay to grab at me. His words make it seem okay for a man or a woman to verbally accost someone else about their appearance. His jokes make it seem okay to ignore a “no”, or an inability to respond.

None of that is right. A person deserves to be treated like a human being, regardless of their sex, their gender, their race, their ethnicity, the way they dress, the way they walk, the way they talk, and so on. 

For decades the White House has housed families of decorum, class, and dignity. The Clintons and the Bushes are a rare breed of political elite that had an air of regality. The Obamas are relatable, and seemed closer to the public than families with generations of politicians, but still their family maintained modesty and dignity, true class. The Obamas also exhibited humor and perseverance. Mr. Trump is known for being blunt and crass, ignoring anything reminiscent of political correctness. For many this is part of the appeal. He is seen as a noble outsider, different than the corruptible politicians that have claimed power in the past. But I believe he is sadly mistaken if he thinks he and his band of cronies disguised as appointees can bully their way into success and “purify” a system under upheaval. For the same reasons that Mr. Trump appeals to many, he is also sorely lacking in the knowledge and wisdom required to be a part of the political atmosphere.

Politics is a game of complexity. It requires hard decisions, tact, and compromise. I have not seen an inkling of that in Mr. Trump, and that is why I have a pit in my stomach and lead in my heart.

 

Aspiring dancer and amateur writer

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