Archive | September, 2014

Once a ballerina…

24 Sep

No matter where you end up in life, if you were once a ballerina, you’ll always be a ballerina.

I'm on the right, probably 8 or 9 years old in Bay Shore Ballet's production of "Peter and the Wolf."

I’m on the right, probably 8 or 9 years old in Bay Shore Ballet’s production of “Peter and the Wolf.”

I know a lot of women who were serious about dance, especially ballet, growing up and in high school—a handful who went pro, and many others who gave up ballet for one reason or another. But I’ve realized that they’re all still ballerinas somehow.

I’m still a ballerina in my head, even though I haven’t worn a tutu in years and my pointe shoes sit abandoned in my dance bag. But I remain that ballerina because of all of the important lessons I learned from my 16-plus years of ballet, and continue to learn from taking class when I can.

Me in Mobile Ballet's production of "Dracula" in 2009.

Me in Mobile Ballet’s production of “Dracula” in 2009.

You learn that failure is imminent

But you do it anyways. The likelihood that you will execute every turn perfectly or hit every balance is highly unlikely. Every step you take in a ballet class has the potential to fail, but ballerinas just go for it regardless. If they let fear of failure hold them back, they would never get anywhere. And more importantly, ballerinas learn from their failures and quickly apply what they learned. If they fall out of a turn, they make subtle shifts and changes almost instantaneously so that the next time they turn, it will be a little closer to perfect—they may get an extra rotation or hit a more graceful landing.

Although my performance was "Strings and Salsa," I couldn't resist doing some ballet.

Although my performance was “Strings and Salsa,” I couldn’t resist doing some ballet.

You are your greatest obstacle

While there is a lot of competition between other dancers in ballet, ballerinas understand that at the end of the day, you are your biggest competitor. Ballet class is an exercise in not letting yourself stand in your own way. It’s fighting against whatever physical limitations you believe you have, and learning to overcome them. I always respect and learn from other dancers I’m taking class with, but realize that to ever make any progress, I have to stop comparing myself with them and take responsibility for myself alone.

Me as a peasant girl in Mobile Ballet's production of "Giselle." One thing I don't miss about ballet is always being a peasant girl.

Me as a peasant girl in Mobile Ballet’s production of “Giselle.” One thing I don’t miss about ballet is always being a peasant girl.

You learn to fly

Jumping, leaping, balancing, even turning– you learn to defy gravity, if  just for a split second. There is nothing more satisfying than a grand allegro, soaring through the air seemingly weightless, solely because you propelled yourself there. Your success, your flight, your upward motion is entirely because you put in all of the work.

This is the most satisfying feeling in the world.

This is the most satisfying feeling in the world.

As you get stronger, it gets harder

One of my favorite teachers said that she was teaching a little girl recently and my teacher told the little girl, “You know, as you get stronger, ballet gets harder.” The little girl replied, “That’s mean!”

The cute story illustrated a point that I think is what makes ballet dancers “steel magnolias” (to mix metaphors): as you get stronger, it gets harder. The difference though, is that you can handle it, precisely because you are stronger.

When you’re a younger ballerina, you work to develop the necessary strength to go en pointe. Then ballet gets harder—you have to realign your entire center of gravity to balance on a narrow inch or two, suffer blisters, battle tendonitis, etc.

You get comfortable en pointe and then begin to learn variations and choreography. It gets harder. You need more stamina, more strength. But you can do it, because you’re stronger.

This concept applies so beautifully in life as well as in ballet, and is why I truly believe that once you’re a ballerina, you’re always a ballerina. You go through experiences—whether a bad breakup, a horrible boss, or a debilitating injury— and you get stronger mentally and spiritually. However, the stronger you get, the tougher your problems become. They seem more “real”—the stakes are higher, the consequences more dire. Earlier in life, you weren’t strong enough to handle them—the muscles in your ankles weren’t developed enough to wear pointe shoes without injury, so to speak. But you get stronger in direct proportion to the difficulty of the situation. And you learn how to do it all so gracefully. Ballerinas realize that it will only continue to get harder… the choreography grows increasingly complex or more stamina is required to last through a three-hour ballet…but at the same time, you will continue to get stronger.

Hell, if it were easy, it’d be football.



On Blogging

2 Sep

I had a great conversation today with one of my best friends who asked me for some tips on starting her own blog. She said she wanted to write to keep her skills sharp and to have some clips to show to potential editors or employers and wanted some input on content creation.

Git up, git out, and git something

The first thing I told her was to just do it. Outkast was playing on the radio today, imploring the world to “Git up, git out, and git something,” and I think that applies to many things, blogging included. Like I talked about in “Creativity Training,” it’s often more about consistency than about trying to strike gold every time.

Git up, git out, and git something!

Git up, git out, and git something!

But “gitting something” aside, how do you pick what to write about?

Write about something that you’re passionate about

That sounds self-evident, but I think for a personal project like a blog, you should absolutely be writing about things that you genuinely care about. Whether it’s something funny that happened while getting your tires changed, an interesting conversation about the relative merits of using Snapchat for advertisting, or a Norwegian band that you can’t get enough of, make sure it’s something that you can easily sit down and talk to somebody about with enthusiasm.

It's easy to wr

It’s easy to write when you’re somewhere cool and foreign, like on the Malecon in Cuba!

My blog is my baby. I love blogging. I started this blog as a travel blog to document my adventures in Mexico and Cuba and found it was easy to write about all of the crazy experiences that happen when you’re traveling. Since I’m not traveling as regularly or for long periods of time like I had been, I’m finding that I’m struggling to create my identity for my blog, but I’m also having a ton of fun because I choose to just write about whatever is on my mind.

Don’t be afraid to test out several identities and voices

            One of the most liberating parts of blogging is having a chance to experiment with your voice, style, and subject matter. One of my favorite posts I wrote was a spoof on “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie,” a silly look at the headache of trying to get a cell phone in Cuba. Another favorite was a much more serious homage to my grandmother that I wrote in the airport, tears streaming down my face while I typed.

I recommended that my friend pick out a tagline for her blog that is open-ended enough to allow her to cover a broad range of topics. Mine, “Working to Eliminate the Word ‘Bored’ From My Vocabulary,” gives me a wide enough umbrella that I feel comfortable writing about a variety of topics. I’m not constrained by the label of “This is a travel blog,” or “This is a food blog.”

That being said….

Determine what you really want out of your blog

            For me, blogging is a creative outlet. It’s more about the process than it is about the finished product. Blogging is a more fleshed-out journal—

I don’t edit my posts very heavily (I’m sure you can tell). It’s partially an exercise in writing quickly and partially a way to just say what’s on my mind. I admit that some of my posts (this one included) are incredibly self-indulgent… but let’s be real, isn’t that just a lot of writing in general? But deciding what you want out of your blog is an important first step— are you trying to create a huge network of loyal readers? Be a teacher? Inspire, amuse, entertain? Are you giving advice on a topic you’re in which you have expertise? Are you making your own recipes and sharing them? Are you chronicling your journey training to pogo stick up Mount Kilimanjaro?

This is pessimistic, but I think when you blog you need to have a healthy amount of realizing that if someone who's not your mom reads your blog, you're doing great!

This is pessimistic, but I think when you blog you need to have a healthy amount of realizing that if someone who’s not your mom reads your blog, you’re doing great!

But at the end of the day…

It’s your thing—do what you wanna do

            If you’re blogging for yourself, it should be fun. It should be YOUR thing and an extension of your personality. So enjoy!

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? If you have a blog, how are you using it? Why did it start?