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The Quixotic Appeal of Hamilton

26 Dec

I may never be in the room where it happens…and that’s ok.

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Like hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of other Americans, I am dying to see the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” I’ve dutifully watched the PBS documentary on it’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Eagerly listened to the singles from the mixtape as they dropped. Applauded the cast for their appeal to Mike Pence during a curtain call at a NYC show.

I’ve got Hamilton fever. And it feels pretty good.

It’s something to commiserate with certain friends over—a game to talk about what we’d have to be able to give up just to score a scalped $500 ticket to a weekday matinee.

“If I just ate nothing but beans for a whole month, didn’t run the heat or AC, used just one solar-powered flashlight and donated plasma 6 times, I think I could totally swing it. I’d be so regular too!”

It’s a way to connect with higher rolling friends.

“I heard American Express Platinum Card Members can get face value tickets to two shows in 2017, but you can only buy those tickets if you’ve spent like $50,000 in a month with American Express. So can you hook me up?”

It’s opening up the potential to travel to places besides New York, Chicago, or San Franciso, and experience shows besides Hamilton.

“Season ticket holders to the performing arts center in Charlotte are GUARANTEED dibs on tickets to Hamilton. So if I just buy tickets to three shows I don’t really want to see in a city I don’t really want to visit, I can get Hamilton tickets!”

It’s encouragement to be charitable.

“If I donate $5,000 to Planned Parenthood, I could potentially win tickets to THREE Hamilton shows. And I get a signed CD!”

It’s helping me break my addiction to Facebook—instead of trolling my newsfeed and seeing what a bunch of people I don’t care about are doing, I troll Ticketmaster.

“Surely a Wednesday 2 pm show in the middle of August would have a ticket available for under $400….Nope. Hmmm…. Let me just try a few more searches. Just a few more hours.”

It’s making me consider using hoarded Skymiles to take multiple trips to New York City. And actually learn how to make statistical calculations.

“If I go for three days once every three months and enter the Hamilton lottery for every show while I’m there, then what are my odds of finally hitting the jackpot and getting those $10 front row seats?”

Since I’ve never seen Hamilton I can’t say this for sure, but the quest to try to see Hamilton seems like almost as much fun as actually seeing it. It feels like trying to get the Golden Ticket, but for an elaborate re-imagining of our nation’s history with rap battles and choreography instead of a chocolate factory.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Hamilton, but I’m getting to the point where I’m so wrapped up in the quest, the desire to see Hamilton, that I wonder if there’s any way it could actually live up to the hype.

I’m sure I’ll see it eventually….I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m willing to wait for it and I’m sure that I’ll leave satisfied.

Entrepreneurship and the Elusive “Enough”

29 May

I’ve realized that I have a pattern of striving for the elusive “enough.”

What does “enough” mean? I love words, so I turned to my handy friend Dictionary.com, and learned a definition of enough:

“In a quantity or degree that answers a purpose or satisfies a need or desire; sufficiently.”

This gave me pause and made me really look at what I’m doing. I’m constantly berating myself for not “doing enough,” “being good enough,” “making enough money,” caught in a maelstrom of “You are not enough.” It’s the double-edged sword of being a motivated person—you are always working toward the next goal and you tend to get quite a bit done, but it never, ever feels like “enough.”

As an entrepreneur, or anyone who is self-employed or embarking on some self-directed activity, it’s really hard to know what is “enough.” It’s not like you have a boss evaluating your performance every quarter or really anybody giving you feedback about what you’re doing. The beautiful, and terrifying, part of it is that you have to decide what your purpose, need, or desire is, and then go about figuring out how to satisfy it sufficiently.

Which, in case you’re wondering, is really hard. Because there’s this insidious part of your psyche that’s always looking around and seeing what other people are doing or have done and comparing your efforts to others. “Oh. Her website looks ten million times better than mine.” “Oh, his product is selling like hotcakes.”

I know that I get caught up in this game of constant comparison to people who are not doing the same thing that I’m doing. In fact, NOBODY is doing the same thing that I’m doing. I can be inspired and learn from others, but at the end of the day, I have to look at my real purpose.

Why did I even start my own business? What am I trying to achieve? I started my business because I feel so strongly about dance and about getting other people to dance, that I truly do not understand what else I would be doing. I love my work. I love my job. The moment I knew I was doing the right thing was when all my days of the week held equal value—Mondays are as good as Fridays to me.

I have to evaluate my purpose—to get other people dancing and as fired up about dance as I am. I get caught up in the numbers game—“Oh, only a handful of people came to that class,” or “Only a few people liked that Facebook post.” I have to remember that I love every person I get to interact with—it’s FUN. Every person I work with is truly special to me. There’s no greater feeling than having people smiling and moving to the music because I helped them get there. I was looking at pictures from my first big event, “Spirits and Salsa,” and was totally blown away by how HAPPY all the guests looked in the pictures. If that’s not enough, I really don’t know what is.

When you’re feeling like you’re not “enough,” can you go back to your purpose? If you’re clear about you’re purpose, I have a feeling you’ll find that what you’re doing is more than enough.

Beat of your own drum is boring

17 May

I always hated when people told me I marched to the beat of my own drum. Because that’s a cliche. And if I were *really* moving to a sound that has yet to be heard by someone else on a percussive instrument of my own design, then I wouldn’t be able to be defined by a cliche.

But recently, I had an epiphany. The reason people needed to describe me with such a trite expression was simply because nothing else existed to describe me.

And that doesn’t apply to just me.

It applies to anyone who strikes out on their own. Anyone who has something to say or express in a way that isn’t “in line” with what society deems acceptable.

Which is, in my experience, almost everyone.

But for some odd reason, we (myself included) don’t have the balls to truly go and make our own noise. We’re content to be told that we are marching to the beat of our own drums when that’s not the case, we are waltzing to the fucking concerto of our own philharmonic symphony. Or  [insert movement] to the [insert sound] of your own [insert musical instrument/grouping/style].

You get my drift.

So what this has led me to realize is that to really do the things you want to do, to be yourself, you have to be completely synchronized with your idiosyncratic rhythms.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on finding my own rhythms. Everyone functions optimally at a different rhythm. Some people do best when they wake up at 6 am, others when they go to bed at 6 am. Some do better eating three meals a day, others need eight. It’s really easy to get pigeonholed into other people’s rhythms. Some people operate FABULOUSLY on the 9 am to 5 pm schedule. Others (like me) do not.

I’m learning to respect my rhythms and use them to my advantage, so that I can harness the power of my most productive hours and not try to force myself to work when what I really need is a nap (yeah, don’t expect me to do anything worthwhile at 4 pm).

Being YOU, getting YOUR stuff done the way that only YOU can do it means high-stepping to the sound of your own polka band.

If you will.

It’s doing you to the nth degree. It’s staying in your pajamas until 10 am on a Tuesday because that’s what you need to do to get that newsletter written. It’s sipping a glass of wine on the patio while balancing your books, because otherwise, they will never get done. It’s taking a nap at 3 pm so you can teach and rehearse until midnight.

So yes, others may look at your daily schedule and feel some confusion. The only way they may be able to describe how you operate is “Hm. She sure marches to the beat of her own drum.” You can smile and nod politely, waiting for them to come up with a more creative (and accurate) way to describe your existence. But don’t wait too long…it’ll surely throw off your timing.

Sit Down. I Am Not For Your Consumption.

27 Apr

“Excuse me, is it Mardi Gras?” A man I’d guess to be at least in his mid-40s approached me and asked me.

“Ummm. No. I’m just dressed like this for a corporate scavenger hunt,” I replied, turning back to the bar. I was wearing a white, fringed flapper dress, a sequined-feather headband, leopard-print high heels, and rocking some seriously smoky eyes.

It was about 4 in the afternoon on a Saturday and I was tasked with sitting at a bar and when the teams on the scavenger hunt came in and gave me the speakeasy code word, I handed them an envelope with a voucher for sweet tea vodka shots from the bartender. As far as gigs go, it was pretty easy. Sit in a bar, look cute. Pass out envelopes. I was enjoying myself, until that gentleman who asked me if it was Mardi Gras decided to sit down next to me and proceeded to attempt to woo me with a series of increasingly bizarre comments.

“We just came from Kiawah and the Ferrari Club. Do you like sports cars? Do you like fast cars?”

“No. I don’t care. I have a Prius.” I deadpanned, “I really don’t care how I get from point A to point B as long as I get there.”

“So, what do you do?” he leaned on his elbows and gave me what I guess he imagined to be a winning smile.

“I’m a professional dancer.”

“Oooh. A dancer?” He raised his eyebrows and looked me up and down. “I can tell.”

“Get this,” he says, opening Facebook on his phone. “My wife is in Jamaica. She just took the maid and went to Jamaica without telling me. I found out because she posted it on Facebook.” He showed me a picture of a blonde woman who I guessed to be about 30. “Can you believe that?”

I looked at him. “I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to answer that. That sucks man.”

He would punctuate his stories by touching my shoulder, knee, waist, and at one point, my derriere. I was zero-percent amused. But I was also in a bind. I was working. I was waiting for the rest of the teams to come through. I had been specifically instructed to sit at that area in the bar and didn’t really have any other options, any other places to go. I had gotten a ride and was waiting for the gig to end and for my friend to pick me up…I had never felt so stuck.

Luckily, there were two girls sitting on the other side of me who I knew were looking out for me. They talked to me, let me angle myself toward them so I could direct my attention to them and ignore the man.

After what felt like an eternity (but I think was only an hour total), the man and his friend got up and left. The girls sitting next to me raised their eyebrows.

“We didn’t hear all of that, but that was bizarre.”

Tell me about it.

If I had just been wearing jeans and a t-shirt, if I didn’t have a lot of makeup on, that man would have not paid me that kind of attention. He wouldn’t have felt the license to be all up in my business, to be touching me, trying to flirt with me, trying to get me to go out on his boat or in his sports car. But since I was dressed up and alone, he decided that I was sending out some signal that said “Hey man who is probably my dad’s age…Come and get it.” Which I was definitely NOT.

“So, what are you doing later tonight?” He asked me before he left.

“I’m going to a party.”

“Do you have a date?”

“Yes of course.”

“You gonna call me if he cancels?”

I looked him straight in the eyes. “Do I look like someone who a date would cancel on?”

So this whole event made me really think. I saw a picture on Facebook recently where a woman was standing nude with a sign that said, “Still not asking for it.”

We as women are NEVER, EVER “asking for it.” I did my best to deflect his creepiness, but to me it was such a great illustration of how some men just think that because a woman is dressed a certain way, they have free reign to act like idiots. Usually when I go out, I’m with other people and more likely than not, out dancing. I keep the creeps at bay because I’m surrounded by guys that I know. I also think being a good dancer creates a good “fuck off” bubble. I realized that we women unconsciously run through a mental checklist evaluating every scenario to keep ourselves safe—am I dressed appropriately? Do I have a friend nearby? How am I getting home? Does my phone have enough battery? Does at least one person know where I am?

At the end of the day, I could really only feel sorry for that man. Sorry that he was in so much pain about his wife boosting that he had to try to make himself feel better by bothering me. I don’t usually say this about people, but he was a little pathetic. I wasn’t concerned—it was the middle of the day and I knew the bartender and those girls were looking out for me. If I had been in different circumstances, I would have simply got up and left or whipped out the Krav Maga. As a petite, white, female, I understand that there are certain situations I should not put myself in. Yeah, it kind of sucks that we can’t walk around anywhere at anytime dressed any way, but that is the reality of the world we live in. I just didn’t think that being dressed like a flapper at 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon would be one of those situations I should avoid.

Live and learn?

Ladies, what do you think? Have you experienced something like this before? Unfortunately, I have a feeling that every single one of you will say “YES.” Guys—how can we eradicate this behavior?

Waffles are for Breakfast

15 Mar

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I’m an extremely decisive person, sometimes to a fault. I make up my mind about something and I’m going to do it, dammit. I don’t like waffling around. It sucks precious time and energy that could be used for any number of things. Sleeping. Socializing. Organizing your spice rack.

Decision-making is a skill. One of my mentors and friends taught me that and it made me realize that a lot of people need to polish those skills. Or acquire them in the first place.

It’s easy to get caught up in your own mind. To get so wrapped up in all of the pros and cons of any decision that you become paralyzed. I see this constantly in myself and my friends regarding major decisions—like making a career change—and every day decisions— like what outfit to wear for a certain event.

It’s a “grass is greener on the other side” complex. #FOMO.

I’ve been going through a phase where I need constant validation from friends and family regarding my decisions. “Is it terrible that I’m going to stay in tonight and just cuddle with the dog and eat Oreos instead of go out dancing?” I’ve needed other people to say “Nah, it’s fine. You’re not going to be missing anything important.”

But what if I am?! What if I miss the best night of dancing of my life? What if I say “no” to a job opportunity that could be my dream job? What if I make the wrong decision?

Yeah…what if? And so what?

Making effective decisions is an exercise in self-confidence, knowing yourself, and not apologizing for living life the way you choose. It’s hard to be clear about what you want and where you’re trying to go, and you don’t necessarily need to have your entire life planned out to be able to make effective decisions. But like I wrote in “Imma quote Nike here…” just do it.

Part of decision-making is being able to deal with the outcomes from your decisions. You know what? Yeah, you might have accepted a job that actually kind of sucks. The cool thing about decisions is that you don’t have a limited number of them that you’re allowed to make in your lifetime. You can always follow a decision that didn’t necessarily work for you with another decision that might. There are few things that are truly permanent (I mean, really guys, by the time you want to get your tattoos removed, I think technology will have caught up enough for it to be cheap and relatively painless).

So go out there and be decisive. Don’t hem and haw. Don’t stress yourself out and waste time that would be better served doing something that will give you energy and help you move toward a goal. Or at least will free up your time to write that “Thank You” card that you forgot to write after Christmas or, idk, exercise.

Of course it’s happening in your head…but why on earth should that mean it’s not real?

28 Feb

 Once I have a conversation more than three times in a week about the same subject, I decide it’s time to write a blog post about it. The recurring topic this week was all about choices, reality, and being responsible for your life.

I have a few snippets from songs and quotes that have been looping through my brain related to this subject. One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite artists, Janelle Monae, is “You’re free but in your mind, your freedom’s in a bind.”

Let that sink in.

I see it everywhere. In myself and in others. It’s so easy to feel stuck—to think you are in an inescapable situation. A job that you just can’t quit. A relationship that you just can’t leave. A negative thought pattern about yourself that you can’t stop. I call BS. Every day you make a choice to continue those actions.

Yes, we live in a culture where there are societal norms. Yes, we are taught that the path to success looks a certain way or that we should strive to have certain things—a “good” job, a “great” relationship, an adorable dog.

But every day you wake up and choose to go through the motions of your life. Nobody is forcing you to do anything really. Yes, bills need to get paid, food needs to be eaten, we can’t all just sit around and binge watch “Orange Is The New Black,” on Netflix, but regardless, we have an incredible amount of freedom in our lives.

Nobody is forcing you to do anything. I had to repeat that because it’s so important. You are unequivocally in charge of your existence. You can’t control the world, but you can choose how you are going to live within it.

I’m a firm believer that the biggest obstacle in your path is yourself. I hold myself back constantly… “Oh, I can’t write a novel because I don’t write fiction,” or “I can’t make a website because I don’t have any design skills.” Any number of ridiculous and limiting excuses will come up when I want to do something— all created and plated by moi.

So we have the power to hold ourselves back indefinitely, but the flip side of that is that we have an amazing power to create our own realities. For me, the best illustration of this comes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Dumbledore says, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

I’ve already written about how Dumbledore is a very yogic figure (“Guru Dumbledore”), so I won’t get into that, but his words are striking.

You’re in the driver’s seat. This is your life. What’s in your head doesn’t have to stay there…it can be your reality. “You’re free but in your mind, your freedom’s in a bind.”

Take action to live fully and freely. How have you put your own freedom in a bind? Am I being too idealistic? Too millennial? Is our society not as free as we think it is?

In the Valley

16 Feb

         Depression is a somewhat taboo subject in our society, but it’s something that we all go through and shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about. I’ve been in the valley for the last few months—depressed, drained, exhausted and generally not myself. Accomplishing the littlest tasks took an incredible amount of willpower and hitting the snooze button for at least an hour every morning before dragging myself out of bed became the norm.

I had weekends where I spent all day in bed, watching T.V. or reading, beating myself up for being lazy and withdrawn but feeling unable to get up and do anything about it. I felt stressed and apathetic, alone yet over-stimulated by the demands of friends, family, and work. At my parents urging, I started seeing a psychiatrist and have been actively working on well, myself.

I believe we’re not taught to take care of ourselves. Our value is measured on what we accomplish—how many widgets we produce daily, how many meetings and tasks we can cram into a week. We’re not taught that you don’t have to push yourself to breaking to be successful. We’re constantly connected, expected to be on point and available almost 24 hours a day. I got caught up in the overwhelm, unable to let myself slow down and just breathe. My energy dragged and I found out that I was anemic. I think it was my body trying to force me to stop, to reexamine what was and wasn’t working for me.

I’ve been working every day on trying to restore balance. The only way to get right with yourself is to get to know yourself. I’ve been focusing on introspection and self-awareness, spending time to check in and really examine what’s going on. It’s not necessarily comfortable. It’s not easy. It takes time, effort, and discipline, but the payoff is that I’m starting to feel like myself again.

A mentor of mine recommends a morning success routine that involves spending five minutes just free writing. “Downloading” whatever is in your brain. I’ve started doing that, and just scribbling down a few pages of stream of consciousness over a cup of coffee has transformed the way that I approach every day. I get things out on paper and I start to find patterns, I pick a theme for the day and focus on it as I go about my activities. I can’t recommend that ritual enough, and I am eternally grateful I’ve adopted it.

My best friend told me about a study where people were paired up and asked each other a series of questions and the study showed how feelings of intimacy were rapidly increased by asking those questions. One of my favorites was “If you knew you only had a year left to live, what would you do differently?” Thinking about that question has radically shifted the way I view my life. If I knew I only had one year left to live, I would love every moment, express gratitude for everything I had, and honestly just not really care as much. I’m not advocating being irresponsible or unreliable,but it’s the whole idea of not being attached to the outcome. Just do your thing and keep moving.

I’ve been in the valley but I think I’m on the upswing. I’ve felt like this before and I know I’ll feel like this again, but without the lows, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the highs. This post is for anyone who has been depressed, anxious, burnt-out, or just over it…so, everyone basically. Just take care of yourself, because honestly—nobody else will.