Snapshots From My Memoir: The Story of A Former Dancer

“Even at my lowest point I don’t think I ever stopped loving dance, but I think it stopped loving me back. It felt like I was in a relationship with somebody who didn’t like me enough to put any effort into keeping me around, but also was too lazy to just break up with me and let me move on with my life. I was in an unhealthy, completely co-dependent relationship with chasing perfection. There was never any couples counseling for that.”

“I kept forcing myself to believe that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be happy until I was making money as a ballet dancer. My priorities became completely skewed, and I was growing more distant from the artistry that made me love dancing in the first place.”

“That was one of the first moments when I realized that my dream wasn’t to be a famous ballerina, or to be a tragically tormented artist, my dream was to be at peace with who I am.”

“Ironically, it was the people who knew me the least that kept feeling sorry for me.”

“After being in Atlanta for less than twenty-four hours, I got on the first flight back to California; I stared out the window of the plane, and there I made the resolution to quit dancing in order to take care of my mental health, my sanity, and my happiness. “

“That big prize, the one that I thought I wanted to win, was a contract with a ballet company. I never got that contract. I never met that goal, but I found something better.”

 “I turned my hobby of journaling into a passion for writing, I began painting again which I hadn’t done since childhood, I started practicing meditation, I reconnected with old friends, and I found joy in living a well-rounded life.”

“After I quit dancing professionally, I adopted a mindfulness practice, I began pursuing writing, and I finally found the time to make peace with myself.”

A Woman In The World

I am a woman in this world
Who does not quiet herself when she is told.

Life will always be dangerous
For me

He suggests standing on the edge of a cliff

In order to feel a rush of danger.
Does he know that this danger, this fear
Is what I feel

When I stand on the edge of a sidewalk?

When I enter the threshold of a public bus

Or a dimly lit street at dusk
Or when I’m told to smile

When I’m told to eat less

When I’m told to eat more

When I am looked upon Like a cheap prize

When I am told that I am wrong
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name

You want danger?
You seek adrenaline and fear? You strive for the fight?

You should try being a woman in this world

Who does not quiet herself when she is told.

Pandemic From a Dog’s Perspective

Today is Quarantine, day 300. Of course, I have no idea what any of that means, but I’ve been hearing my humans say it all day. My name is Indie, and I’m a dog. I’m a five year old Tibetan Terrier and I’ve lived with the Lohse Family for most of my life. They tell me I’m the most handsome boy around…although admittedly I have no idea what that means either. They like to throw tennis balls and feed me pancakes, and when they go to work I get to have the real fun; I chew my bone on their beds, I put my paws up on the table, and I sneak through the fence to go play with the neighborhood dogs. But for the past year, my humans have stopped leaving!

It all began one day last year. They started ignoring me just to stare at the news channels all day. They started leaving the house with strange cloths over their mouths, but would come right back with huge piles of soft paper and cans that were definitely not dog food! I have no idea why any of this has happened. I’ve tried to maintain my daytime routine of breaking all of their “dog rules”, but they always catch me, it’s like they have nothing better to do except follow me around. They are always here! Every day I stare out of the front window past the trees to see if any of the neighborhood dogs are out, I wait to see if their humans are acting as strange as mine are, I wait so long I end up resting my head on the windowsill. Whenever I start to hear the clicking sounds of my human’s lap computers I know they’re close. They sit on their couches, turn on the tv, and start clicking away; every few minutes they turn and ask me “who’s a good boy?”. I still don’t know the answer. I wonder if they know who the good boy is, I wonder if they know why I stare out of this window every day, I have so many thoughts.

Thoughts on the Future

I resent the “dance world” so much for making me believe that artistry had to come at the expense of my overall mental health. I am angry at the thoughts in my head that tell me to starve myself, deplete myself of everything except art, leave my soul with gaping wounds so that I can fill them in with dance and only dance. I wish that I didn’t still feel the urge to push myself toward the edge, I notice it creeping into my mind every time I start to feel safe and secure, although I’m not even sure whether it’s the edge of perfection or destruction. I resent the dance world for making me believe that perfection is achievable, even if it comes at the cost of ones own life. Perfection is fleeting, it is one singular moment, and every moment after that is a disappointment. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why that profession drove me so mad, because even while I was fighting for perfection, I knew how short it would be and how painful the come-down would feel. I resent the dance world for making me believe that I could prove my artistic invincibility by treating my body like shit and still be seen as “beautiful” “graceful” “angelic”.

I resent this world, and I want to resent myself for believing these things for so long, and for forcing myself to pretend to be who I wasn’t in order to stay in a race that I no longer wanted to win. But I don’t resent myself, I thank myself, because somewhere along the way I made the decision to leave that world, and I found a new one. I found a world where I could be understood and I can understand others through the written word. I found a missing part of myself in writing, and I strive to nurture that part and every other part of myself. I am proud to take care of my mental health, I am proud to heal my mind, body, and soul, and I am proud to have been accepted to the Creative Writing Program at San Francisco State University. 

Mindful Rest

I have been focusing on the idea of mindful rest, and the realization that rest (at least for myself) doesn’t automatically occur in the absence of duty, or the absence of “things to do”. Restfulness is not a state of being that I immediately tap into when my schedule clears, and it isn’t something that comes naturally to me. It takes time, it takes practice, and it takes care. For a long time I thought that the need to practice relaxation meant that I wasn’t good at it, or that I wasn’t instinctively able to relax. I dismissed the entire process, as I usually do, and I devalued the preparation and the routine that goes into being able to rest.

But I’ve been trying to remedy this.

I’ll admit that it still feels counterproductive to take the time to prepare to rest, and that doing certain things in order to not do things doesn’t make the most sense. But if I didn’t do things solely because they didn’t make complete sense, then I’d rarely do anything. I think that my new process of prepared relaxation is similar to that of making your bed when you wake up, clearing off a desk before we begin working, or doing the dishes before we start cooking. There is time involved in preparing the space, and setting the atmosphere. The time spent partaking in these rituals offers valuable benefits like peace and productivity. So if I allow myself to go through my rituals to perform other tasks like school or work, why shouldn’t I be allowed to go through my rituals to relax? 

Random Journal Entries From 2020

I wish that life didn’t feel like a race, but sometimes that’s just the way things are. My anxiety feels like an injury that keeps holding me back, but nobody accepts or acknowledges it. I’m tired of feeling like I’m forced to run a marathon where my anxiety feels like a broken leg. I’m tired of trying to tell people that I can’t keep up with every other able-bodied person because of this damn broken leg, only to have them give me a pat on the back and say “It’s okay sweetie, you’re gonna do great. You’re amazing!” I believe that I can be amazing, but I can’t do it if I’m putting all of my time and energy into a race that I’m not meant to run in, or one that I don’t even want to be a part of. I believe that everyone can be amazing. I believe that most people have brilliance in them, sometimes they just need the right tools and information to put themselves in the race that is right for them, because the best races are the ones where winning isn’t even the goal, where running feels rejuvenating and effortless. Being able to run alongside people who make you feel heard and understood, people who offer earnest compliments and honest help, is one of the best prizes there could be. 

Quitting is for Winners

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about success is that quitting is for losers. I used to subscribe to this idea, and frankly my inability to accept when it was time to leave something was one of my biggest downfalls. I was bred to believe that seeing something through till the end, even if it’s detrimental to my life and psyche, is better than leaving it. I was told in dance, I was told in school, and I was told in my relationships that quitting was an association of failure, or even worse, an association of the fear of having to work hard for something. I’ve blindly put so much effort into things that just weren’t worth it, and looking back at those experiences I don’t feel like i’m any better for doing so: I don’t feel like a winner, I feel exhausted. Putting time and effort into things that don’t bring any joy is a useless endeavor, and I felt that one of the biggest moments of growth in my life was learning when it is time to quit. 

I’ve always found it important to be able to distinguish between quitting and giving up. Quitting, at least in this context, is a conscious choice to leave a situation with the intentions of moving toward something better (better meaning more suited to you and your happiness as an individual, better is your own definition and it is always worth it to take the time to figure out what your ‘better’ is). Quitting is a diverging from one path to another, quitting is the realization that work without benefit is draining, quitting is the determination to put yourself and your future first. Giving up is none of these, giving up is usually a sign of exhaustion. And even then, exhaustion isn’t a correlation of failure either, it’s usually just your body, mind, and psyche telling you that it’s time for a break. So take a break, quit something if it’s bringing you pain, leave that path that isn’t taking you anywhere and go down a better one. I avoided quitting for so long because I was afraid of the pain of feeling like a loser. But looking back at the decisions i’ve made, i’ve realized that the wounds created by saying goodbye to something or someone will eventually heal, and that the pain of leaving something isn’t nearly as painful as realizing that you should have walked away a lot sooner.

Also here’s a picture of me and my dog to cheer you up in case this post made you sad. 

The Happiness Scale

In my lifetime, happiness has always been an ambiguous concept; I had many voices in my early life tell me that happiness was overrated and a minimal aspect of achieving success. Of course i’m writing this now and realizing how foolish that sounds, I’m sitting at my desk doing nothing more than writing and listening to soft jazz and I honestly couldn’t be happier. In this moment I am at a level ten happiness, I am the happiest that I can be. It may seem like the world is falling apart, and my life even seemed like it was falling apart three months ago, but right now I am simply happy.

Simple happiness never came naturally to me, I was always suspicious of it. For most of my life I was deeply embedded in the world of Ballet; I trained classically with a Ballet school in Chicago in the hopes of being the next prima ballerina, and went on in my early twenties to pursue Contemporary Ballet as a training student with The Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco. And Ballet is a form of perfection, not of happiness. The biggest examples of happiness that I knew of were the cheesy smiles that we plastered on our pancaked-with-makeup faces on stage.  I felt that there were more important things than happiness; I believed that technique, flexibility, discipline were all entirely more necessary in my life than happiness. Admittedly, I wish I could go back in time, grab myself by the tutu and yell “being happy doesn’t make you a worse artist!”. I can never go back and slap this common sense into me, but at least I can thank myself for getting out of that rut where I believed that artists had to be troubled and depressed in order to be successful. 

I’m very thankful that LINES Ballet taught me the value of the happiness scale, not explicitly, but in the ways that I learned how much self love and happiness brought joy and life to my artistry. My prolific instructors at that school taught me that being happy doesn’t coincide with being ignorant, it coincides with being in love with what you do everyday. Right now, it doesn’t entirely matter whether i’m on stage or sitting by myself watching the birds in my front yard, as long as I love what i’m doing then my stance on the happiness scale looks pretty good. 

Ten Things I’ve Learned In 2020

Life doesn’t have to be loud to be fulfilling

Trust is earned, not given 

My narrative arc isn’t defined by the successes of others around me  

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can solve a lot of problems 

Introverts are undervalued 

Reading is the adult’s version of make-believe

It takes time and effort to get to know yourself 

Social media is a construction of false reality 

Relationships should give you energy, not drain you of it 

Doubting your own happiness will get you nowhere

The Green Convertible

I remember seeing my first car skid around the corner as my dad drove it home from the dealership; I sat in our blisteringly hot garage and watched as that forest green 1999 Saab convertible came around the corner blaring “Back in Black” by AC/DC out of its rickety stereo system. I was too afraid to drive the car home myself, which admittedly is a terrible omen considering it was about to be mine, but my parents decided that I was old enough to start lugging my own butt to school and back every day, so I’d have to get over this fear quickly.

Dad had been around cars his entire life, he’s essentially a self-taught technician, avid mechanic, and genius of all things engines, so I knew I was in good hands when it came to choosing my first car. Naturally though, this vast vehicular knowledge and the fierce paternal instinct to put me in a safe car made choosing the right one quite the ordeal. I wanted a 1969 Chevelle with tan leather bench seating, and Dad wanted something that wasn’t a death trap that gets four miles to the gallon.

We settled on that dark green convertible Saab, which kept me safe for many years. Unfortunately though, despite the many quirky features of the car that captured my intrigue at the dealership, the stereo system did not. CD’s had just faded out of style, and we were entering the auxiliary cord movement; nearly every friend’s car I stepped into has that seductive cord laid out along the center console waiting for an iPod to be plugged in. The Saab, however, did not have such modern contraptions; after taking a visit to the dealership to look at the car for the first time, my heart sank gazing into the dark slot on the dashboard. Was I seriously about to be left with an empty CD player and not one tolerable CD to my name? To put it lightly, every CD I owned was from elementary school and had the word “Disney” somewhere in the title. We went home that night and I saw my bleak future, a future of music-less drives, and in my sad stupor I went to my dad and told him of my teenage troubles.

I had prepared the speech in my head, the one that was going to convince him to choose a different car and save me the humiliation of driving to school while playing either static AM radio or “Disney Mania 6”. He cut my story short, and ran to the garage with a spark of excitement in his eye. I droopily followed the sounds of rustling boxes coming from the garage to find him proudly holding a box of CDs I had never seen in my life. He set down the box and invited me over to start rummaging, excitedly pulling out the albums of Blondie, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Devo, Madonna and many others that I can’t even remember. Despite my skepticism, Dad went to slide the first CD into the massive garage sound system, and by the first song I was completely hooked. “Holy crap, I didn’t know music could be this good?!” I remember shouting over the chorus of Blondie’s “Call me”, I could hear every instrument of the band individually, but layered together they created the absolute coolest and most badass music I had ever heard. Every repetitively churned out pop song I had listened to before seemed like a distant memory, I no longer wanted to cling to the newest chart-topping pop hits, because I had the power of classic rock and what Dad just calls “good music” on my side. This new love of music and of Dad’s carefully curated album collection sparked more excitement over my new car than I could have imagined. I was ready to pull up to school in that quirky convertible, blasting CD’s that were nowhere near the end of their time like I had previously thought. I was ready. When the next week finally caught up to us, and Dad was on his way back from picking up my new car, I remember the instantaneously joy I felt when I heard the music rounding the corner, so loud it nearly raddled the side mirrors off, in the best way of course. 

Great enough even for ‘The Great Gabsby’

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