Growing Up is Hard: If Not Dancer, Who Am I?

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How do we define who we are?

Am I my past? What I’ve done, where I’ve been, the things I’ve seen…

Am I my future? My goals, my plans, my dreams, my aspirations…

Am I the present? My job, my daily activities, the here and now…

I think one of the most challenging parts of life is answering the question, “Who am I?”. The answer is almost constantly changing because so often we define ourselves by the present. Today, I am an arts administrator, a commuter, a blogger. But that is all surface stuff. My job, my daily activities, the here and now.

Who am I really?

A traveler, a lover of arts and culture, a reader, a writer, a singer, a dancer, a performer, a yogi, a fitness enthusiast. I’d like to think so. But sometimes I’m not so sure. I have been struggling with this “who am I” question recently because of the dance recital I just participated in over the weekend. For the first time in literally my entire life I don’t feel like I can use the word dancer to define myself anymore and realizing this is causing me to question… well… everything.

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 You see, my parents enrolled me in dance when I was two and a half. I was never the best. I couldn’t jump the highest or spin the fastest, but I loved moving and shaking and being on stage. I took tap, jazz and ballet classes and performed in the year end show for a total of 15 years.

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Then I went away to university and got involved in the school dance club, as well as the theater club. It was a different stage with different people but I was still on stage, doing what I loved.

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When I moved home from school for the summer after my first year I decided that I missed dancing on my stage, with my friends. So with permission from my studio owner I put together a group of alumni and we took to the stage. The alumni dance group successfully came together for four years. It was so fun to pick our own music, create our own choreography and enjoy the rush of recital weekend again. 528810_10151254170914638_988242742_n

And then one day it became more important to work on my grades, or my choral music, or whatever else. It wasn’t something I consciously decided, but one day I just wasn’t dancing anymore. Life just got in the way, I guess. However, I still considered myself a dancer. Dance had always been a part of who I was, why did that have to change just because I wasn’t dancing anymore?

This weekend that all changed. The short version of the story goes like this. The alumni group have been inactive for one year. People were missing it and since I lead the helm in the past everyone turned to me to start things up again. Reluctantly, I did. I say reluctantly because I’ve got a lot going on now, as I said before, life just gets in the way sometimes. But I managed to pull it all together… until it all collapsed, of course. Two months before the recital and a week before rehearsals were to start 4 of the 6 people backed out. It went from being a group number to a duet in minutes. They all had excuses but to me it was bull shit. Then two weeks before the recital my partner tore her thigh muscle. Yup it is every bit as painful as it sounds. Her doc isn’t sure yet if she will need surgery, but dancing was off the table… And then there was one. I wasn’t prepared to be on stage by myself, I was nervous and out of practice, my turns were a mess and my jumps were lousy. But my studio owner was expecting me to be there, so there was no way I could back out now.

I performed. It was fine. The dance was dull and uninspiring with only one but there wasn’t much I could do about that. All the reasons I loved dancing were not present this time around. There was no energy, no social aspect, no fun. For the first time in my whole life I felt out of place in the theater. I felt foolish for trying to hold on to a part of my life that was so obviously over. And I felt lost. I had always been a dancer. So much had changed, hell, everything had changed at some point or another and I was always a dancer and now for the first time, I wasn’t. So that begs the question, if not dancer, who am I?

I suppose I am still all those other things listed above. I am still a sister, a daughter, a girlfriend, a best friend. I am still energetic, fun, outgoing, smart, passionate, stubborn, ect. I know this and yet, I’m scared. Scared of changing and losing the pieces of me that I have come to recognize and define myself by.

Maybe that makes me scared of the future. Maybe that makes me scared of myself.

Maybe that just makes me human.

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Growing Up Is Hard: “We’re looking for someone with a little more experience”

I am just going to take a moment to tell you a little bit about my career journey & aspirations.

The Beginning

For a very long time I imagined that I would attempt to make a career out of performance. A lovely dream but that is all it was, a virtually unattainable dream. Not to worry, I still get my fair share of recreational performance opportunities with choir. While I had decided not to pursue the life of a starving artist, I couldn’t let go of the idea of working in and around the arts. I loved to share with people about the value of the arts. So how could I make a job out of that? Go in to artistic administration, that’s how! Upon completing my undergraduate degree I enrolled in a post-graduate program that specialized in what is called “arts management”. I spent a year studying volunteer management, marketing, communications, finance, board relations, fund raising, event coordination, and more, all in relation to the artistic industry in Canada. My program also included an internship. Here I learned so many practical, on hand skills. I really felt prepared to enter the work force when I finished the program.

The Middle

The good thing about working in the arts is that not very many people are in the field. The bad thing about working in the arts is that there are even less jobs than people. Still, I managed to secure myself a comfortable entry level position in the fund raising department of an opera company.Fund raising, or development (the fancy word for fund raising), is one area that always seems to need more people. Because the fund raisers bring in the money and the arts will always need more money. I’d like to clarify that by fund raiser I do not mean that I knock on peoples doors and ask for spare change, no, I work in an office and manage the accounts of people who donate on an annual basis. There’s more to it than that but I don’t want to get too complicated as it’s not the point. The point is that I am learning a lot, I’m gaining experience and I do enjoy my job. BUT this is just the starting point, this isn’t my be all, end all. I have come to discover that I love, and I mean LOVE event planning and coordination. Events are a very special aspect of fund raising. Events are risky because you have to put money into them and hope that you will raise enough money to cover your expenses and still turn a profit. But that is also what makes them so exciting! Mostly I enjoy the act of seeing something through, beginning to end. It starts with the planning, then to the inception, then the day-of coordination, and its all to raise money for something that I am super passionate about, the arts! I suppose I could be any type of event planner but I like the idea of doing things for a worthy cause.

The Unfinished Ending

In my office there are two women who make up the Events team. One of them, the secondary, is about take a year long maternity leave. So I decided to apply for her contract. In one sense taking a contract when I have a full time position is kind of dumb, because in a year I’d be unemployed. But it was a risk I decided to take because the experience would be worth it. So I spiffed up my resume and completed an interview. All in all I think it went well. However, I didn’t get the job. Not a huge deal, as I still have my full time position, but it was still rather disappointing. Mostly I was bothered by the reason they gave me, “We’re looking for someone with a little more experience”. I find this reason absolutely infuriating. I’m not saying its a bad reason, it is just so wildly frustrating! How am I to gain experience if no one will hire me for the job which will give me experience? It is a cruel cycle. Sure, this is just one hiccup on my journey to success, there will be other opportunities and you can bet that I will be first in line to take them. I know that perseverance and hard work will win out in the end, but that doesn’t make the pill any easier to swallow today.

Growing Up is Hard: The Backpack

This morning I was sitting on the train and after easily storing my backpack beneath my seat I was enjoying some morning people watching… As one does at 8 am on a Wednesday. Usually when I people watch (which is more often than I’d care to admit), I like to imagine what type of job people are going to based on their clothing. As it is currently the dead of winter and everyone is wearing coats and hats, this game is not quite as fun but I still find myself watching. Today, I watched a woman fight her way through the crowd with a very large faux leather purse, an even larger tote bag and a lunch box. That’s right, 3 bags! She was knocking into people, she couldn’t walk in a straight line and when she finally found a seat she struggled to sit with all three of those big bags on her lap. And I found myself thinking, “Wwwwhhhhyyyy? No purse is not worth that struggle! What do you even have in there, woman?!”

I would be willing to bet money that what she has in all those bags is still less or equal to what I carry in my easy to store backpack. Today for example my backpack contains the following:

  • iPad Mini
  • 600 page novel (currently book marked on page 447)
  • 3 granola bars
  • My glasses
  • A pair of black heels and a pair of black flatsgraphics-dora-the-explorer-162890
  • My makeup case, my Naked eye shadow pallet and a hair brush
  • Water bottle
  • Two 420 mL containers of hearty chicken soup
  • Lip gloss, lip balm, hand lotion, nail polish and a nail buffing block
  • My wallet

That, my friends, is a lot of stuff. But it all fits comfortably inside my handy dandy backpack, most days you will also find running shoes and gym clothing in there as well. So basically this is how I feel when I’m wearing my backpack.

While I love how I feel in my backpack, I don’t love how I look. My backpack is old, worn out, faded and dirty. I’ve had this thing since my second year of university and it has served me well. But I’m not a student anymore, I may not feel like a grown up yet but I do have a grown up job, so I guess I need to start acting and dressing like a big girl. The backpack makes me look young, I am well aware of this fact. In the mornings there is a group of high school kids who take the same bus as me and I have the same bag as at least half of them. It is marginally embarrassing…

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The problem is that I’m not willing to give up my backpack without a suitable replacement. Obviously I carry a lot of stuff with me on a daily basis. I would cut back but lets be real, on a good day I’m out of the house for at least 12 hours so I need a lot of things and the last thing I want to do is spend 12 hours looking like this. Literally nobody wants that.

So I’ve tried a variety of different options and none of them have won me over. Maybe I’m too picky, but maybe those bags just suck.

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The Tote Bag

Adorable but fits virtually nothing… also hello shoulder pain

Folding-Travel-Bag-Foldable-font-b-Duffel-b-font-Tote-font-b-Carry-b-font-SackThe Duffle Bag

Seriously, look at the size of that thing. That is not even slightly practical.

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The Purse

Nothing fits in a purse. Nothing. Not my books, not my shoes, not my lunch. Therefore the purse is dead to me.

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The Briefcase

My dad carries a briefcase and therefore I do not. Nuff said.

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The Backpack

How awesome does this girl look with her backpack?! Her stuff fits, she is comfortable and she looks great. I rest my case. The backpack is and always will be the way to go. Now I just need to find a backpack that says “mature but fun” and “youthful adult”. Wish me luck!

What bag do you carry? Share in the comments!