On Embracing Discomfort
The first time I went to a professional dance class in NYC after a 2 1/2 year break from musical theatre and dance, I emerged from the class, well...hopeless. I went home and cried, because I was convinced I just didn't have it anymore. It? What it takes. I just couldn't keep up in the class, and was probably the worst dancer in the room. I completely humiliated myself. On top of the embarrassment, I soon discovered my voice was stale. And I forgot how to act. Perfect. I felt... flat, uninspired, and utterly behind. Most of my friends were on national tours, off-broadway, starting their own studios, etc. I stood in line with other seasoned professionals who had conquered the art of auditioning years before me, and years later, still await their moment in the sun. I am just not that patient. I want results—now. Ha!
But I continue to go to dance class (coaching, lessons) no matter how painful, not only because I love the art form, but because I have learned a valuable skill: how to be awesome at being uncomfortable, how to sit in a pool of humiliation and still love myself and what I bring to the table. After months of attending class and knowing I am the weakest link in the room, forgetting step after step, I suddenly noticed something—I don't care as much! I am becoming a better dancer, yes—but more importantly, I am getting better at handling chaos, at being uncomfortable, at being weak and finding the center of concentration where you decide to work your butt off anyway for that unforeseen future where you are going to be the BEST in the freakin' room! I am learning the value of working through that dip that all artists go through- the bridge from being bad at something to flourishing in your creative freedom. Am I a pro dancer yet? No way jose. But I will be.
Just the other day, my ballet teacher reminded me that hard work DOES pay off. You really can change your destiny. You can start something late in life and turn yourself into a world-class representative of that thing. She told me that her mom started ballet when she was 31 years old. Did she work hard? Yes, everyday. And because of that, she traveled the world as a professional ballet dancer. What? Ballet, of all crafts, is known for being impossible unless you start in the womb. And she didn't just become good. She became GREAT. And she STARTED at 31 years of age! Are you familiar with how cut throat professional ballet can be? If not, definitely check out this amazing documentary directed by Sarah Jessica Parker called City Ballet. Good stuff.
So, no, it isn't too late for you. It isn't too late for me. If you are in that uncomfortable stage in your craft, career, or life (whether it be as an artist, small business owner, or mother), then chances are you are in the right place. What you do next is crucial. Keep working, keep breathing, keep loving your dreams and yourself, and you WILL achieve them. We have to believe that’s true. The point of discomfort is probably the most important. And I haven’t always been good at sitting in it. I usually run, far away, and sometimes I still do, but again, what you do NEXT is the most important part, and how you handle discomfort really does matter. So shall we all be great big balls of mess together and get on with our dreams?