I felt the need to write. It's been a while since I've written much of anything, and considering I have this platform, I may as well make use of it... FOREWARNING: this read is not pretty... this read won't fit '140 characters' and will exceed the '1-minute maximum', so if that level of reading and comprehension is your standard 'cup of tea', this read is definitely not for you - much love to ya, but I genuinely don't want to waste your time...
Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, here we go...
'It's 12:22am, June 27th and I still haven't paid my rent... fuck. What're my roommates thinking at this point?? How can I let them down like that?? These are my friends... I can't take advantage of their generosity - thats so unfair to them and inadvertently puts me in a vice-grip of pressure WHENEVER I'm around them. I barely have $100 to my name right now - this is so fucking embarrassing, uncomfortable and painfully familiar... I can hear my dad's voice now giving me a nice paraphrased 'i told you' speech right about now. And then there's her... so beautifully sprawled across her side of the bed, letting out small whimpers that resemble a snore, her feet peaking from the sheets, slightly tangled with our numerous electronics that're charging up for the busy day ahead... I can't let her down. The even rhythms of her breathing signal that she's sound asleep, yet I feel like I'm suffocating her with the pressure I'm passively putting onto both of us. She's so special to me and I refuse to allow financial hardships and self doubt come between us. She deserves better - we deserve better.."
These are just a few of the thoughts that flood my mind right before I smoke myself into a cannabis induced nirvana state of relaxation... You see, a few months ago, I truly 'put myself out there' - quit my 9 to 5 gig, and after some mix-ups with another potential job, I decided to FINALLY pursue my dance career 100% of the time. I'd been in LA for almost 7 years and had yet to see or feel what it'd be like to whole-heartedly go after my dreams of being a professional choreographer. I knew I could do it, I just hadn't pulled the proverbial trigger... so I did. December 23rd - the last day with my 'security blanket' (aka - steady/predictable income) and the first day of following my heart and passion.
The first initial month was filled with lots of optimism, awe, and nervous energy from my end, but of course those exciting feelings were met with lots of doubt, judgement from 'friends', and passive negative energy - some of which I was getting from my parents. Now before you get it twisted - understand that I love my parents VERY much and cherish everything that makes them, THEM! Both are very accomplished in what they do and have truly set an impeccable example for me to build upon and simultaneously work towards. Both of them made (and continue to make) sacrifices to ensure both mine and my sister's well-being. At some point as a parent, I'm sure there's a feeling/certain level of 'return on investment' when raising kids - I'm not there yet, but I can only imagine that after wiping asses, cleaning faces, making sure you're in the right schools, putting clothes on your back, keeping a roof above your head, and putting some food in your belly, there's GOTTA be a slight sense of entitlement... a sense of expectations to come from that same child that you (as a parent) nurtured and cared for, for YEARS... You've just invested in this child both physically, emotionally, and financially... it's only human to feel that way, right??! (even the most noble of human beings don't enjoy being taken for granted). Phone calls home started to decrease and conversations between my mother and I started to lack any form of substance, before they escalated to disagreement and/or a quick hand-off to another family member... The see-saw in communication between my parents and I was primarily due to my frustration with (what i thought was) their lack of empathy and understanding towards what I was/am trying to accomplish with my life. It took a long time for me to identify the long talks and depressing lectures that would end with me frustrated and feeling defeated, were ultimately my folks way of saying: 'we love you... we care about you and only want the best, because you deserve the best...' - unfortunately all I was hearing were mentally and emotionally damaging words and thoughts, attempting to chip away at the armor that kept my dreams safe and sound.
The next couple months seemed really cool - booked a few 'bigger' gigs working with Charter Spectrum cable company and US Figure Skater, Ashley Wagner; picked up some additional teaching opportunities, took some new headshots, and I was performing more... I was really starting to get comfortable with the concept of being a working choreographer. I was still vaguely looking for 'normal' 9 to 5 type jobs that coincided with my skill-set, but I was trying to convince myself that I didn't need to stretch myself so thin with another full-time job, along with my growing dance responsibilities. I was making ends meet with my classes and these bigger jobs - why did I need to go back to wearing myself out?? Then, I got a message from my now good friend and incredibly talented singer/songwriter - Yuna. She asked me to work on one of her upcoming singles from her latest album, "Chapters" (out on iTunes - go buy it now - its perfect in every way - ). It was pretty surreal. I hadn't worked on a major artists' video since working with Skrillex and Fat Man Scoop - and that video never even saw the light of day (unfortunately). This was huge - not to mention, if there was any doubt of what I was doing and how I was doing it, this job was reaffirming my decisions. I remember thinking to myself, 'Why hadn't I made these moves earlier?! This is EASY and so effortless, it truly doesn't feel like work... Why has it taken this long to truly follow my dreams and take that jump?!' Maybe I wasn't ready to take on this kind of pressure, but in that moment, I was fucking invincible! I thought these kind of opportunities would naturally continue to come through... because its my time? Right?? I mean, I was working hard, had years of experience under my belt, no longer had job commitments, expressing and showing gratitude in as many ways possible, and I felt I was promoting and exerting positive energy in all the right places - so these type of opportunities should keep rolling my way... right???
The next couple months come along and my days are now completely filled with dance and fitness activities. I'm really feeling like I've found my niche - that thing that makes you feel like a 'contributing member to society'. As an artist, I'm torn because I feel I should embrace my inner 'fuck the system' or (the bratty) 'I don't conform to you, you conform to me, because I'm more awesome than you and do shit differently' mentality, yet I still crave and desire certain levels of societies norms: money (anywhere from comfortable, to excess), married life, house and kids and pets, and even a fucking minivan for vacays and shit... I suppose I'm fairly influenced/motivated by those around me - over the past few years I've been fortunate enough to share living quarters with two very good friends of mine (who happen to be married). We've known each other for years, so there's never been any level of awkwardness, or me vs. them - they've always shown respect and appreciation for what I do/what I"m trying to do, and the feeling on my end was always mutual, but until recently - its now a true feeling of admiration and motivation. My roommates aren't THAT much older than me - matter of fact, one of them is my exact age. They both work in fields that allow them to exert their natural creative gifts/talents, on a daily basis. Both are highly respected at their jobs, and do them so well, it almost seems like they're not even trying... but I know how hard they've both worked to get to this level. This, 'level' of success, that has now provided them with very nice/comfortable, 'fuck this apartment living, let's buy a house' type salaries, the ability to travel, the ability to do MANY of the things they've been wanting to do, when they want - or at least plan it out and make it a reality sooner than later - this is what I want(ed). They just seem so damn... happy and comfortable. (now unfortunately, the word comfortable usually comes with negative connotations in relation to forward progression, but I'm not saying comfortable as in being stagnant or becoming complacent - I mean comfortable as in, THIS is where I want to be/should be and I'm doing what I love with little to no stress, with the person I love - thats MY idea of comfortable). Weeks were going by and I would wake up to one of my roommates pouring out the dry kibble for the cats, as he simultaneously would be feverishly gathering his belongings for (what always seems like) a super fun-filled day at work, doing and creating awesome shit with awesome people. Then my other roommate, casually makes her way out of their room, tired and quiet, yet confident and sure in all of her movement, stops at the front mirror to re-assess her effortlessly trendy outfit, sits by the front door to pick out her footwear for the day, and soon thereafter, she's gone. They're both gone. Off to their respective jobs to go and be awesome - change the world, do what they love and as I mentioned before, get paid pretty well for it... then there I am... watching it all unfold in front of me as if I'm not even there. An afterthought... the good ole 3rd wheel who doesn't have his shit together. As I stare outta my bedroom window, watching them load into their cars and slowly descend down the hill, I think to myself, 'wow... there they go... 'contributing to society', doing their 'thing'/passion and chasing whats important to them so they can achieve their goals... and these two seem to do it so effortlessly. But wait - I'm chasing my dreams, and doing what I love, but now its not effortless and easy - its actually getting harder to build upon much of anything - this is supposed to be my time and opportunities are supposed to be falling into place now because 'I've put in the time' - why is my 'contribution to society' now leaving me broke, full of doubt and nervous energy. Now I"m living paycheck to paycheck, working ridiculous hours to only make a fraction of what I'm worth, being and feeling both physically, mentally and emotionally drained from the day-to-day hustle that usually concludes with a similar feeling of 'i need to do more tomorrow...' and a constant feeling of not being appreciated or respected for your talent and overall worth, both in and out of your industry... all of those feelings, facts, and repetitive actions led me to a point of screaming to myself: "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING - GET YOUR ASS OUTTA BED!" - but for what??
At this point, the oh-so familiar depression spiral was starting to get nice and comfy in the mangled pieces that were left of my optimistic soul. Yeah... I had things to get outta bed for (teaching classes, training, my amazing girlfriend, private lesson clients, and auditions) but it was ultimately leading me to the same point - the same monotonous/demoralizing conclusion: 'I'm not making enough money... I'm not doing enough with dance... I'm wasting time, spinning my wheels, getting nowhere fast - I'M NOT GOOD ENOUGH" (which I know is complete bullshit). I realized this cancer-like thought process is rooted in my (and maybe some of yours - we all do it...) obsession with comparing. I felt the need to compare what others around me were doing to what I was doing... but that's crazy! Nobody's life paths are the same - not even twins (shoutout to Alex and Thad - love yall)... so how and why do we let ourselves compare our successes/failures so vehemently - so negatively that it literally makes us question own natural gifts and purpose. For me, I was comparing all aspects of my life that meant something to me - but it all stemmed from financial stability. I found myself comparing where I am/was in my life to my roommates, who's lives seem so set: new house, awesome jobs, making GOOD money, they're happy and they're great together... talk about #couplegoals (I want that 'level of comfort' for me and my girl...) - but I have to remember that what they're doing with their lives and what I'm doing with mine are completely different, and I don't think its very respectful towards the diligent work put into each of our individual careers to try and stack accomplishments against each other (turns out, life isn't a contest). The comparing definitely didn't stop there - thanks to social media, I feel like I constantly say to myself, 'fuuuuuuuck... if he's/she's doing it, I know I should be doing it...' or 'I can do that too - why aren't I doing that??!'... and the worst comparison of them all - 'I can do better than THAT... how are they at this level and I'm not??!' I found myself purposely unfollowing colleagues and staying away from most social media because I didn't want to see anything that would make me doubt my talent and/or remind me that there are so many people doing things better than I am/was... but where does that get me (anyone for that matter...)? I had to learn and teach myself that social media is just that... Social. Media. It's another platform for people to share information - not a platform to take ones daily actions and scrutinize every aspect until you're left with an empty, depressed hull of a life/soul.
This need to compare is very primal, I feel - we're always looking for the best options (that are specific to you) in an effort to achieve the best results but the key is recognizing that you can't compare a life against another's, but you're always able to learn and grown when you accept that there are things that can make you better, along with learning from former areas of opportunity. Take that same energy used to negatively compare and focus on absorbing new experiences and skill sets that will get you closer to achieving your goals and dreams.
What's success to you?? Think about it... ok, dope! Guess what - its specific to you: Nothing will/can compare to it, because YOU are the unique factor that makes achieving your goals and 'success' that much more special. I'm gonna say something that someone who tries to motivate should never say: more than likely your goals/dreams have probably been thought of before - they aren't special... BUT when you (the person) are attached to said dream/goal - that success is so much more rich, the goal is rightfully earned and that unique dream is now a very special reality... maybe not on a grand scale, but who cares - its YOUR dream - be patient and keep pushing forward - stay in your lane, show gratitude and appreciate your struggle.
My intention wasn't to air out my business, or idolize my roommates, nor put my parents on blast, and most importantly not to have a pity party - maybe this will serve as a lifeline to someone drowning in doubt of self and intentions. The picture attached with this novel of a blog post, is special to me because it sums up where I feel I am in my life. The picture was taken during my routine walk down Vine St, heading towards Sunset - it was a bright day and although I was walking at my normal, 'don't fuck with me' pace, and music blowing out my eardrums, I managed to catch a quick glimpse of something I literally had to double-back for... what I was looking at seemed so brilliant and vibrant in color that I needed to photograph it... it was nothing phenomenal in the literal sense - just the floral courtyard of a building, but in that moment, for some reason I was caught in a trance of this (what appeared to be) mystical garden. I pulled out my phone to take a picture, and the first one didn't turn out the way I wanted/expected - thanks to Instagram, I consider myself an up and coming photographer, so I took a few shots and after inspecting the series of photos on my camera roll, I realized the gate and chains were in the way. because he gate was 'closer' in proximity, the camera would auto focus on the gate, and left the natural beauty of the enchanting courtyard, fall out of focus. I took 12 pictures - 2 of the pictures really sucked, and the other 10 were focused on the gate... that's when I came to the conclusion that this picture was supposed to turn out this way. I'm really good at focusing on things that I shouldn't/don't need to (i.e.- making comparisons to further defeat myself) instead of appreciating them for what they are... With this picture, I kept ignoring the gate, but it wasn't until I stopped and actually took a look at the picture to appreciate and recognize the beautiful contrast it was providing, not to mention the tremendous strength and solidarity it represents. The gate also represented the things that I don't have yet or the things that are holding me back from those things that I don't have yet (i.e. - financial constraints, etc.) and again, focusing SO much on that makes me forget the fact that I have a bigger goal (or in this scenario, a bigger 'picture/image') that I'm trying to reach/see and gain better clarity along the way.
Lastly, I wrote this in an effort to 'put myself out there' and bare my soul, so you, as a reader are able to digest all this and come to a mutual understanding that we as a society of evolving and limitless individuals and ideas can't continue to compare ourselves to things that have nothing to with us as individuals and our own unique pathways. Although this concept sounds simple - it can be damn near impossible when you're 'going through it', but consider this a friendly reminder: Love yourself... love your path... appreciate your struggles... be patient and always show gratitude as much and as often as possible...