Something has been bothering me lately. Upsetting me to be honest. And it’s this…
In this time and in this industry, with so many of us representing ourselves on social media and so much emphasis on staying positive, creating ‘followable and likeable’ profiles everywhere and branding ourselves – there’s a myth surfacing that it’s supposed to all be and feel like it looks, glossy and easy. That it’s not ok for it to feel hard sometimes. And it’s definitely not ok to say out loud that it’s hard.
I had a conversation with a fellow dance creative who has recently moved to L.A. and who, when I asked about how things were going, told me of all the amazing things in the works/ in mind plus how reconnecting and re-grounding in L.A. was so exciting. And it is. When I responded with encouragement and a small mention of how it can be unpredictable, uncertain and even unsettling to be in that space – their huge sigh of relief was what upset me. The relief - and the conversation that followed – was about how yes, it was all full of potential, very promising and exciting, but that the newness could also be scary and the uncertainty could feel daunting and, some days, hard. Most of all, our conversation was about how exhausting it can be to pretend or project that it’s glossy and amazing all the time. To feel like we’re not ever supposed to talk about the rest. It made me wonder how many others are feeling the same and how many young dancers are growing up in a world learning (by watching us all) to hold all the tough stuff in. That upsets me too.
Sometimes we’re just so busy trying to create, paying attention to and preparing for success that we overlook how important it is to have a skill set for the times when we’re not. Or at least the times in between. The times in between successes are guaranteed to show up, there’s no opting out. The disappointments, rejection or having to put in so much time before you see any results that look anything like success are also likely. Let me be clear – I’m not writing any of this to glorify being unsuccessful or to be cynical or miserable in a world I feel very lucky to be a part of… I’m writing because down times are a part of any successful journey. I’m writing because if we don’t believe that down times are ok, that we’re going to experience rejection (as a feeling not just as an event) or sometimes have to wait or try for longer than we think - then we’re going to think that we’re failing when we’re not. If we have to fake and pretend our way through the tough moments rather than accepting that they happen then the damage will be worse. I’ve seen it happen. The fear gets bigger, loneliness grows and the worry that we are a failure will start to creep in rather than the understanding that successful journeys have detours, roadblocks and ‘merge carefully’ signs. If we learn to wait one more count we notice that it’s still forward moving. It’s still a good thing and so are you.
I don’t think that we have to blast our fears, down times or defeats from every corner and in every post we make or unpack and make a life for ourselves right in the middle of them. I think it’s just healthy not to pretend they don’t exist or that they don’t feel hard or heavy every now and then. Funny thing is – everyone has them. You have them in common with the people you admire most. Dealing with them, being kind to yourself about it all makes you stronger and stops it from turning into bitterness or cynicism.
So go ahead and cry about it or talk about it when it feels hard. Or start by acknowledging it. You’re not failing if you do any of that. Being you (which I talk about as an essential part of your success) means staying you on the flip side too. In the hard moments, start by remembering that it’s totally ok that right now feels hard and also to be brave to share it with your people. To ask for support. To not feel glossy and fabulous all the time. To not book the next big gig straight away or feel frustrated. It’s helpful to feel it, say it and sometimes just go to a class and dance it all out. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love it (with a capital ‘L’) or that you’re ungrateful to do what we do. There’s nothing wrong with you – you’re a dancer and a human. This is how that goes.