*I originally wrote this article for Huffington Post, but I thought I would share it here too! You can check out the original post here! I hope you enjoy it!
Nine years ago in a small club in the flatirons district of Manhattan, I saw something I had never seen before. Well, I had seen it, but not so intimately, like it was a part of my world, not just something I saw on TV. It was a beautiful girl dancing effortlessly, spinning around and floating magically high above my head. She was strong, beautiful and she oozed confidence and charm. I was working as a stage manager for New York’s longest running cabaret show, Le Scandal and I was watching someone perform on the lyra, a round, steel aerial apparatus also known as aerial hoop. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to do it too. I didn’t know how, but I knew I would make it happen.
It’s been almost ten years since then and while it took me a little while to settle into my practice, I’ve turned my starry eyed dreams into reality. I didn’t know it then, but in the next decade, not only would I achieve something I never thought possible, but I would also learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way. Lessons that I actually didn’t even realize I had learned until I sat down to write this.
Lesson Number 1: You Create Your Own Destiny
All of those nights working backstage and staring up into the dark, smoky air watching what was truly one of the most amazing things I had ever seen, I could have just said, “Wow, that’s cool! I wish I could do that” and continued to watch from afar, but I didn’t. I took my destiny into my own hands and immediately found a place where I could learn to do it too.
I’ve never been the kind of person that has a hard time trying new things. But, I remember walking into an aerial gym full of strangers in Midtown Manhattan and thinking “Oh no, what am I am doing here? I can’t do this. I could just leave now and forget about it”. But, I didn’t do that either. I stayed, I took the class and I loved every second of it. Then I took another, and another, and another. In fact, I became obsessed with it. It was the only thing that I could think about. I could do almost nothing that they were teaching me, but I loved it. It was really, really hard, but I didn’t let that stop me. I knew I had it in me somewhere to pull it off. As the days turned into weeks and weeks into months, things got a little easier. They were still REALLY hard, but at least I was able to get through some of them, kind of.
Now, 9 years later, I may not be part of the cast of Cirque du Soleil, but I am a working aerialist, performing and teaching independently and with a professional performance company in Denver. Getting involved with aerial dance even led to my immense interest in fitness and nutrition, which ultimately led to starting my own fitness business. If I had let my doubts take over and walked out of that gym that day or just continued to be a passive observer in someone else’s dream, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I made a choice to take a risk and to do something that scared me and it’s changed my life for the better.
Lesson Number 2: Change Doesn’t Happen Overnight
We’ve all heard it before: hard work pays off, nothing worth doing comes easy, change doesn’t happen overnight, etc. Well, it’s true. Never has it been truer, at least for me, than in learning to dance in the air. Believe or not, people aren’t born being able to climb 30 feet into the air, wrap themselves up in fabric and roll down with grace and elegance. It takes hours and hours of hard work, perseverance and probably even a little masochism. If you had asked me nine years ago if I thought I would be able to do things I can do today, I would have laughed. It seemed so far fetched, like something I could only really dream about doing. But, I kept at it, spending hours each week in the gym. Little by little, things started to change. I could do things that were harder, things that were scarier and things that I had previously thought to be out of reach. I began to be able to do things that I thought my body would never be capable of doing. I still have a lot to learn, but I have come such a long way and it’s only because I didn’t give up. I kept chipping away at making my body, and my mind, stronger so that I could overcome obstacles and take my passion to bigger and better places.
It’s so easy to walk into an aerial class and get frustrated because you discover how difficult it actually is and how much work you actually need to do. Everyone wants to be able to everything, right away, but it doesn’t work like that, in the gym or in life. It takes hours and hours of training and pushing your body to its limits, even when you feel like you can’t. And it never ends; there is always more to learn, but it takes time.
Learning to be a better aerialist is just like anything in life. You can’t expect to have it all right away; you have to put in the work to see the results.
Lesson Number 3: You Can’t Do It Alone
I’m surrounded by an amazing community of people who want to see me succeed. My success is their success. We work hard – really hard – and we help each other through our struggles. I was only introduced to this group of people a few years ago and since then, I have grown so much, not only as an aerialist, but also as a person.
I would not have been able to accomplish the things that I have without a network of people around me that pushed me, encouraged me and held me accountable. It takes support, encouragement and someone to fall on your face with (literally!) to succeed at anything. I’ve never been much of a team person, or a group person. I have always been the kind of person who does things on my own terms. When I was in school I was always the person who in a group assignment said, “Ok guys. Just let me do the whole thing. I don’t need your help. I’ve got it.” Well, that’s no way to get through life. I can’t do everything on my own.
We need like-minded people working toward common goals by our side if we are going to succeed at anything. We need people to tell us it’s going to be ok, to give us a hug when things aren’t going well and to encourage us and tell us “ Yes, you CAN do it!” Without people like this in our lives, things are a lot harder.
So no matter what it is you’re trying to accomplish, there’s power in numbers. Don’t go at it alone. Find people that that you align with and work towards your goals, together!
So, What Now?
So here I am, many years after I made a decision that would ultimately change my life for the better. It’s taken a long time and a lot of work, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. Just a few months ago, the performance company that I’m with had a big show that took us almost a year to prepare for. We spent hours and hours in the gym working on choreography, learning new skills and trying to perfect old ones. There were many times when I thought I wasn’t going to make it and that this show was going to be too much for me. Sometimes I wanted to give up. But, I thought back to that life changing night at The Cutting Room and realized just how far I had come since then.
My life has taken turns that I didn’t expect and I’ve learned a lot along the way. All by allowing myself to discover a parts of myself I didn’t even know existed. While I can’t say it’s all thanks to circus, it has definitely been my avenue for learning how to live a full and intentional life.
After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?