I’m turning 27. Here are 27 things I learned about life this year (in and out of the studio).

So, my birthday is tomorrow. I’m turning the big 2-7.

Funny enough, as vain and terrified as I am of Olderness, I don’t really feel my normal birthday dread this year.

I think that’s because for many of my other bdays, I remembering feeling not quite “ready” to be regarded at certain level of maturity or accomplishment that the new number represented.

Not this year. Frankly, I lived the SHIT out of 26 to 27.

So much has happened. I feel like for the first time in my adult life, I stopped settling for the Bunny Hill. I did things that terrified me. I made myself vulnerable. I got hurt (like, emotionally, but also literally face-planting from the pole). And throughout all that, I discovered a freakin’ gold mine of strength I had no idea I had, and that I’m totally keeping. You can’t have it back, universe, SUCK IT.

Anyway, I’m on a train to Boston right now, feeling very reflective, and I want to be a big sap and share some of my Life Lessons (TM) with you guys. And please share yours too, if you have them, or feel free to tell me I’m full of crap on any of this 😉

1. “Good enough” is GREAT

If you fixate on perfection, it discourages you from the messy process of trying. It’s so much better to aim at 60-80% perfect, be happy with yourself, and come back to nail it later.

2. It’s a long process, so you have to celebrate the small stuff

The little victories are so huge, and we work hard for them. Take a picture, take a moment… enjoy small successes, or pole’s going to start feeling like a slog.

3. You don’t need someone else’s permission

You know what? I think nobody (excepting sociopaths) feels like they’re totally worthy of being where they are–whether it’s in a certain job, on the front pole next to the instructor in class. Accept the feeling that you aren’t good enough to be where you are, and feel the gentle breeze as it passes over and away from you. Then do what you were doing anyway, like a fucking boss. That’s how you get to feeling like you belong: by acting like it.

4. You should really let other people help you

Harder than it sounds, I know. But this is the stuff of friendships, memories, and big leaps in progress.

5. Help other people

(This will also increase the likelihood and frequency of the above happening).

6. Make mistakes with passion

FAIL BIG, baby. It’s the only way.

7. Correct mistakes with a sense of humor

Whoops, no one saw that, right? You can get away with murder with a smile and a little humility.

8. You should always act like you know what you’re doing

This is how you gain respect. (You can always ask questions later).

9. Watch others, and learn everything you can from them

Not just the YouTube stars–watch your teachers, your classmates, first-timers. You can learn something from ANYONE.

10. Not every day has to be a breakthrough day

11. To really get ahead, you gotta USE EVERYTHING

This is where #3 comes in: if you always feel like you’re the least knowledgeable, capable person in the room (as I chronically do), you have the advantage of having no shame when it comes to seizing opportunities and resources. Save interesting songs you hear at parties. Stay after class to watch the instructors play. Volunteer to be a pole cleaner at your studio’s shows. Absorb every sight, every sound–you never know which experiences will click in to shape and inspire you, but they can’t ever, ever hurt.

12. There is strength in vulnerability

This was a big lesson for me: letting go of the need to prove something when I was trying to learn. I.e. only ever doing my tried and true moves during freestyles. But attempting stuff you suck at in class is the best way to get helpful feedback.

13. We’re all stronger than we realize

Never buy into “I can’t.” We dig the strength out of strange places. You have to believe it’s in there somewhere or your body won’t let you try  hard enough to do it. Trap mounts, I’m looking at you.

14. Being 50% “there” in the studio is a 100% waste of your time

It’s only an hour. You can read your texts later (he’ll still be there, I promise). But you can’t expect big gains without being fully PRESENT in the studio, mind and body both.

15. It’s a waste of time comparing yourself to others when you could be learning from them

Every time I used to see dancers doing things I wasn’t doing,  my immediate reaction was “OH CRAP I’VE BEEN DOING IT WRONG.” Funny thing is, I realized other people were watching my routines and thinking the same thing. Ditch the insecurity and absorb other styles and ideas.

16. What other people think means DOG SHIT

Starting pole has really, really helped me grow past my crippling fear of What Other People Will Think of Me. Face it: if you do literally anything out of the ordinary, people will talk. They will get nervous and confused. They’ll take little jabs at what you’re doing, because that’s how they express fear and discomfort. That’s on them, not you. And it’s temporary. When the dust settles, all that will be left is the brave, exciting, fulfilling life you’ve carved out for yourself.

17. Videotape yourself

I video tape almost every practice session at home now, and I always learn something. Painful, but very, very useful.

18. To break the cycle of haterade, you need to give back

Preach the good word of confidence, self-expression, and Bad Bitchitude.

19. Let people be there for you

I went through something really rough this year. And being a Check Your Shit at the Studio Door type, it didn’t occur to me that my dance friends might want to know what was going on with me and offer support. After weeks of struggling on my own, I finally broke down in front of one of my friends. She gave me her full attention and understanding for the 10 minutes I sobbed everything out,  and not to sound new agey, but it was so freakin’ healing. I wish I did it months earlier, and then maybe I wouldn’t have had to go cry in the changing rooms during rehearsal and pretend I was taking a phone call. Just kidding, that totally didn’t happen. *Cough*

20. Moping needs a time limit

Case in point: I cried to my friend for 10 minutes, got a drink (of water, heh), and then rehearsed with her for two hours, laughing through most of it. It’s okay to give negative feelings your full attention sometimes, even in the studio. Just remember to keep it finite. You have better things to do with your energy!

21. No single experience defines you

This goes for successes as well as failures.

22. Learning to recover from a mistake is a wiser use of your time than trying to make everything perfect

(and hope nothing out of your control happens… ha!)

23. Get back on the horse when you fall

Immediately. SHOW THAT POLE WHO’S BOSS. Before it gets all big and scary and tries to intimidate you..

24. But babying yourself a little is good too

This is supposed to be fun, after all. Allow yourself recovery when you need it, or you risk burnout. (I teetered on the edge of this many times this year).

25. Continuously challenging your comfort zone is the only cure for boredom

New music, new moves, new positions–okay now I’m just quoting 50 Cent. You get the idea. You have to get a little uncomfortable to avoid getting TOO comfortable, ya get me?

26. You don’t have to feel guilty about doing nothing

A little white space now and then gives inspiration room to grow.

and finally:

27. You can’t stay young, but you can pack each year of your life as fully as you can

Life has started to feel like it’s speeding up a bit. So, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting scrappy. I’m gonna go get it. I’m going to live a little more like I’m dying, because heck, we are, aren’t we?

<3 and happy, happy twirls,

Cathy

4 Comments

  1. Happy birthday chica! I love this post, it feels like you could be talking to me lol, every single thing is something I really needed to hear right now! I hope you have a spectacular day xx

  2. Happy birthday! This is like reading the story of the last year for me. I am turning 27 in April, and it really has been the best year of my life, packed with all sorts of awesome! 🙂

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