Failure

I dislike failure. Not failure in general, but failure as it relates to me. If someone else fails, it’s interesting; if someone fails hard, it’s really interesting; and if I dislike that person and they fail hard, it’s almost rewarding (terrible human being = me). But if I fail, it’s the apocalypse.

It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular that I fail at, it could be a new recipe I try or a glaringly obvious and inappropriate typo in a work email. My mind starts reeling with what a pathetic human being I am and how it’s remarkable I’m permitted to walk the earth with such an incredible stench of failure encompassing me and all within a 10-foot radius of my incredible suckiness as a person.

I do not fail at a flair for the dramatic. This, indeed, I excel at.

Often, I find that I’d rather not try at something rather than fail. One could argue that technically, not trying means an automatic fail. But even more technically, one could argue that you can’t fail at something you don’t try. Moot point?

The situation I am faced with now is the worst kind of failure—the kind where failure was the unexpected outcome.

Oh confidence. You tricked me!

Before I continue on, I confess, I’m wary to share my failure. To any other person who isn’t me or isn’t involved in my little world it will seem like peanuts. And I mean peanuts to someone who likes peanuts, salted and unsalted, and not to someone who is allergic.

I’m a self-proclaimed ballerina, and I use the word “ballerina” very liberally. Three years ago, I put on ballet slippers and have casually haunted dance studios ever since. Yes, at the overripe age of 30, I’m getting my repressed ballerina on.

When my husband, child, and two cats moved to a new, smaller community, I found the best way to dance was to join in on the middle and high school classes. Because of my immaturity, I fit right in with the tweens and teens.

These classes require exams. I like to work for something, so I participate in these evaluations. I’ve been trucking through the ballet levels, surpassing my “peers,” but apparently too fast. My most recent exam resulted with an “F.” The only class I ever got an “F” in was 9th grade geometry, and let’s be honest, when do I ever use geometry? Shapes are dumb.

On the bright side, if this can be considered a bright side, I’m in good company. Half my class failed the exam and the other half of the class received what is known as a “pass conditional.” Dancers that fail together, um, stay together? At least to repeat the level!

I feel the failure hits me harder because of my age in relation to my fellow dancers. It’s embarrassing. These girls look up to me even though they are mostly taller than me (figurative look ups, everyone!). I feel like an idol fallen from grace, a loser, a coming-of-age disappointment to a generation.

Pride takes the worst hit when faced with failure.

The emotional result is that I’m ashamed I ever undertook trying to make my ballet dreams come true. What can it achieve but heartache and sore toes? But it doesn’t stop there, it shakes my confidence in everything I want to do, and let me tell you, I have been bit by the project, entrepreneurial, creative bug and I need all the courage and chutzpah I can muster to make it happen.

The idea of failing stops me in my tracks.

So what’s a fallen ballerina to do? Quit and cut my losses?

My dance teacher told me the best analogy to get me through this difficult time. She said that if I have a car with a flat tire, I don’t puncture holes in the other three.

So, it’s time to get the spare out, drive to the nearest service station, and get everything rearing to go because the road trip isn’t over yet.

Here’s to further failures, successes, and all the mediocrity in between!

You tell it like it is, Yoda!

You tell it like it is, Yoda!

I hate boxing but I am a supporter of Boxing Day

Last week, my work hosted a company outing to a boxing class. There were fifteen of us in attendance and we were all excited to punch some bags and maybe one another.

The teacher was an actual boxer of sorts and also quite handsome—giggle. But after he showed us hot to wrap up our hands and put on our gloves, disdain for the dreamy boxing coach replaced all affection.

What us employees thought would be a nice, easy intro class and a break from the daily grind was an hour of hell. We started with 5 minutes of continuous jumping jacks. I haven’t done jumping jacks since elementary school gym class and never exceeded a quantity of 20 at any one time. 5 minutes of jumping jacks is not fun. Try it.

Next, we punched the bag…for what seemed like for-ev-er. I can only punch something for so long before I’m bored and tired. I was both. But nothing prepared me for the boot camp we endured next. 2 minutes of push-ups, 2 minutes of full sit-ups, crunches in all the weirdest ways possible for 2 minutes each, these jump-up-in-the-air-then-fall-into-push-ups-on-the-ground things, contort your body and hold it and crunch it and curl it for 3 minutes, jump and turn squats for 2 minutes, and then more things I have no idea what they were or what they looked like (I had to take off my glasses because they kept falling off my face, so I guessed half the time at what we were doing—if it was painful, I knew I was doing it right.)

funny-boxing-old-men-boxesOn top of that, he was kinda mean. When forms faltered and fatigued plastered us to the floor, he yelled. More than once I hid from his line of sight behind a punching bag. He knew.

For a normal class with regular attendees, it’s a great workout and willing participants know what they are getting themselves into. More power to them. But we were there to have fun and take a break from the 9-5. Fifteen minutes in, we wanted to go back to work, that’s how un-fun it was.

It made me think, though. Boxing is challenging and involves a lot of training and torture, in addition to getting hit in the head repeatedly. But this guy did it competitively and trained probably 100 times harder than he attempted to train us undisciplined pupils. I’m a highly motivated and highly competitive person and I found myself slacking off whenever possible because I was that miserable through this process.

I can only deduce that he enjoys boxing and that he is quite insane. To go through the training and then voluntarily have someone jab their fist in your face; he should probably be committed.

To be fair, the logic as to why this dude is insistent on putting his body through such physical wear and tear is that he has a passion for the sport and I can relate to that on some realm. Not that I am at a totally equivocal level, but ballet is my boxing. I work very hard and push myself as much as I can because of how much I love it.  It doesn’t feel like workout, even if I’m drenched in sweat and slathering IcyHot all over my legs post class. Perhaps the evil boxing teacher feels the same way as he does 20 minutes of push-ups and repeatedly beats a helpless bag dangling from a ceiling.

I attempted boxing and really, really disliked it but I at least tried it and I support crazy people who wish to partake. I’m happy, however, to participate in the push for a more widely recognized Boxing Day in America, as so many companies attempt to make employees work the day after Christmas. That is not cool.

Sidenote, by the end of our punching sessions, the face of the teacher was firmly visualized on the front of my bag. It was the best punching I did that day.

DIY dance studio

Although I’m terrible at it, I really love ballet and I really love to pretend I’m outrageously talented.

I take classes just twice a week, far less than adequate for a late-blooming ballerina who is both simultaneously at the start of her career and at the end of her career. But at $15 to $17 a pop for a drop-in adult beginner class twice a week for 75 to 90 minutes, it gets a bit pricey.

In a world where I ruled, I’d have my very own Russian ballet teacher and/or share her with a few dance peers (all of whom I’d be better than) and have lessons 4 days a week, each being two-hour sessions. Alas, I don’t rule the world—yet—and dance culture does not cater to 28-year-old wannabe ballerinas who discovered their ambition and love of dance far too late in life. Especially not to those with bank accounts that top out at coins stuck in couch cushions. Tutus are expensive.

Photo 51

So, what’s a girl to do with a prima ballerina dancing inside her just waiting to escape? Why, she’s to build her own studio, of course, where she’s the principal dancer every day! Those plies and pirouettes don’t do themselves, after all.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about the home dance studio the somewhat psychotic character, Tiffany, had in the movie Silver Linings Playbook. It’s my dream to have a dance studio like that (with perhaps more chandeliers and less crazy) in my own home one day. But, alas, right now, I’m renting a one-bedroom apartment with limited space for me, my clothes, and my cat.

Lack of space, budget, and property ownership doesn’t stop me! There are three main things necessary to having a functional ballet-your-ass-off studio that can fit into nearly any dance enthusiast’s life:

  • A barre. Not a bar. A barre is for warm-ups, stretching, tendus, etc. A bar is for drinking and poor decisions. I do welcome an innovative combination of the two: a barre-bar, because pirouettes improve exponentially when you’re drunk.
  • A mirror. Most studios have lots of mirrors but mirrors are heavy, expensive, and if you break one—bad luck. One will do the trick, preferably tall and able to move about, ie: not heavier than a hippo nor hermetically sealed to the wall.
  • Floor space and non-carpeted floor. If there isn’t enough room to do a grand battement in the space you’re in, injury is imminent and so is a premature halt to a meager career. If the floor is carpeted, static electricity and friction are blocking even the best, mediocre talent. Find a space and find a smooth, sturdy floor (such as laminate) if wall-to-wall carpeting lines every room but the bathroom. Dance floors can be expensive, so be inventive.

I went online and shopped for barres. I didn’t expect to find anything, but I found a plethora! People are just as wacky as me, after all! I eventually selected a  brand called Vita Vibe. Is it as pretty as the ornate, wooden bar crafted by fairies I coveted? No. But it’s light (only 10 pounds), portable, easy to assemble, inexpensive, and had free shipping. I chose the 5-foot length because I’m in my late 20s—I could have a growth spurt at any moment and a girl’s gotta stretch.

Next, I overcame my carpet dilema with flooring from Home Depot. At $20, I found “Glentown Oak Glueless Laminate Flooring with Click Installation and a Natural Wood Grain Look and Feel.”  The flooring snapped together easily and rests evenly on my icky, old carpet. One “Glentown Pack” pack can reach a size of 6.5 feet by 4.5 feet. I only used half, so the other half is for a friend! It’s like the newest version of BFF heart necklaces!

With a mirror already in my possession that meets the standards of light, easy to move, and cheap, my studio was complete.

The result…

TADA!

My very own dance studio! (Cat not included.)

My very own dance studio! (Cat not included.)

This new studio benefits both me and Pancake. I can’t deprive my cat of her love of the arts, she seldom gets to the Kennedy Center to view any sort of ballet anymore. Although, she’s an interactive audience member, always getting under foot…

It won’t work out, a non-ballerina’s tale

It’s no secret that I have a slight obsession with ballet. It’s also no secret that I am a mediocre, beginner ballerina at best. If you put me next to the average 4-year-old dancer, we will be equals. But that punk kid can’t drink or drive, and certainly not drink and drive (no one should), so I win.

I’m 28, and I started taking my dance career seriously at 27 1/2. The retirement age for a ballerina is 29.

To the far right, you will see me...if that was me.

To the far right, you will see me…if that was me.

Look, I don’t need to be…um…Ok, I don’t know any super famous ballerinas but I don’t need to be {insert name}, I realize that I must live with my situation and make the most of it—performing for my cat. Still, I get dismayed when I look like Frankenballerina because I can’t unclench my arms to elegantly pose in second position, or that my turnout is more parallel than 180 degrees. My teacher instructs the class to do a simple combination, and all I hear is stupid French and see a lot of angles my body doesn’t want to contort to.

Days when I get discouraged, it’s not that I don’t like dance, but I kinda don’t like me. I don’t like that I made a decision to play basketball in high school rather than tip toe across a stage. I hate that my body isn’t the quintessential mold of a dancer, long neck and legs (giraffe?), no bum, 95 pounds. I’m sad that I don’t have money to pay for private lessons and bedazzled tutus. I’m despondent that I don’t progress as quickly as I would like and that the damn pirouette isn’t turning my body like its supposed to.

After 6 months of dancing, I can’t understand why I’m still in the beginner classes, why I’m not en pointe, why it’s so hard to twirl without getting dizzy. I don’t understand why I can’t stretch my foot to my head while in relevé and why I have no balance standing still let alone going to posse without the assistance of a barre. (Too many dance terms? I’m just showing off…)

I feel silly and ashamed walking into class knowing that the only thing that can come of dancing is fulfilling a dream to maybe become a little good—for me. My teachers, who studied ballet for 50 years or who danced in the Bolshoi, must look at me and think, “she is an embarrassment to the art of dance.”

One day...

One day…

If ever I don’t feel quite up to dance, it rarely has to do with laziness or lack of motivation, it’s fear to fail. That fear feels like a security blanket, a justification that if I don’t get better, I know I did it to myself. Whereas, if I try, try, try, and make no progress, I am truly a talentless, two-left footed toad.

Yet, it’s not like that. I’ve developed great relationships with my teachers, I’ve made friends at ballet who are just as cooky as me about dance, and the little improvements I make feel like I’m a living legend.

Patience is the true hurdle I need to leap across.

Last week I had an amazing moment at my ballet class. I asked my teacher a legitimate question about being able to try pointe. He responded with, “Why would you want to do that?” Apparently, it’s quite painful. But before class started, he looked at me and said, “You’re something special.”

Ok, I know he didn’t mean that I am the next principal dancer, but I knew he saw the little prima ballerina that swirls around inside me. That might be just be good enough for me to be good enough. That’s more than good enough.

Taking a page from the “Silver Linings Playbook”

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I want my own dance studio, and maybe my own Bradley Cooper…

A lot can be said about the film Silver Linings Playbook, especially in regard to mental health, life, love, blah blah blah. The film was great but the best thing about it, in my opinion, was not the message or the acting, it was that the character of Tiffany had her own dance studio.

Oscar winner (go girl) Jennifer Lawrence plays a quirky, manic, Tiffany, who dances as a form of therapy. In addition to the psychological benefits she reaps from dancing, she has a passion for the art and owns it as far as her skills can take her. Her interest in dance seemingly didn’t manifest itself into action until adulthood.  Naturally, I felt like she was me, or I was like her, but in a less hyperbolic mental sense and really only relating to dance (maybe, also, occasional bouts of mania).

The first floor of her home serves as a studio, barre included, mirrors lining the walls, and oak floors for optimum capitalization of “breaking-it-down.” My new dream.

I wouldn’t be able to do anything but twirl around in a tutu all the day, and tutus would be the required dress for that particular room—for everyone (house rules).