Just Hear Me Out: Why I Chose A Career In Devil’s Advocacy

I want to clear up some misconceptions amongst you smug Human Decency Warriors: yes, I work as a Devil’s Advocate. But no, that doesn’t mean you can make assumptions about my personal beliefs and values.

Sure, I spend my days defending and supporting racists, rapists, corrupt politicians, and the occasional drunk driver, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am personally in favor of those causes. After all, do you think the people who sort your recycling actually like polar bears? Polar bears are ugly, but we all have to do our jobs.

Now I do understand where the stigma surrounding this field comes from–I was once quite skeptical of the profession of Evil myself, and didn’t enter it without hesitation. Upon graduation, I initially looked at work in other areas–nonprofit management, research, public education–I  even briefly considered putting my excellent argumentation skills to work in defense of Good.

But let’s be real, Good is not a financially stable field in today’s economy, and I had student loans to pay off. When the Office of the Devil offered me a $10k signing bonus for a two-year commitment and my soul, I had to accept.

Still, I tried not to think of my decision as “selling out.” I rationalized that the best way to address Evil was to reform the system from the inside: perhaps they would be open to shifting their brand from straight-up-bad to morally-ambiguous-in-a-cool-and-edgy-way.

But while my youthful ideals were admirable, I would soon discover that Evil is a complex and  deeply established institution with operations in areas ranging from lawmaking and criminal justice to entertainment and global trade. When I realized just how much I had to learn, it became clear that I should focus my energies on becoming the best team member that I could before trying to shake anything up.

And I have come to respect certain aspects of the work we do. For instance, the profession of Devil’s Advocacy carries a standard of transparency that the business of Misguided-Do-Gooders could really learn from. At least when we Devil’s Advocates announce our presence, everyone knows what’s coming. It’s not like we would advertise ourselves as saviors, only to swamp communities with a bunch of incompetent, overgrown college kids looking for a brief experiment in employment. We do have ethical limits, and we draw the line at creating false hope.

So yes, I may be a Devil’s Advocate but God, please stop judging me: there are worse things I could be doing, right?

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Career Development With a Twist: How to Fudge 3 Years of Professional Dance Experience

Greetings hopeless millennials, and welcome back to Career Development With a Twist, the career development service with no artificial preservatives!

This week’s edition is especially for you aspiring dancers approaching auditions with hopes of getting your foot in the door. If you have yet to book a paid dance job, you may find this door to be an endless revolving door, since everyone seems to want applicants with an elusive “3 years of prior professional dance experience.”

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Breaking into the professional world like…

But have no fear! By making these simple stylistic and philosophical adjustments to your resume, even you can convince auditioners that you have enough professional experience to be allowed gain professional experience!

1. Expand your definition of “paid.”

Sure the common interpretation of a “professional” is someone who receives money for their work, but it can be beneficial to consider other types of performance compensation as equally valid.

Examples:

  • Have you ever been provided with complimentary transportation for a performance? Can an elevator technically be considered a form of transportation?
  • Were there some pretzels or chips left in the dressing room to share? Salt has historically been recognized as a form of currency in many societies, so that’s basically the same as an edible paycheck.

(Disclaimer: A more inclusive definition of the term “paid” may come back to bite you if and when you ever get a job.)

2. Expand your definition of “dance job.”

The world is a stage, so any activity can technically be considered a performance opportunity. Highlight the dance aspect of any paid job you have held, and you might find that you’ve been a “professional dancer” longer than you knew!

Examples:

  • Instead of describing your position as an “Administrative Assistant,” try “Office Party Electric Slide Soloist.”
  • Instead of describing your summer experience as a “Lifeguard,” try “Durational Performance Art Piece: Exploring Stillness and Spectatorship.”

3. Work around the 3-year requirement by highlighting the subjectivity of time. 

How do you measure – measure a year? Include some comments with your date ranges to convince the directors that it’s too confusing to even try!

Examples:

  • XYZ Dance Company 2014-2015 (But like time is relative to the speed of the observer, so don’t read too much into it.)
  • DeathTrap Theme Park Performer June 2016-August 2016 (If you subscribe to the construct of uniform measured time imposed by post-industrial capitalism)
  • Stevie’s Dance Project June 2015 (But it felt like 20 years–those rehearsals were awful.)

 

Journal Bits: Life-(is always)-Changing

In honor of #ThrowbackSunday I thought I’d post another journal bit from my Paris trip:


It’s a cliche to call study abroad experiences “life changing.” The more cynical types would roll their eyes and call that an overstatement. I would just call it redundant. Life is always changing. 

Every moment, every choice inevitably alters the course of what comes after it. Maybe not a lot, but a little. Big, pivotal moments matter, but so do the little choices, the little micro-turns you make everyday until you find yourself headed in another direction.

I’m thinking about this as I’m reaching the end of my time in college and getting ready for life as a real person/professional/adult/whatever. I used to assume that my life trajectory would be shaped by “big” decisions–what school to go to; what major and career to choose; what city to live in–but it has been and will be shaped just as much by the little choices that accumulate day after day–whether to show up for class; whether to warm up; whether to stay and talk; whether to ask that question; whether to go out; whether to sleep; whether to make one more little dance or write one more little thing.

For what it’s worth, I guess that as much difficulty I’ve had with declaring the “big” choice to “be a dancer,”  I’ve been pretty unwavering about my daily choice to dance, as much as I possibly can. I think that matters.

Anyway, what I think I’m saying is that being in Paris is life-changing, and so is being in school as usual, and so is being at home, ridiculously bored, thinking about where I wish I was, what I wish I was doing, and what the hell I’m going to do with the rest of the day.

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It’s Not You, It’s Society: “It’s Just a Phase”

“It’s not you, it’s society” is a series of rants about socially acceptable and polite comments that bother me. Read more here.

“It’s just a phase.”

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. It’s a common way to dismiss some aspect of a person’s identity or life that you don’t want to acknowledge, while claiming to know that person better than they know themself. It can refer to sexuality, gender identity, interests, career aspirations, political/religious beliefs, and basically anything else. Younger people tend get it a lot.

Usually, people defend themselves by trying to prove that the aforementioned quality is not a temporary phase and is instead a permanent part of who they are. This is completely valid and I have done it in more than one context, BUT I also believe that no one should ever even have to make that argument because the entire idea behind “it’s just a phase” is really an awful and illogical reason to trivialize someone’s identity, experiences, or desires.

Like this guy.

The assumption is that whatever someone is right now is more of an transient experience on the way to becoming the fully-fledged, real, predestined, unchanging “true” self. They’re more of a pre-person than an actual current human being.

But when exactly do people turn into their “real” self instead of some less-real self-in-transition. When they’re 30? 40? When they completely stop changing? For how long? 5 years? 20 years? Forever?

If we’re going to take those standards to their logical extension, pretty much nothing is real. Imagine these conversations:

  • Yeah, he retired from his hospital job. He always told me he was a doctor, but I guess he was just going through a 40-year “practicing medicine” phase.
  • At 90, he doesn’t seem to be into women in the same way he used to be. I guess he was just going through a 80-year heterosexual phase.
It's okay, we all go through hetero phases.

It’s okay, we all go through hetero phases.

  • Turns out she’s dead now. I knew she was just going through a little “alive” phase.
This guy knows.

This guy knows it.

Sorry, was that last one too morbid? But lets be real, the only permanent state in human existence is death (maybe–even that one is arguable). If we’re going to use permanence as the golden standard of legitimacy and “realness,” we’re left with a very narrow and pretty depressing view of reality.

Of course, no one claiming “it’s just a phase” actually comes to this conclusion because they don’t actually apply that permanence standard universally. It’s not exactly a coincidence that people only declare qualities that they dislike or don’t understand to be “phases” while automatically assuming qualities they like or identify with to be legitimate. Since we’ve established that permanence isn’t an actual thing, can we agree that “it’s a phase” is just a method of dismissing a present reality that you don’t like/understand by assigning more legitimacy to an imagined future which you like better?

So, yes it may be very likely that “it” (what ever it may be) is actually not a phase (relative to a person’s life span, anyway). But so what if it was? Even then, it still wouldn’t be “just” a phase. People have every right to go through phases, because humans are living, breathing, dynamic beings who are don’t have to be the same people today as we will be tomorrow to prove that we exist.

If phases aren’t real and important . . . what is?

So go along with your little “living” phase and make it as real and fabulous as you want to, without challenging the existence of anyone else’s. Have fun!