Things I’ve Learned This Year (2019)

Hey all and congrats on revolving around the sun again! It’s truly revolutionary. Though I haven’t been as present here lately, I’m back with little assortment of things I learned this year  (like last year). 

Input and environment are as much a part of artmaking as output.

I began the year feeling that I didn’t have the right environment, audience, collaborators, or knowledge to effectively make the work I was most interested in. While prior commitments kept me making, I decided to spend more of my spare energy surrounding myself with people and ideas that inspired me, rather than initiating projects. My choices may not have seemed productive or professionally focused from the outside, but I trusted (correctly) that my work would be soon to follow my changes in perspective. 

Exceptionalism is usually incorrect and deeply overrated.

What’s better than claiming a trophy spot as the first and only something? Researching and highlighting the (perhaps under-acknowledged) work of those who came before you. Connecting with and supporting others with similar experiences and aspirations. Holding the door open for others to join you. 

Hierarchies of performance are pretty arbitrary.

I’ve continued to perform in a variety of environments from concert stages to nightclubs to schools to art exhibits to festivals.  Things that are not as correlated as I once believed: many people attend, how much rehearsal (or even training) is needed, how much it’s paid, how invested I feel in the work, and how “impressive” the gig looks on my resume. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–each performance experience offers a different type of value–but it has made me further detach from hierarchies of prestige within the dance world and prioritize projects on my own terms. 

No level of wokeness exempts people from human psychology.

No one is too feminist to remain in an abusive relationship. No one is too vocally body positive to struggle with eating disorders. No one is too informed about psychology to need therapy. Human brains remain human regardless of education or politics. Let’s accept this reality for ourselves and others so we don’t overlook or further stigmatize our struggles.

If you’re terribly embarrassed by your past self, that’s just a sign that you’re growing as a person…

…so I guess I should be proud to be deeply embarrassed by who I was less than a year ago. Though I cringe, I also thank previous versions of myself for awkwardly and openly stumbling through ideas, spaces, and roles they didn’t yet know how to navigate so that I can move through the world a bit more smoothly today.

People can have great politics but be bad humans.

(For the record, no, I don’t think the reverse of this statement is equally true.)

A healthy relationship with conflict is essential. 

It’s equally harmful to arbitrarily stir up conflict with no purpose and to be too averse to conflict to assert any values. (I have sometimes fallen into the latter category.) Choosing when and how to productively engage in with disagreement and criticism is a skill that I’ve come to really respect and prioritize developing.

Words are less important than the meanings behind them.

People can use the same word to mean different things and different words to mean the same thing. There are people doing great work without the perfect terminology attached to it, and there are people skillfully co-opting the language of social justice for marketing or personal manipulation. Language is an important tool to help us understand each other’s perspectives but when we over-fixate on words and miss the perspectives behind them, we end up picking the wrong battles.

Everyone is an authority on their own experience.

Any room I am in is filled with people who have lived different lives than me and know things I don’t. Though this once made me afraid of leader/teacher/facilitator roles, I am learning how leading a room can be about authorizing, organizing, and channeling the wealth of knowledge, rather than trying to provide all of it.