Dropping In

I’m done with the semester and back at home! What I wrote on the plane last night between episodes of Full House and JetBlue popcorn chips:

Since my finals week this semester lasted longer than my actual finals (don’t hate me–I had a lot of paper finals that were already turned in) I spent a lot of the time taking open dance classes around the city. Particularly, I spent some time in classes that I’ve never taken before, probably won’t take again anytime in the foreseeable future, and didn’t expect to be particularly good at.

Steps Lobby

See, there are two types of people in an open class: the regulars and the randos.

The benefits of being a regular are pretty obvious. You form relationships with teachers and other dancers. You become more familiar with the style and can work on a deeper, more detailed level. You hopefully get more personal attention and corrections over time. You have a name.

So why be a rando?

Sometimes it’s out of scheduling necessity (e.g. your schedule only lets you take that class during finals week), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its perks.

Worst case, you’re invisible. Best case, the instructor takes personal interest in you, wants to know your name and background, and gives specific feedback.

But either way, you get thrown into a strange, new world with nothing to lose. Sure, there’s a chance to make a first impression, but there’s no reputation, no expectations following you. Whatever you do now is what you are here. (But only for 90 minutes.)

You’ll get confused and a little lost and thrown off your game, and you’ll have to get a little stronger and smarter as you find your way back on. You can ride that first, fast part of the learning curve, even if you don’t look amazing while doing it.

And there’s something kind of special about knowing that whatever happens in that 90 minutes has never happened to you before and may never happen to you again. It’s not a replacement for what you do every day, but it has its own charm.

Because eventually, all dance studios and dance classes start to feel a little like home, no matter where on earth you are or who you’re with. And dropping in is like a little test of how quickly you can find a home in an unfamiliar setting, at least until you let go of it once again to find a new one.

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Going Home

(A snippet from something I’m writing)

Jung talked about people wanting to regress to the womb in difficult times. But what if we actually could? What everyone revisited the womb for just a moment and saw that it was wet and lonely and cramped and had a pretty darn high mortality rate? Would we realize that it never really could provide the comfort and safety we were seeking, and search around us for answers instead? Would we start looking forward instead of back? Would we finally grow up and get on with life?

Then again, Jung said a lot of crap.

Things I’ve Learned in my First Year of College

  • Everything interesting happens after 3 am.
  • That doesn’t mean that everything that happens after 3 am is always interesting.
  • Waiting until after 3 am to find out is not the best strategy when you have ballet class the next morning.
  • A lot of people here are good at talking, but the best thing is when you find people who are really good at listening.
  • Asking people for permission or asking if something is possible only gives people the opportunity to tell you “no.” Do it before someone talks you out of it.
  • Your grade isn’t always correlated with how good you feel about your work, and that’s okay. That won’t even change much after you see the grade, and that’s probably a good thing. It means you have your own standards.
  • Emotions, moods, sleep, and weather affect your dancing. Much more than you would like. We’re human.
  • Pretty much everything that happens in life can be analyzed in terms of some social theory. That doesn’t mean that everyone around you wants to hear it.
  • Cronuts are overrated.
  • Once you do something once, you’re way more likely to keep doing it.
  • “Productive mode” is not always the best. You find/make some of the best things by wandering.
  • Friendships don’t happen because you have a lot in common with each other or objectively seem like a good match. They happen because of chance and physical proximity and stupid little points of initial bonding which end up developing into something way more meaningful and transformative than it is perfect or reasonably predictable.
  • Genuinely asking people to explain their views can be a lot more interesting/valuable than just arguing back.
  • A lot of people are willing to get outraged over things. Fewer people are actually willing to change things. That’s because it’s harder and confusing and easy to screw up. But I still want to be in that second category more often.
  • Listening to/belting out early 2000s pop songs is an instant bonding activity. I get old people and their nostalgia.
  • Massage trains appear abnormal from the outside.
  • Go ahead and stretch with other people in your room. People will get used to you. Once people see something about three times, it’s “normal.” Or close enough.
  • People are drawn to “real.” I’m not exactly sure what that is yet.
  • Don’t be afraid of being “clingy.” Life goes too fast not to have something or someone to cling to. And most people really want to cling back.
  • Just because other people don’t seem to talk about their problems, doesn’t mean they don’t have them. Literally everyone has problems.
  • “Home” is a flexible concept.
  • You and your work doesn’t have to be the “best” to have value.
  • Wanting is different from liking.
  • The “real world” is not as far over your head as you think it is.
  • There is always subtext.

Things I Learned in 2013

  1. College admissions are not controlled by some magical, divine force. No matter what they tell you about ending up where you’re “meant to be,” it’s really just people and numbers on the other side of the process.
  2. That said, most people don’t need a flawlessly-matched college to have a positive experience.
  3. Moving, distance, semi-independent living, urban navigation, and time management are not nearly as hard as people make them out to be.
  4. It’s one thing to hear older artists talk about how they don’t care about success or external validation and like the idea, but it’s another to genuinely feel this way about myself. I need some distance from the constant panic and uncertainty of young adulthood before I can get to that place, and that’s okay.
  5. There is more than one way to be social.
  6. You know how people slightly older than you seem to have it all figured out. They don’t.
  7. Everyone’s life looks way more exciting/perfect on Facebook.
  8. It’s totally okay to feel lots of different things simultaneously. Acknowledging this make every one-word answer to “How are you?” feel painfully dishonest.
  9. Everyone is shamefully ignorant about something. Google helps.
  10. Not all snow is adequate for snowman building.
  11. I don’t actually know what my parents are thinking.
  12. People have no idea what I’m thinking either. Explaining is important.
  13. Java and JavaScript are actually not the same thing.

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Have a great new year, people. Or an average one. No pressure.