this is how i turn 30.

I cannot even believe there are two whole half gallons of ice cream in my freezer that haven’t been touched since I brought them home in a state of PMS rage last week.

I mean that is definitely not my greatest life accomplishment but there’s a lot to be said about that if you know anything about my history with ice cream and freezers and the whole pouring a jar of sprinkles on it and eating the entire container with a fork in three and a half breaths thing. (See blog posts #1-18 for reference.)

I cannot even believe where life has taken me outside of the many documents on my computer that were essentially the birthing place for all the blog posts on this website.

Cue, waterworks.

Just kidding. In my old age I don’t cry as much as I used to.

HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA you’re so funny you believed that. This morning I cried on the way to work thinking about what it will be like when one of my ten year old students turns eighteen and graduates from high school because this Mariah Carey song was playing on the radio that I did a lyrical dance to when I was ten.

There was mascara on my bra before 10am.

I LOVE TURNING 30.

No I seriously do I’m throwing myself no less than 17 parties this week starting last week even though my birthday is not until Tuesday and I’m not stopping celebrations until Sunday.

I love it because I’m not celebrating turning a year older or whatever. I love it because I have so many FUCKING VICTORIES TO CELEBRATE.

First of all, there’s the whole, surviving 29 years on this planet thing, I mean that’s worth celebrating. A car crash almost killed me when I was 18 and I’ve made some decisions over the past decade that were pretty fucking stupid so, being alive to see 30 is not something I take lightly and not something every one of my loved ones has gotten to experience so, let’s celebrate that.

Um, also, the amount of human beings in my life who love me is beyond comprehension and the gratitude for that is cause for a party every single day for the entire next century.

Most importantly though, I’m celebrating because I’ve actually followed through with something I’ve been saying for the past, I don’t know, like 15 years of my life.

Around 11 months ago, I laid on my couch, bitching and moaning about my boss, my life in Hawaii, the lack of quality men here, the cost of cereal, I mean, you name it. (Cereal is seriously so expensive here though.) My friend Zev, who was contemplating leaving the island and eventually did, told me that at some point, I had to get up off the couch, stop watching Marvel shows on Netflix, and begin training.

(I’m seriously a Marvel freak and I need you to accept that and love me for it.)

TRAINING FOR WHAT, YOU ASK?

Whatever the fuck I wanted.

He was just like, AMANDA, you have to take this next year and do what you need to do to make sure you’re in the best shape of your life by the time you’re 30 so you can do whatever you want. So you can seriously do WHATEVER you want.

He was not body shaming me you guys – seriously he wasn’t trying to be beat to a pulp. He was telling me that I could take more responsibility for my unhappiness than I was at the time and that it would require work.

So in April when I went home for my best friend from high school’s wedding I pretty much had to like, get up or give up. That was the turning point for the whole – do I move back to NYC where everything and everyone I love is, or stay here on an island that everyone dreams about living on that I hate and open a brand new dance studio with people who really really appreciate me and want me to be me while doing it?

Writing you from a VERY humid apartment in Hawaii, so obviously second answer won – only after 16,000 tears and angry life coach calls with multiple coaches, yes, multiple, that’s how many people I needed to unload on to figure this out.

In May, I asked for the role of Artistic Director with a brand new nonprofit arts organization here in Kona and I was welcomed into that role with the promise of freedom to finally bring the creativity and experience I’ve attained over the past 27 years of dancing, singing, acting, choreographing, teaching, performing professionally, and creating innovative work to this island and collaborate with the many artists here with similar missions.

In June, I ran a four-week 120 hour musical theatre intensive BY MYSELF exposing new kids to Broadway actors via Skype, classic composers, and most importantly, show business and the workings of theatre.

In July, I let go of this idea of “pretty” and claimed my personality, and the logistics of my job for my own as I chopped off all my hair into a look that might not attract the men who “love long hair” but fits me like a glove. I also bought a brand new fucking four wheel drive pickup truck.

In August, I found my therapist. Thank God for my therapist. Life is drastically different because of my therapist. I also started seeing a physical therapist for a shoulder injury who then helped diagnose plantar fasciitis in my left foot which began a series of weeks where I tap danced in sneakers to attempt to heal it. Very very depressing and life-altering thing that made me re-evaluate many many many many things. We had our grand opening at the new nonprofit performing arts studio and I also began taking my choreography into the community for performance after performance, both promoting our new studio and also showcasing my work at several large events in Kona for the first time, being credited for that at each one.

In September, the studio began its inaugural season with over 100 students enrolled, and I also produced an entire show that raised us funds for this season while showcasing over 26 pieces of my choreography. In September, I almost had a nervous breakdown.

In October, I spent three and a half weeks traveling to the east coast, attending a spectacular wedding, meeting my best friend’s new baby, taking amazing dance classes, and seeing best best best friends and family.

In November, I lived with my friend Aesha and her two year old son Arrow for ten days over Thanksgiving and my life was changed forever by new friendships and inspiration from Arrow’s strength and incredible heart. It was this that got me through the devastating election of Donald Trump, a man who thinks women are no more than eye candy and dolls to be grabbed and played with, not to mention his views on anyone that is different than him. This, and the realization that now, more than ever, it is my job to teach tolerance and diversity through dance and performing arts education, is what keeps me going throughout this disastrous administration.

In December, I traveled again and this time – it was too much. Too intense. Republican family. Brother who thinks “a little thing like racism” doesn’t make Trump a bad president. Trump Pence sign in my Poppop’s yard. The whole thing. We only talk about December in therapy right now. Also, tap dancing mermaids in a Christmas parade here in Kona – very legit.

In the three months in to 2017, I’ve put in so much work, so much personal awareness work, and also SO. MUCH. WORK WORK. Like, we’re talking, 15 pieces of spectacular and creative choreography. Hours picking costumes and music. Proposals for the next season. Like WORK work. Like A LOT of work. But most importantly, work on me. ME WORK. Prioritizing ME.

And I am ready, for 30.

I have made self-care a priority, thanks to the inspiration of my physical therapist who nearly broke my heart into a thousand pieces the day I told him I had added on yet another class to my Tuesday teaching schedule and asked me, “what are you doin’ to yourself?”

  • First of all, I got a Passion Planner. If you do not know what this is and you struggle with time management, immediately order one now. I don’t even care if you finish reading this brilliant breathtaking blog post – go now my friend. Everything is different with the Passion Planner.
  • I’m working with a personal trainer twice a week who I have made it VERY CLEAR with that there will be no talk of diet, nutrition, or weight loss and that I am in recovery for an eating disorder that personal training had a lot to do with back in 2009-2011. She has taken every word to heart and we have set physical goals – like strengthening my back to prevent further injury and engaging my left glute again after the plantar fasciitis. Not physical goals like inches lost. I love her forever. (Note: I will not lie to you, there is a lot to unpack here – as of COURSE after gaining 70 pounds throughout my recovery I would honestly be thrilled to lose some weight and fit back into my gorgeous clothes and feel lighter on my feet BUT that is part of my journey and sorting through that while also feeling like a badass is part of the “training” Zev was talking about and if you are going through a similar situation, I just wanted to tell you that you do NOT need to feel guilty about it or beat yourself up for these desires – it’s a human response, especially for those of us who have been through the ED and body hatred journey that we have.)
  • I grocery shop. There’s a lot to explain here but grocery shopping is huge for me like, it’s pretty fucking epic.
  • I pack lunches and dinners for work. Lots to go into here but just know this is about a big accomplishment as you climbing Everest so.
  • I shop. For clothes. For myself. To wear on dates. To wear to meetings. To wear to the grocery store that I now go to once a week. Not just to wear on a dance floor. Also comparable to swimming the channel or something.
  • I get facials with an amazing esthetician.
  • I get a Vitamin C IV from my naturopath once a month for my immune system.
  • I spend about $100 a month on high quality supplements and natural anxiety cures that have revolutionized my physical and mental health.
  • I also switched from thongs to regular underwear. I like, did NOT know how comfortable that would be and it’s pretty much everything.

I have huge crushes on two different men which is a GAMECHANGER for me because even if these men remain in the friend zone and are not attracted to me (which would be crazy because I’m stupid hot in my old age) IT GIVES ME HOPE THAT THERE ARE QUALITY MEN ON THIS ISLAND WHICH IS A LOT MORE THAN I CAN SAY FOR WHAT I BELIEVED A YEAR AGO.

Speaking of men, I laid down the law with two of my exes in the past few months, got final final final closure from Stallion that included one crazy New York night that just HAD to be that way, and I am free, free, FREE, fucking free of emotional baggage or trust issues.

SO YES.

YES ZEV.

YES MOM.

YES FRIENDS.

AT 30, I AM IN THE BEST SHAPE OF MY ENTIRE LIFE.

I DO NOT HAVE A FLAT STOMACH. MY STOMACH IS BUMPY. I LIKE IT THIS WAY. (This is a lie, but, not for long. I am working on REVELING in my bumpy non-flat stomach because it does not exclude me from anything in life other than this really cute bathing suit I found at Macy’s for $88 and they don’t make an XXL and I was like, so sad, but some things, just like organic healthy Nutella-type products, are just not meant to be.)

I HAVE MAD CELLULITE. I COULD DO WITHOUT BUT, OKAY IT’S DEFINITELY THERE.

I CAN’T RUN A MARATHON.

I CAN’T DO A PULLUP.

YET.

BUT MY MENTAL STATE, MY EATING DISORDER RECOVERY, MY LEVELS OF HOPE, MY STABILIZED MOODS, MY MUCH BETTER BUT NOT YET TOTALLY STABILIZED ANXIETY, IS IN THE BEST SHAPE

OF

MY

LIFE.

This past weekend I celebrated that by booking a staycation at one of the resorts here, and then competing in my first ever all styles dance battle where I made it to the final four with a bunch of the hottest breakdancers I think exist on this earth and I was THE ONLY WOMAN. TAP DANCING. It was very hot. I will revel in this for at least two more weeks.

Also, let it always be celebrated that my students, my amazing girls and teenagers, were able to watch me dance in this body this weekend and they WILL. NOT. GROW. UP thinking heavier bodies, or bigger bodies, are not capable of dancing full out, kicking face, turning, jumping, performing, and nailing it. For them to see me living my best life on that dance floor with the joy in my movements and the hair in my face is the greatest gift I can give them – not simply because of my abilities, but because of my unapologetic ownership of every inch of me.

Also my creativity is BANGIN’ these days. I’m talkin’, on fire. Probably because I don’t hate myself. Wish my 25-year-old self could experience the on-fire-ness I’m going through right now but she’ll be okay. She’s doing good with all these new changes and she did the best she could back then.

I love how many times I just said “also” as I just continue to list all the things that are great about me.

And THAT’S what I’m raising many, many, many glasses of bourbon to on March 28th. Tomorrow. Well, really, March 24th-April 2nd but like, the 28th at 12:32pm is when I enter the new decade.

Thank you everyone who made it like this for me. Thank you Alanis Morissette. Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda. Thank you to my naturopath; my therapist; Maripat Abbott; Olivia/Rich/Topher (one entity basically); Stephanie Beeby; Brittany Horn; my hilarious physical therapist who I think is supposed to be my best friend now that I’m not a patient anymore; Aesha; Arrow. Thank you Ilana Maxwell for opening up The Sweet Spot and being everything I needed the first few months of my role of Artistic Director. Thank you to the board of our amazing performing arts studio for building this unbelievable artistic beacon and allowing me to lead it. Anna, Ian, Amelia, my truest ohana, truly attached to my heart in every way, convincing me to stay on this lava rock and essentially hiding my suitcases from me on several occasions. Bronson I love you. Thank you to my students for making me human and making me vulnerable. Thank you for everyone who has touched me in 29 years both in ways that harmed me and in ways that healed me.

Thank you Zev.

And thank you Rachel Marie LaPorte, for handing me When Food Is Love in 2013 and giving me this life. I stand here today on two very strong, cellulite ridden, extremely sexy, slightly tanned legs, feeling the ground beneath my feet and the future before me, wide open for the taking.

I have learned so much. It was at 29 that I learned to forgive. To not let reactions determine my actions. To accept. To resist. That I have to resist – I mean that was a new lesson for me. Calling senators was VERY new to me. It was at 29 that I learned how good I am at what I do – and trusting that daily. And how great I look in those cold-shoulder tops. And how to change my windshield wiper fluid by myself. That perspective is everything, and if he doesn’t show up, I don’t have to chase him down because he’s not chaseworthy.

And how much tap dancing really really really is, the true love of my life. Sometimes things need to be taken from you (broken toe, plantar fasciitis, etc.) to remind you to get your ass to the studio JUST FOR YOU.

And I can’t wait for the next chapter of lessons.

And amazing sex. I think 30 is going to bring really amazing sex.

I’ll be celebrating all week, because I’ve created (read: worked my ass off for) a life that I want to celebrate every day. The third decade is just going to be, SO epic.

Mahalo.

 

She Didn’t Give Up On Me

Whenever I feel frustrated with a student, wanting to ignore them, their antics, their fake tantrums, I turn away from them. I go to the stereo, I look at the clock, I stare at the whiteboard. Like there’s a fucking brilliant answer waiting there for me, explaining exactly how to deal with the moody tween behind me telling me they forgot their ballet shoes/leotard/notebook/brain/common courtesy/etc.

I look away because I always know the answer that works for me. I just need a fuckin’ second to say it a couple times in order to not lose my shit on the precious little student who just talked throughout the entire warmup.

The invisible answer, written on the stereo, the clock, the whiteboard?

In ten years, I want this student to be able to say they had a teacher that didn’t give up on them.

Coming from a musical theatre college where so many teachers gave up on me, I can count on one hand the ones that looked me in the eye and told me to keep going. Keep doing the work.

I’ll never forget their names.

In ten years, I want my most troubled student, the one who shows up late, hair a hot mess, borrowing patent leather tap shoes one size too small from the borrow basket, to say that Miss Amanda did not give up on her.

Or him.

But right now there’s more hers with the issues.

I have students with severe mental health issues, adopted from biological mothers who did drugs in the womb. I have students with fantastic parents who just don’t take responsibility for themselves. I have students who just, don’t give a shit.

Because it’s not cool to.

Until I come along and I fuckin’ make that shit cool.

Yes, you will do ballet to actual ballet music, and we will talk about how it makes you a badass. In appropriate terms of course.

Then, you get to do ballet to Hamilton. As a treat. Not as a bribe.

Yes, you will learn how to read music, and talk about how it helps you with math in school.

Yes, you will do the same combo in tap for two months to the same old jazz song by Quincy Jones.

And then go improvise with a live band and feel like such a badass because YOU KNOW THE JAZZ SONGS and you’re nine.

Whatever, yea, I’m a pretty great teacher but that’s not where I’m going with this.

I have recently found happiness in my life for the first time since…I honestly cannot remember.

There’s been moments. There’s been times. There were shows. There are friends.

But daily, unwavering, unbelievable gratitude and happiness for myself, and the life I have created, for real this shit is brand spankin’ new to me.

And I wish you could hear the inflection in my voice when I say that IT IS BECAUSE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 29 YEARS, EVER, IN 29 YEARS, I don’t have that feeling of dread. That lower voice saying, this shit won’t last girl. Just you wait.

IT IS HOW I KNOW. Like, it’s how I know this time is DIFFERENT.

Dude I have figured out how to make whatever the fuck I want to last, last.

I’ve learned RESPONSIBILITY. I’ve learned to write things in a plannerrrrr. I’ve learned how to listennnnn.

I’ve learned to lean on people. Tell them what I need. Ask for help. Reach out for a hand. That doesn’t just go away anymore. It’s part of how I live my life.

I’ve learned to set boundaries. I will say no. If I say yes, I will be there.

I’ve learned to stand up for myself. In painful, heartbreaking, friendship-ending ways. I will not accept less than I deserve. And if I do, it is because I’ve asked for a six-month review on my contract.

It’s taken three goddamn years but I have accepted that my path is not the one I thought it would be. It. Was. Hard. It. Was. Awful. It was a grieving process I can’t describe. If people ask me anymore if I miss New York or performing I just slap them. JK lol I just throw a drink in their face.

Now, I serve. I serve a community, I serve the keiki. I create things that make for a better world, and they start in my head, on an island, in the middle of the Pacific. And that is only possible, because I also serve myself. Yes, injuries drove me to physical therapy but I have followed up and I do those fucking exercises even if it’s after a few bourbons.

Speaking of which, I had to face my demons there too. Where I used to go through a bottle a week, I go through a bottle every two now. Therapy. Awareness. Conciousness.

I call the doctor. I schedule the oil change. I buy the elderberry syrup before I get sick.

I stopped trying to be a pretty girl. I’m not a pretty girl. I’m a woman, who lives life in spandex, in a jungle climate. My hair though. I mean, I chopped it. I don’t need to be pretty. I need to be whole. And comfortable at all times.

Anyways let me say this:

I wish that five years ago, holding my lettuce wrap in one hand and a cell phone with Playbill bookmarked on the homepage in the other, that I had known, there was someone out there who would not give up on me.

I found a life coach. I found a therapist. I found amazing friends. And I believe they have my back.

But,

no one has my back like me.

I never gave up. On me. I didn’t. I guess I just never thought about it that way until now.

Oh there’s been times. When I kinda did. Like there were definitely times. But, never all the way to the point where I didn’t pick up the book again after a relapse. Where I didn’t call the naturopath after all western medicine gave up on me, even if it took two fucking years to do it. I did. It was so hard and I felt so lazy and so incredibly terrifyingly overwhelmingly out of control. So, yea, I was close to throwing in the towel.

But it’s been three and a half years.

And here

I

Am.

Eating disorder recovery is no fucking joke. I’m like, so much saner and no longer scared of food and also wishing I could be as fat as I was when I thought I was so fat. In 2012. In a dress that could now only serve as a cowl.

Body image shit that comes along with the recovery. It’s like, such a trip man. Jesus Christ I think I look so hot until I see a picture of myself at the wrong angle.

MY ARMS THOUGH. LIKE WHAT THE FUCK?!

There are still things. There are still, things. Feeling like I want to explain to my physical therapist why I look like this even though I’m a dance teacher. Feeling like I want to validate my weight to new dance parents. Trying on one-piece bathing suits IN GENERAL.

There are things.

I look so terrible in pajamas of any kind. I have this weird thing about it, I don’t know why it bothers me so much.

But I didn’t give up. I mean I’m still not giving up. It’s a continuous action, it’s not a past-tense statement. On me. On figuring it out. On that fucking mirror. On finding people to work for WHO APPRECIATE ME. On demanding more. On bringing ideas to the table that are DAMN GOOD and fighting for them until someone is willing to give it a try. On living alone. On moving on from relationships that I know I entered into bringing baggage full of self-hatred and insecurities. On telling exes exactly that. Owning that.

On keeping ice cream in the house.

On dancing.

On singing.

On sharing it all with others.

In ten years, I’ll be able to say, I had a teacher that never, gave up on me.

She was one moody bitch, and the inconsistencies were infuriating.

But she kept going.

Oh my God I honestly can’t imagine my recovery in ten years. But I think I will throw a very large party to celebrate. Because I deserve it.

Because I didn’t give up on me.

I’m so proud to say I’ve been my own teacher. PROUD. Because that’s mine. You can’t take that from me. And I’ve had so many influences along the way. I couldn’t be more thankful. But it was my choice, in the end, on how those influences guided or affected my life and I’m proud of the way I fumbled through and scratched deeper than the surface.

I didn’t give up.

On me.

And holy shit – I hope you don’t give up on you either.

I’m talking to you. You know who you are.

You are just fucking, honestly, you are just loaded with knowledge. You know what to do. Stop questioning. Be the teacher that you can say, never gave up on you.

I promise you know enough.

And if you don’t, pick up a book my friend.

There’s a whole lotta pages left unturned that can serve as your stereo. Your clock.

Your whiteboard.

Trusty out. (But it’s good to be back.)

These happiness rules. I’m over it. Enough is enough.

The other night, an old friend from high school asked me a totally insane question.

What is the best and worst thing you have ever done in your life?

Now granted, we were like, three bourbons in here, but I was surprised how quickly my answer came.

Moving to Hawai’i.

Now, I know. I’ve written about this before – how torn I am between Manhattan and the Big Island, and all the things I have here, and all the things I have there, and how homesick I get, and I know you don’t need to read it again.

I’m here to talk about something else.

The best thing I have ever done for my life is move to Hawai’i. My seasonal depression has significantly decreased. I have access to all the Vitamin D and fresh air that I want. I don’t feel rushed, I don’t feel panicked, and most importantly, I don’t have to wait for a local A train at the end of the night.

I know that the lessons and all the books say that you can’t find happiness by chasing new destinations all the time. Wherever you are, there you are. And you have to find happiness inside yourself, no matter where you’re living.

I agree with that.

I also think there’s more to it though.

I think that if someone is living in a place that’s gray, cold, busy, frustrating, loud, sad, boring, or stifling, that it can absolutely add misery to an already unsatisfactory life. True, if you’re already depressed, you don’t just lose the depression at the security gate when you board the plane for someplace warmer. But if you’re already suffering from depression and anxiety, and you live in a place that you hate, it’s like marinating sadness in a big bowl of more sadness.

If you visited Chicago once, and really felt the vibe there, and you want to try it out, but you’re already experiencing a sort of melancholy or unhappiness, you’re still allowed to move to Chicago and try it out. You don’t have to figure out all the answers to your unhappy state before you’re allowed to make a life change. People may lecture you, and they may warn you that happiness won’t just take over your life once you move to Chicago, but it’s okay for you to say, I know, you’re right, but there are things about the place that bring me more joy than where I am right now, and I think it’s worth a try.

I feel like there are so many rules around happiness anymore. There’s listicles of ways to make your morning happier, your relationship happier, your body happier, your home happier. And I don’t know about you, but I’m sort of numb to them now. Because I keep scrolling, reading all of the obvious answers about colored paints and fruity teas and grow irritated wondering if anyone is ever just gonna get real about happiness.

Happiness is not guaranteed. It’s not consistent. It’s not something you can change with a snap of a finger and a purchase of a journal of happiness quotes with happiness pictures and lines for happiness thoughts.

It’s moments really. It’s moments that come and go, and it’s the memories that come along with those moments, which can sometimes turn into nostalgia which can almost turn into a sadness because you miss those happy times so much that it hurts your heart a little bit. And it’s learning to appreciate them. It’s learning to appreciate them. One more time for good measure, it’s learning to appreciate them. It’s brunch. Or it’s not. It’s a fun Halloween. Or it’s finding hummus on sale. Or it’s finding out you don’t need a new battery for your car. Or it’s a soft sleep shirt. Or it’s a new haircut. Or it’s great sex.

Yea, I’m breaking the rules. I think that getting a haircut you love can bring you great joy in the mirror every day. I also think a haircut you hate can really give you a shitty morning for many weeks until it grows out. Maybe it’s not the end of the world. But if it brings you joy, or it brings you cringes, like, it contributes to your happiness level. Point blank.

Also, yes, I think people can bring you happiness. I know our happiness shouldn’t lie in the hands of others, but I also think there are people in this life who make me really happy. And when I’m really, really sad, to have them on my couch with me, brings me comfort and a semblance of joy. I think human contact is happiness. Hand holding, hugs, kisses, and eye contact have the ability to recharge the heart. Obviously, sex holds the same capabilities, along with the complications it may bring, but let’s face it. Great sex is like, just happy. Like it’s so happy though.

A compliment can bring happiness. I think we need to find our own confidence that we get to keep to ourselves, that no one can take away, but I don’t think it’s wrong of us to find joy in a compliment and add it to our collection of confidence. I think that’s okay.

I think shopping is okay. I think buying a new set of rocks glasses with a leopard print trim for my old-fashioned at the end of the day can be happiness. I think a pair of comfortable heels to wear to a wedding is one of the greatest gifts on God’s green earth. I think giving gifts is some of the greatest happiness I’ve ever felt, and it supports all the no-no’s; consumerism, materialism, and superficiality. I think it’s great.

I think saying I love you is happiness. I think hearing it is happiness. I think a good friend texting you to pick her up at the airport at Christmastime is happiness. Imagine the gummi bears and conversation we’re going to have while we’re stuck in holiday traffic. I think air conditioning is happiness. Like, I feel unhappy, and itchy, and disgusting, when my bra is soaked in sweat.

If we are only finding happiness in these things, if we can only find happiness with shopping, sex, or those old-fashioned’s, then yes, we’re out of whack. We’re out of balance. We might need help. But still, we’re not doing it wrong. We just need to adjust – maybe with the help of friends, maybe with the help of doctors. I’m not condoning addiction. But I am saying that shopping, sex, and old-fashioned’s enjoyed in moderation can bring happiness to a person and that’s okay.

I think there are levels of happiness that sometimes we forget about when we’re working through our shit. It’s not always an ultimate high, and it’s not always something that sticks around all day. Hell, it’s not even something sticks around for the full hour. Maybe lunch break at a job we hate is the happiest hour of our day, and until we figure out what else we want to do, we cherish that hour. That’s okay. Again, you’re not doing it wrong.

We could either chastise ourselves for all the things we do that brings us happiness even though according to the spiritual leaders and the self-help books, it’s not what real happiness is. Or we could enjoy the fleeting moments when someone hands us a fruity cocktail and puts Mr. Jones on the jukebox and we are inclined to literally scream at the top of our lungs, I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW. I think that life is more worthwhile enjoying those moments, than constantly keeping an even keel and remembering that everything could come crashing down tomorrow.

Chances are, the crash is coming. Chances are, we’ll sleep through our alarm tomorrow, lock our keys inside the car, and spill coffee on our white jeans. But while we tell the story about it to our best friend and laugh about how this is the sixth time that this has happened, this month, we are allowed to relish in the fleeting moment of happiness that comes with camaraderie, joking, and self-deprecation.

Enough with the rules. Enough with the Pinterest quotes. It’s a journey. With three trillion stops. Forty-five of them might be today. In between the shit, we’re allowed to celebrate all forty-five however we see fit. And if that involves champagne and footed pajamas with the curtains closed while you binge watch Parks & Rec for the fourth time through, then so be it. Happiness is [insert your preferences here]. Maybe it’s people, maybe it’s food, maybe it’s sleep, maybe it’s sunshine. As long as you keep a balance between it all, which is literally impossible but is also the key to sanity, and always come back to your gut, and what you’re really feeling like you need inside and why, then no self-help book has the right to tell you that you’re doing it wrong.

Happiness is a romance. Court it. Get nervous when it doesn’t text you back. Let those nerves drive you into an aggressive state. And then when you overdo it, take a step back and cover your head with pillows until you’re ready to go outside and try it again. Anything can add to your happiness – just don’t let one thing take over and control it all. Or do. And learn from it afterward.

Unknown-7No more rules. Just deep breaths and genuine appreciation for all the stupid little moments that make our lives great. Regardless of the best and worst thing you’ve ever done in your life, there’s bound to be some amazing memories in there that have made you who you are today. And that’s fucking cool.

Finally, thanks to the friends who ask the insane questions. You make me appreciate shit that I take for granted. You make me think. You make me laugh at my mistakes. You make me want more. And yea, people, you make me happy. In a world where happiness can go missing at any given moment, I cherish you more than anything. Mahalo for your time.

My Stream of Consciousness about Celery & Carrots & BED Recovery

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*Trigger warning: mention of bingeing, purging, disordered eating, specific diets, body image and losing weight

Last Thursday night, I had an epic yet completely trivial victory in my binge-eating disorder recovery and I shared my stream of consciousness about it on Facebook. For those struggling with binge-eating, or any fear around food, I share this with you to remind you that you absolutely must celebrate the tiniest, silliest, weirdest victories along the way or you will literally go insane. This recovery thing? It fucking sucks. Am I right? So when we can, we have to spend time appreciating the hills we climb along the way, because that’s the only way we’re going to get to the top of the fucking mountain.

I also share this because, if you don’t get it, if you don’t get your friend’s struggles with disordered eating, you need to read this. You need to look at the nitty gritty so that you can be there with them along the way to tell them how badly it sucks, and that you don’t understand it, but you fucking love them and you are there for them in whatever capacity they need you for. Sometimes, that’s shutting your mouth and letting them vent. Sometimes, it’s being a provider of a case of wine. Either way, this is something to give you a glimpse into our very I-can’t-believe-this-is-my-life world.

If you are reading this and you are struggling, I just want you to know how amazing you are, and how much you truly deserve the life of freedom you are seeking. It is not impossible, my friend. I promise you that. It sucks, it’s really hard, but it is possible and I promise you that even on the darkest days, the journey is worth it. The half gallon of freezer burnt cookies and cream that I just threw away is a little baby bit of proof of that. It does get better.

And now, onto the Facebook post:

Hi. So, two things happened tonight after work. As you may know, my best friend in Hawai’i is a badass chef, annnnnnd she happens to literally work next door to me. Like, on Tuesdays at 5:30, there is literally ballet music, hip hop music, Frank Sinatra, and Ray Charles all playing in the same vicinity because that’s what you get when a dance studio and a restaurant share walls. I digress.

Tonight, I was fucking starving. I was jarred awake at 7am by a blog post, poking at me to be written, and I’ve been going like a nut ever since. I didn’t eat enough all day, and next thing I knew, it was time for work, so I left the house with like, a Babybel and wished myself luck.

I was moody and edgy all night, which I hate, but it’s part of life and I do my best to manage while I’m teaching. At 7:50, when my last adult student finally left, I went next door and said to Amelia, “I want to kill everybody.” I don’t know if it’s PMS or lack of sleep, but I was just, done. I went back to lock the studio, and Amelia started making me dinner.

When I came back to the restaurant to hang in the kitchen like I do every night before the longass drive back to my place, I opened a tupperware of julienned carrots and celery that Amelia had made for me. And I just started chowin’ down on these cold, raw veggies like it was Nutella on a brownie. And I was like, so into it. I was starving, I was literally like, dude though, my stomach was aching, and I could have asked Amelia for a pizza, pasta, curry, sandwich, it doesn’t matter, she’ll make it for me. And I was like, I just really need these celery and carrots right now.

On the way home, after she made me dinner to go, I grabbed a cookie off the cooling rack. I literally, could not get it in my mouth fast enough on the car ride home. The chicken, rice, and veggies Amelia had made for me was like, not on my radar at all because this cookie had suddenly become my life force.

And then I started crying. Not because of the cookie. Because of the celery and the carrots.

It might not make sense, but every time I have ice cream for lunch, or cake for breakfast, I feel like I might trigger myself into a relapse. A binge, a purge, another fear of food. I quite literally, terrify myself. But what I’ve finally let sink in, after friends like Olivia and Johnny say it enough times, is that eating ice cream for lunch is actually something that many, many humans do. Because sometimes, making a sandwich is simply an impossible task. Because exhaustion. Because grocery stores. Because empty wallets. Because life. And when I eat ice cream for lunch, it’s normally a few spoonfuls before I throw it back in the freezer (or the refridgerator depending on how tired I am), and then I rush to work. Three years ago, I would have finished the entire carton and thrown it away and gone out for more just because I thought that would be the day I would give up ice cream forever and I would finally stick to my Atkins/WeightWatchers/nosugar/cleanse for the final time. And then I’d probably throw up, not necessarily as a purge, but because I literally made myself sick from eating two half gallons of cookies ‘n’ cream WITH sprinkles.

I cried tonight because I ate celery and carrots for pleasure. I don’t know. Not pleasure. Just because like, I was hungry and they were there and I didn’t think twice. Actually, it’s THAT. It’s that I didn’t think twice. I just started inhaling them because I was so hungry and they were so crunchy and watery and cold and good and I didn’t have a thought process around the fact that they are “good for me” or “low-cal”, I just like really needed them right then as my dinner.

Am I making sense? I am very excited right now, can you tell? I have, terrible body image days. I look at pictures on TimeHop at my once slim face and my heart breaks into 14,000 pieces. I try dresses on that fit me a year ago and I can’t even get my left boob into it. I advocate for young girls and women to appreciate their bodies, and I work very hard at appreciating mine, but there are days when I simply want to never eat again and also get lipo and also a tummy tuck and give up drinking and do a cleanse and get a personal trainer. Like, I have not fully gotten there yet, nor do I know if I ever will. I also have days where I look in the mirror after my fifth hour of teaching, sweaty as hell, and think that I literally should go on a date looking exactly as I do in that moment because I look so damn sexy. When I actually wear a bra, and throw on a pair of jeans, I look smokin’. But I have to be in a place where I can even put those things on without hating what’s underneath.

I try to tell people what it’s been like. Conquering fear around food, eating at a dinner table with people and actually LISTENING to what they’re saying, actually tasting food instead of inhaling it, not being afraid of a brownie, anxiety in general like, just, anxiety in general though, not obsessing over salad, not hating salad, not really feeling anything about salad other than when I want it, I want it and when I don’t, I don’t, and that’s like, what humans feel normally about salad basically and now, I FEEL THAT WAY TOO. And in a bittersweet, what the fuck, is this real, what is my life, why do I weigh this much when I dance four hours a day, sorry for fucking up my metabolism for the last decade, any man would be lucky to have me, I have overcome mountains higher than Mauna Kea, I live in Hawai’i, I get paid to tap dance, I have great hair, can you believe one million people on the internet have seen my ass, I write for a living, I have great eyelashes, why has my Nutella jar gone bad oh yea because I haven’t opened it in a year except for a photo shoot last week… like, in this holy shit way, I just, wanna say, recovery ain’t easy. It’s a daily, a DAILY struggle, but the tears streaming down my face right now as I write this mean that I am still deeply moved by my own, I don’t know, what do you wanna call it, journey? Life? Like, my own life moves me? Is that a thing? I guess for me it’s a thing. Tonight, I didn’t cry because I ate the cookie, I cried because celery and carrots were food and like had no meaning other than they were food. I could have let the cookie throw me into a whole debate in my head but instead I just feel like I need to clink someone’s glass and celebrate. LIKE BASICALLY I WANT TO MAKE A TOAST TO CELERY AND CARROTS. And I think the tears also mean that, life is hard, but in the times where it feels easy, I am blessed in many ways, and I would rather be struggling through the celery/carrots/pizza/how can I have so much cellulite if I dance for a living/blueberry muffin obsession, than living the life of fear, torment, depression, and self-hatred that I lived from the time I was 15 up until I turned 26. I’m just here to say, hey, it’s possible, and, you can do it too, and it really sucks, and it also rocks, and there is a whole life to be lived when we’re ready.

I’m so ready. Like I’m sooooo ready. Like, mahalo for all your time and like, cheers dude.

That Time I Told My Mentor I Was In Love With Him

I’ve been actively involved in the entertainment industry since I’m three years old. From what I understand, my rendition of “Ten Little Angels” was enjoyed by every doctor’s office, department store clerk, and deli counter person in the greater Berks County area, and I was paid handsomely in lollipops and Hi-C orange drink on the reg.

Now, I grew up dancing in a studio where I had two teachers. Miss Tina. And Mr. Mike.

Many little girls grow up in dance studios across the country where there are only female teachers, and so I count myself lucky to have been exposed to a male dancer at such a young age.

When I was eleven, that studio closed and we switched to a new one, where I joined the competitive dance circuit and began assistant teaching a few years later. And from the time I was eleven until the time I was twenty-six, all of my teachers were always women or homosexual men.

It was at twenty-six that I connected with Lawrence*. Our paths had crossed before; in high school I used to take the bus up to New York City and walk to Broadway Dance Center when it was still on 57th and Broadway. I took his tap class once, and cried the hardest. It was the most insane class I had ever taken, and it truly humbled me to my core.

At twenty, I auditioned for his tap company in New York while I was still in college. Again, it was a true disaster, and not only because I showed up in a leotard and tights for an a cappella rhythm tap audition.

In between twenty and twenty-six, I booked regional work performing musical theatre and was working toward joining the union. I was paid to travel, dress up, and sing, and life was good. However, all along the way, I become increasingly aware that the theatre world is very much a boys’ club, most often times a gay boys’ club, and I experienced several situations during my time as a professional actress that really rubbed me the wrong way.

I started to realize that I could never quite gain the respect of the directors and choreographers I worked for. Every single job that I booked for six years had a male director, and nine times out of ten, a male choreographer. Always a male music director. And, most of the time, a male stage manager.

Truth be told, I never had trouble making friends growing up. I was teased by tough guys in high school but in the theatre world, I was always treated like a princess. I have three billion gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer friends. I’m an advocate for equality and love and respect my LGBTQ friends very, very hard. This is not about that.

However, I had an extremely hard time getting on the side of those homosexual male directors and choreographers that mattered. What does that mean? Well, the side that gets invited for drinks after rehearsals. The side that has inside jokes during a put-in. The side that is 100% sure that they will get a call from now on for every show that man directs, at least for an audition, if not to be cast. I felt left out, but I wasn’t about to whine about it.

So I started brown-nosing. Like sucking up so hard you could find me around the coffee being catty as all hell, just to push my way in to the club. I hated what it took out of me, and what it took from me, but I was hardcore. I loved my work. I lived for my work. I wanted more of it. All the time. The theatre world is an incestuous one, and I was willing to do almost anything to make sure I was part of the web.

So when I reconnected with Lawrence through an email exchange, and he informed me he was doing a tap intensive that summer and maybe I would be interested, I was like, yes, do you take a payment plan, I will be there. A chance to study with the guy who tore my ego out of my body, not once, but twice, and had me squash it with my own tap shoes as I tried to do what he was doing, to no avail?

Yes. Thank you for your time. I will not show up in a leotard and tights this time.

And that’s when it began.

My falling in love with my straight male tap dance teacher.

Over the course of two years, I took his intensive three times, connected with him via Facebook and email on the regular, and made sure to book private lessons with him while I was home in New York on holidays. Not because I was in love with him. Perhaps I didn’t realize that yet. No. Because he was good. He was smart. He knew his shit, which made me realize I didn’t know an eighth of mine. I had much to learn from this man, and if he was willing to teach it, I was going to be there to pick it up.

This past summer, even though I had thoughts about feelings about things about like you know, the feelings, I dismissed them. Until, I fell hard. On the first day of the first tap intensive, I walked out of the studio with a friend and I was like, shit dude. I have it bad.

I spent the next week blushing, sweating, crying, questioning, and dreaming about my tap teacher. I couldn’t get him out of my head. Every time he would ask me a question, or give me a high-five, or congratulate me on my work, I would swoon. It had to be obvious and embarrassing and terribly painful for everyone within a ten-mile radius to witness.

But I did my best. You know, to like, keep cool and, not think about it, and stuff. And not wear too much makeup. But not too little. And oh my God. Mess.

Finally, the second week, after a tumultuous situation arose in my personal life and Lawrence was there for me, giving the best advice, as he has done on multiple occasions in the past over Skype or through Facebook or email, I decided I needed to tell him. It was killing me. I was even more attracted to him when he exposed his own vulnerabilities and fears, sharing personal information with me during our talk when I was inconsolable. To see a straight, attractive, talented man open up and talk is basically like porn. You know what I’m talking about.

So I told him. I called him, and I told him, and nothing that I wanted to say came out. What came out was like, some words, and some heavy breathing, and some strange stuttering, and when I got off the phone I had nail marks in my thigh so deep I was surprised I don’t have permanent scarring.

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I spent the next four days feeling embarrassed but empowered. Confused but less weighted. Sure of my decision, but definitely unsure.

Before I left New York, a few weeks later, we decided to meet up. I knew it was no more than a friendship hang; he made it very clear in our phone call that he did not feel the same way I did when he merely said, “okay”, after I uttered an assortment of words about feelings and attraction while powerwalking around my apartment and cringing.

As soon as he sat down across from me, I almost laughed. He cocked his head to the side and looked at me inquisitively.

“What’s up?”, he asked.

I mumbled something about being tired from trying to see everyone in such a short visit.

Inside my head, I was having this conversation.

“You are such a dork. You don’t love him. You don’t have feelings for him at all. He’s a straight dude and he treats you like an equal. You’re an idiot. Fix it. Fix it now.”

I realized, as I sat across from him, that I wasn’t in love with him. I didn’t even know if I really had feelings for him. What my heartstrings had actually been doing for weeks on end were just pulling me toward a man who, for the first time in my performance career, had spent the last year treating me like a human being, even though I’m a woman. I had actually just spent the summer studying with a man who respects women in this business. Treats them like equals. Like they have ideas. Like they are worth something. And it was so bizarre to me, that I completely mistook it for romantic feelings.

See, what I realized at the diner that night, is that my mentor isn’t just a tap prodigy. He’s a feminist. He doesn’t see gender, he sees passion. He sees artists. He goes to them, he offers his hand, he answers the questions, he offers the challenge, he holds them up when they want to sit down and take their shoes off.

I didn’t want to date this man. My teacher. My role model. My friend.

I wanted to emulate him. I wanted to collaborate with him. Have more conversations. Being on the same page with someone is so rare in this life, that it coerces us into believing we need to nail that person down and keep them locked up in our life forever.

Furthermore, being respected, in this business, in the entertainment industry, is so rare, that I was literally tricked into thinking this man should be my significant other. My partner in life.

How fucked up is that?

It was so unfamiliar to me that I didn’t have to fight my way onto this man’s radar, that he just respected me and was there with me on my journey from the beginning without expectations, that I confused mutual respect and friendship, for a crush.

And true, I will always have a talent crush on the dude. Most humans do.

But I was not, and I am not, in love with him. I put myself out there, and I’m glad I did, but if he had told me he wanted to date me, we would have found out pretty quickly that we don’t actually have enough in common to be involved romantically.

In this life, men who treat women as equals is something I wish we didn’t have to celebrate so hard. Every day, there’s a new article, praising Bradley Cooper for sharing his salary with female co-stars so they can demand a raise, and high-fiving Daniel Craig for calling James Bond a misogynist. And I hope to God one day, that those celebrations won’t be necessary because the point will have become moot.

But in the meantime, I’d like to raise a glass to Lawrence, and the constant love and care he puts into his craft, his teaching, and his communication. I have learned so much from this man, and if nothing else, I have learned that I will not settle for anything less than mutual respect and outrageously exciting collaboration in this business that I have been working in, literally, since the age of three.

If there are more Lawrence’s out there, I will find them, and I will work with them. Because that’s real art.

No boys’ club. No sucking up. No secret happy hours.

True art involves creative people who genuinely want to see you, hear you, talk with you, regardless of your gender.

That’s the business women deserve to work in. We deserve more. And I’m thankful that I’ve learned that at such a young age.

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Cheers to the people in this business who are happy creating work with the misbehaved women, the misunderstood women, the misrepresented women. You make me want to be a better artist. And for that, I’ll just go ahead and tell you too.

I’m head over heels in love with you. Let’s make some art.

*Name changed. Obvi. In honor of Baby Lawrence, who brought us improvisation to tap. Had to at least make it relevant.

Please Stop Shitting All Over Your Friends’ Weddings

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In my favorites bar, there are still twenty-nine links to wedding dresses that I bookmarked in 2011 when I was definitely going to marry my New Jersey boyfriend of two and a half years.

I bought a new computer in 2013, so I have no idea how all my previous Fresh Direct orders and these fucking wedding dresses ended up following me from machine to machine, but every time I open a new tab, there they are.

Maggie Sottero: the Denise. The Hayley. The Tatiana. A few Alfred Angelos. And one of those Disney Princess dresses.

I was never that six-year-old little girl who dreamt of wearing a veil. When Monica gives Ross that whole speech in London about how Emily has probably been planning this wedding since she was a little girl, I couldn’t relate. It honestly wasn’t until I was the maid of honor in my cousin’s wedding at age twenty-three that I became obsessed with it all.

I had a lot of opinions then. I thought she should get these flowers and this cake and those favors and that venue. I didn’t realize it at the time, but after her wedding, I would be planning my own wedding nonstop from the age of twenty-three onward, with more or less every man I dated, each wedding changing according to the vibe of our relationship and how cool we were.

At my wedding with New Jersey, we would definitely have a pool table at the reception because, that was our thing. At my wedding with Rich White Guy #2, I would wear a bowtie with my dress because that was his thing. At my wedding with Stallion, well, actually, I never planned that one because I figured we’d probably get drunk and elope in Vegas by accident. At my wedding with Johnny, we would have the most fantastic vows and I would be wearing a lei and a flowered headpiece while we said “I Do” on a beach in Hawai’i.

There’s an excitement to all of it. Picking out the flowers in your head, deciding what traditions you would NEVER do because, hello tacky, and deciding who would be in your bridal party – a group of people that shifts about every six months as adulthood continues.

Even those who say they think weddings are obnoxious and unnecessary can’t help but be excited when they are a guest at a really cool fucking wedding with the chalkboards and the lavendar cocktails and the cupcakes. And if they pretend otherwise while picking up their third drink at the open bar, they’re full of shit.

I’ve bartended weddings. I’ve watched half the cake be thrown away. Flowers trashed at the end of the night. Open bottles of wine spilled down the drain (if the bartenders haven’t stashed them in their backpacks first). I’ve seen how much goes to waste and I’ve seen really ugly dresses and I’ve seen really, really bad dancing.

But I’ve also seen people have a shit load of fun.

Drunken fun, non-drunken fun, little-kids-dancing-together fun, really-good-toasts-from-the-father-of-the-bride fun, groom dances, like, I’ve seen people have a lot of fun.

And, although while planning, I think this part can get forgotten, I’ve seen people get married to honor their love, and make things legal, and celebrate a lifetime together. I’ve paid witness to that when I’m a guest at the wedding. I’m not negating that part of it by implying it’s all simply a party (that, by the way, everyone has to RSVP to and it may be the only one in your entire life that you can actually plan accordingly for.)

Point being, at the end of the day, even though I joke about it all, (a lot), I’m really sick and tired of people shitting all over someone’s special day.

You might not think that the extra favors were necessary, and you might not see why there was a string quartet AND a band, but seriously, are you paying for the wedding?

The bride and groom might have the ugliest taste. Like they might have let each bridesmaid choose their own dress in flourescent yellow from four different department stores. Yes, the food might be a tragedy. Pickles and olives on a metal tray do not an hors d’oeurves tray make. But, do you love the people in the white/champagne/ivory dress and the (insert color here) tuxedo?

Then shut your piehole and be happy for them.

I’m the first one to admit that the engagement posts on Facebook get reeeeeeeally old, but I have to tell you, when the pictures of the wedding finally get posted? I get so excited. Even if it’s just an acquaintance, how can you not be thrilled to look at a bunch of really smiley people in really fancy clothes with cake all over their faces?

As more and more of my friends get engaged, I think there’s a panic that naturally sets into my body reminding me that I’m not engaged yet, I don’t have any prospects, and I will never find someone who will let me decorate the bathroom in leopard print. And I know that I’m not the only one. And I know that the panic can sometimes turn into a bitterness, a disgust at the weddings being planned around me.

But I’ve made a choice. A difficult one when the bridesmaid’s dress bill comes but, still, a choice.

It’s a choice to be happy for my friends. It’s a choice you make, to skip the comparison of your life and theirs, and instead celebrate that they’re moving in a direction that makes them feel really secure, and happy, and hopeful.

Whatever switch that ring picture on Instagram flips inside your body when you see it for the first time, is one you have to deal with on your own, whether it be venting to a therapist or going out drinking with a bunch of single girlfriends to remember you’re still a free bird.

But don’t shit on your friends’ happy days. Behind their backs, or to their faces, you’re being a terrible friend when you do. Make a choice to be happy for the people you love.

After all, would you rather see them be miserable? Because that’s the alternate choice.

And I feel like, well, I hope that, you’re not that shitty of a person, to ever want that for a friend.

Buck up. At least there’s always the promise of an open bar, or a terrible band.

Either way, you’re invited to a party.

Is it really, that bad?

How Tap Dancing Made Me Fall In Love With My Body…All The Way

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Photo credit: Tammy Steele of Manamotion Photography

“Can you enter the room this year seeing a bunch of other souls who tap dance because it nourishes them, rather than seeing a bunch of other bodies to compare yourself to?”

My life coach was giving me a pep talk to prep for my two weeks of tap intensive coming up in New York.

I had a million concerns. After my parents brought up my weight gain while visiting Pennsylvania, I was feeling like a disgusting, untalented, incompetent blob. It affected me in ways I didn’t foresee, and I wasn’t feeling motivated to tap dance at all, much less make the trip to New York.

“Love is not an achievement-oriented exercise.”

On the same day as my life coach advised me on how to approach the tap intensive, my tap teacher was giving me the same advice in different words.

(One of these days I’m hoping that if I rub elbows with enough wise people, I’ll gain an inkling of Dumbledorian wisdom that will make me see clearly through all the mud. Hasn’t happened yet, but a girl can hope.)

Andrew Nemr, my tap teacher, brought up the love quote because I was telling him that after two weeks of his tap intensive, I needed to leave feeling like a badass. But I had my doubts.

I told him, I need to do this for myself. It feels like the only chance I get to really dance all year long. I want to get as much out of it as I can. I have to make the best of these two weeks.

He was like, you’re certainly putting a lot of pressure on yourself.

And I was like, this is the one thing that I love most in the world. It’s the one thing I’ve never given up on. I’ve never gotten tired of. I’ve never been “over”. I love it, and I don’t want anything to happen to screw these two weeks up.

And he said, I read something somewhere recently that stated, love is not an achievement-oriented exercise.

And as always, when Andrew says something wise, I sort of gaze off to the side for what feels like a lifetime and I try to process his words in what feels like a very tiny brain in my head.

“OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Okay. Got it.”

Andrew nodded ferociously.

When I took his inaugural intensive last summer, it changed my life. I had grown up tapping in the musical theatre genre, but had always had a knack for rhythm tap when it was thrown at me. When I had the chance to dance captain and assistant choreograph with Christopher George Patterson in 2011 and 2012, I learned that I really had a knack for rhythm tap, and I started teaching and choreographing much more because of all I learned I was capable of.

And then I took Andrew’s intensive and realized I knew nothing.

Nothing about the history of the jazz tap style. Nothing about Bunny Briggs or Jimmy Slyde or Steve Condos. Nothing about nothing about nothing about nothing.

I didn’t know you could invert cramprolls and I didn’t know how to talk to a band during a tap jam and I didn’t know how to hover and I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

It was so humbling, and so inspirational all at once.

So this year, I took two weeks of it.

And I fell in love with my body.

When you tap dance, you’re not just a dancer. You’re a musician. Your body is an instrument with which to create shapes and create sound. Most cultures have some sort of percussive dance that originated there. In America, tap is ours.

I learned that it doesn’t matter what size my body is in this style of tap dance. Sure, I can’t go play a chorus girl in 42nd Street with this body, but this body can create shapes and it can make sounds.

And I realized how much of a privilege it is that my body allows me to do that.

Last year, there were several body types in the room and I felt so ecstatic to be part of such a diverse experience.

This year, as my life coach prepared me to do, I walked into the room and tried to see everyone for who they really were – a bunch of tap dance crazy souls, who happen to be walking around in thin bodies, or fat bodies, or short bodies, or very very tall bodies. To this day, I am extremely thankful for that piece of advice she gave me. Although there were times I compared my skill level to others, I never once compared my body to theirs, and that’s a really big step for me.

After introductions on Monday morning, we started the warm-up. There my thighs were in the mirror, looking back at me, daring me to judge them.

I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t judge the things that were enabling me to participate in this warm-up. I couldn’t scrutinize anything on my body because, how dare I.

How dare I ask this body to be anything different, when it holds me up for eight hours in a pair of hard metal shoes? How dare I ask this body to morph into something else, when it spends most of it’s time recovering from the toll my dancing takes on it? How dare I be an ungrateful bitch for all my body has survived and overcome?

We made it through the warm-up, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and on Thursday morning, I fell in love with my body all the way.

I’ve been working on that, you know, I’m sure you know. You’re here, you’ve read things.

But seeing myself on film, or hearing concerns from my parents, or not knowing how to dress myself, can put a knife in that real fast. I have days, and then I have days. You know what I mean?

To watch and listen while Andrew explained an exercise we did last year that, at the time, had gone so far above and beyond my head that I couldn’t even reach it on tip toes, and then all of a sudden feel my feet do it one year later, was almost an out of body experience.

Except it wasn’t.

My body remembered last year’s work, and even though my brain didn’t comprehend it, my muscles did.

My feet didn’t connect with my brain all that often last year – either I was over analyzing or under analyzing and I really had no idea what my feet would turn out from moment to moment – but this year, they were like, Amanda. Chill bitch. We got this.

My friend Sandra, who also took the intensive last year with me, looked at me and was near tears. “My body remembers this from last year. I’ve never been able to do stuff like this before. I can’t believe this. I am so amazed at myself!”

That’s what it was. I was literally amazed by myself. My muscles were there for me. They remembered, and they worked that shit out before I had time to even ask them to.

The trust I felt, for my body, during those two weeks of tap dance, was absolutely unlike anything I’ve ever felt. Yoga class, yea, I’ve had some moments. Teaching dance, yea, I’ve had some moments.

But tapping?

Tapping taught me to trust. To rely. To relax into myself.

It didn’t matter how far my belly stuck out, because that’s not what makes a tap dancer beautiful.

Tap dancing is beautiful when you see the person’s face completely present in making music with their feet, whether they’re smiling or not. You can see it in their eyes, their scrunched up nose, their raised eyebrows.

Tap dancing is beautiful when there’s a small victory, that opens a million doors.

Tap dancing is beautiful when it’s a group of people from all walks of life, all coming together to do the same thing with their bodies.

It’s not about the body. It’s just, about the body.

And I guess that’s why I love it.

That’s why it’s always been my passion. And I’m not sure, but I have this very strange feeling that God put it in my life twenty-five years ago so that I could have this moment, right now.

If you’ve never taken a tap class, I bet there’s a studio near you that offers one. I know we offer adult tap classes here in Kona, and I can tell you, as a tap teacher, that it’s never too late to start. In New York, for beginners, try Andrew Black’s class at Steps. I’ve talked to him about this. He invites all bodies from all walks of life to join him, and I love him for that.

If you tapped for years but hung up your shoes because someone told you that you couldn’t make it as a tapper, take them down off the wall and lace them up. You don’t have to “make it” as a tapper. You don’t have to make it a career. You are allowed to tap dance for fun. I checked. It’s permissable in all fifty states.

If you are a performer and you stopped taking tap class because you were tired of feeling you had to network all the time, or because you lost your love for the craft, go take Andrew’s class. He will renew your passion without judgement and you might walk away with your mind blown, but only in the best way possible, leaving you wanting more. If you’re not in New York, go take any class, any class at all, or search out opportunities for tap festivals and intensives like Andrew’s.

If you don’t own a pair of shoes, shuffle around in your bare feet while you make your coffee.

Like, it doesn’t matter. I just want you to know, that tap dancing is different than any other activity you’ve ever partaken in, and it has the potential to unlock a lot of appreciation and respect for your body.

If I could buy everyone shoes, we would absolutely have a tap session at Restore Your Roar. Wait, Olivia…….can we do that?????

You don’t have to be an expert. You just have to trust. And enjoy. And relax into it.

And before you know it, you’ll be making music.

And what’s life, if we can’t stop every once and a while and make a little noise?

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Thank you Andrew; thank you to my fellow tappers; thank you to all who came before us – Gregory Hines, the kindest and silliest man to walk the earth, and all who came before him, who carved out this art form for us; thank you to my mama for putting me in that royal blue leotard at age three; thank you to my boss here in Hawai’i for letting me teach one thousand tap classes to our students on the Big Island; and thank you to my body, for allowing me to do what I love for over twenty-five years.

I’m so sorry I ever doubted you. I have finally fallen, all the way in love with you.

And this is gonna be our best year yet.

My Heart. New York. I am broken and healed all at once.

myheartblog“What is the opposite of ‘beautiful’ in English?”, she asked me in her thick german accent.

“Ugly?”, I asked.

“Yes. This is what New York is now.”

We were walking to catch the A train at Columbus circle after seeing an outdoor performance at Lincoln Center. It was the fifth day of our tap dance intensive and our feet were only allowing us to walk at a snail’s pace even though we just wanted to get to our beds as fast as humanly possible. She had come all the way from Austria to train with our teacher, and she was telling me how much has changed in New York since she was here in 1999.

I thought about her sentiments the whole ride home to Washington Heights. I see friends post on Insta all the time of sunsets over the Brooklyn Bridge and picnics in Sheep’s Meadow with #blessed and #lovethiscity captions. It always sort of puzzles me.

To be honest? I’ve never thought New York was beautiful. Not in 1999, and not in 2006, and not now.

I appreciate New York for so many things, but I don’t know that beauty has ever been one of them.

I don’t consider it a negative thing. There is beauty to be found in a friend date at The Bean or a breezy summer night after four days of Mother Nature’s worst, but I’ve never looked up 8th Avenue and thought, mmmmmm, look at the beauty. I’m not mad about it. I don’t spend time wishing for it. I just have always taken it for what it is.

And yet…

I had a beautiful summer.

Well, okay fine, if I had to describe this summer of 2015 in one word, I would call out EXHAUSTING before the question was finished. But like definitely in a sweaty, wonderful, beautiful way.

Exhaust…ed. When people asked me how I was by the end of week two, I just whimpered, “I’m really tired.” To which they would chuckle and hug me and say, “Welcome back sister.”

New York both broke me and healed me this summer. I’m exhausted from the emotional roller coaster and the tap dancing and the trying-to-see-everyone-I-love part, but I’m also exhausted from yet another summer of confusing me.

I still don’t know where I belong. I still…don’t…know. And if I may take this time to pout but also be so grateful that I have to choose between a Hawaiian island and Manhattan island, I’ll try to lay it out.

Like, Hawai’i? Beautiful. Why do people ask me “how’s Hawai’i?” What exactly does that question mean? Like, are there really any doubts in your mind that it is beautiful, lush, breezy, and fragrant? I don’t understand.

New York? Aesthetically? First word that comes to mind is, beige. Mm, no. Black. Mm, no. Gray actually. Dark. Tall. Weird.

Obvious winner here? Hawai’i.

Hawai’i? Culturally? Super diverse, really interesting, a melting pot. With pineapples.

New York? Culturally? Super diverse, really interesting, a melting pot. With bagels.

We have a tie.

Hawai’i? Artistically? Barren. Stop it, I shouldn’t say that. It’s just the first word that comes to mind after spending all summer in the city. In this case, the first thought that comes to mind is the cop that pulled me over last year for speeding on Ali’i Highway who asked me three times if being a dance instructor was a real job. We are definitely building dance culture in Kona, and there is a community theatre, and there is a large theatre up North that produces some things within the community, but it’s hard to get what I need. For sure. I get to choreograph and teach and that’s how I pay my bills there and literally could not be more thankful to be doing something I love that keeps me fed, and I love the students so much that I just can’t bear to leave them yet.

The problem? I’ve experienced what it’s like to have artistic overwhelm. Like, I know too much. I know it’s out there. So it’s hard to accept what is not there, in Hawai’i.

New York? Artistically? Abundant. Dance classes that I can take. Cabarets. Piano bars. Jazz. Musical theatre improv. Broadway shows. Little shows at little theatres with better acting than Broadway. Tap dancing. Things, every day, so many things, I don’t know how to pick.

I didn’t appreciate New York for this while I lived there. I was so busy auditioning and working out, that the last thing I wanted to do was participate in more art. I had blinders on. No show tunes! I exclaimed. Ugh, I need a break from the dancing! I would sob.

Now, that I live 5,000 miles away, I would give anything to come to your basement cabaret with a $75 drink minimum.

And with all that to think about, there’s always the last issue.

People.

Hawai’i? Socially? I have seven friends. I have dance moms and dance dads who I adore, students that keep me laughing, and acquaintances who are sweet. I have seven very wonderful friends, one of them being my ex-boyfriend. My friendships there are very present. There’s nothing to reminisce about, so we have to talk about current things. I don’t know, dogs, the news, life. It’s really simple and special and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. We cook together and talk story and I do feel comfortable being myself, most of the time.

Until I come home.

Because, New York? Socially? Everything. I have a friend from some show, some job, some audition, some past relationship, some something, in every corner of three of the boroughs. And I’ve never felt more myself. We can sit and do nothing or we can go and watch something or we can sing and drink everything. We can talk about theatre, divas, tap dance, and harmonize to the Golden Girls theme song. We’ve known each other for years or we haven’t, but we have so much in common it doesn’t matter. Our humor is the same. We can bitch about the MTA or we can celebrate running into each other without planning it on 44th Street.

Is New York easier, socially? Of course, no brainer. Hawai’i doesn’t suck, it’s just hard sometimes for me to be 100% myself. I feel uneducated about a lot of current events and political issues because, well, I lived in a jewel tone dress at Pearl Studios for an accumulative five months out of every year and there just happen to be dozens more people in New York that understand that.

In Hawai’i, I can pay my bills. In New York, I overdraw my account.

In Hawai’i, I can go get groceries and drive them back to my spacious apartment. In New York, I can put them all in a backpack and hope to get back to my half-sized fridge before the ice cream melts.

In Hawai’i, beach. In New York, Broadway.

Hawai’i, beautiful. New York…

Is New York.

So now the question is, where, the hell, do I belong?

I know that I belong choreographing pieces, and shows. I know that I belong in a place where I can exercise my creative muscle. I know that I have a large network of people who would support me in doing that.

I also know that I can’t move back to a shoebox and bartend until I get my career back on it’s feet. I know that there’s a better quality of life for me, and I’m definitely not ready to compromise that at the moment.

I also know, that I would like to share my life with someone at some point, and the prospects in Hawai’i are definitely less than that of Manhattan. True, there are more terrible people in Manhattan than in the Aloha State, but the Big Island is not a young people, or single people island so much.

So I learned a lot. I learned, a lot. I spent two weeks tap dancing and I have a lot to say about that. I told someone I respect a lot that I had feelings for him. He said, “okay”. I had three Nutella milkshakes, but not in conjunction with anything bad happening. I saw two Broadway shows, one NYMF show, and one amazing production of Pearl at the Midtown Theatre Festival that had the most authentic acting in it I’ve seen in years. I logged miles. I got sunburned. I slept on couches. I didn’t wear bras all that often. I said hi to people in bars and they looked at me like I was insane. The aloha in me surprised me. I didn’t get claustrophic on the subway like I thought I would. I had unexpected run-ins with wonderful people I haven’t seen in years. I pissed some people off. I was a bad friend a few times. I drank too much with my college friends. I fell more in love with my body than ever before, which is saying something compared to how I was feeling four weeks ago when my parents brought up their concern about my weight gain. My hair looks amazing. I didn’t buy anything at Sephora and for that we can rejoice.

And I’m really happy. Today.

Everyone asks, “Are you excited to go back?”

To which I answer, “I’m indifferent.”

I am. I’ve been indifferent a lot this summer. Big events don’t give me a lot of feeling anymore. And I think I know why.

I used to get the excitement and the rush from a callback. That used to be my highlight. Being kept after dancing and singing for some people behind a table all day. I used to get pumped about getting one audition out of the thirty-five emails I would send out trying to get an appointment. I used to live for the events, and exist in between.

Now, the events are there, and I don’t hate them, or love them, I just appreciate them.

But the highlight for me now is the unexpected ferry ride to Nantucket where we get accidentally drunk on grapefruit and vodka. Or the Sunday dinners with my Hawai’i friends. Or like, swimming with fucking dolphins.

I didn’t know that little not-necessarily-career-advancing-moments could be so exhilarating. At least forty times over the course of this summer, I exclaimed “I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW” and I think for thirty-nine of them, I was with people I love doing absolutely nothing important whatsoever.

I have learned, so much. And you know, maybe New York isn’t conventionally beautiful, but it gave me all the beauty I needed this summer and I feel on top of the world because of it.

Ask me in a week when I’m jet lagged and poor if I still feel the same way, but everything is temporary and I know that and I’ve really come to embody a life where I am present in every moment, so that the weight of the world can’t sit on top of me and smush me.

I love you, people of the east coast. I love you hard. And as Garrit Guadan, sexiest singer and piano player in the world so kindly reminded me in our 29-minute coffee date at Au Bon Pain last Tuesday…

I’ll always be back.

Mahalo, for all of your time. My heart.

My heart.

This is What I Want to Scream from the Rooftops About Being Fat

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They say you are born into a tribe. Or at least, that’s what my life coach told me this afternoon. And they say that sometimes, the tribe you’re born into, isn’t always the same as the one you feel most at home with.

At least, I think that’s what they say, because that makes it easier for me to make my point.

I have always been the black sheep in my family. My grandfather has a farm, my uncle has horses, my aunt fixes tractors, my dad flips houses, my brother landscapes.

I…dance.

I don’t know how to garden, nor do I want to. I don’t know how to hang shit on the walls and I don’t know what a carborator is.

But that doesn’t mean what I do, is any less important.

So I’ve been spending time in Pennsylvania with my family, the tribe I was born into, defending that. And then, because of that, my parents brought up…my weight gain. Twice.

Two years after being diagnosed with binge-eating disorder and I can sit at a table and not worry about the food or what I’m eating or what I’ll weigh tomorrow. Two years of recovery and I am fifty pounds heavier and 95% free of all the self-destructive and fearful behavior of the decade before.

And all my family can see, is my weight gain.

Heart disease runs in the family, thyroid issues do too. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, it’s all in my genes. So in their defense, they see fat, they see unhealthy, because it’s fact in my family.

Not me.

When I look in the mirror, on good days, which for the first time in my life are more prevalent than bad days, I see freedom. I see determination. I see light where there was once only darkness.

Until now.

I feel like everything is tainted. My month spent at home in Pennsylvania with my tribe and I can’t find anything about myself. My confidence went missing and I feel like I’m on the defensive 24/7. All because someone very close to me sees the outside of me, rather than the radiance I finally own on the inside.

And I just want to scream!

I want to scream at everyone, look at me! I’m alive, damn it! I feed myself, I clothe myself, I put myself to bed, I manage my emails, and I even put mousse in my hair. I am alive! And I have survived EVERYTHING up until this point. I’ve never been addicted to drugs! I’ve never gotten a DUI! I have a decent credit score!

I write important pieces and I teach girls how to dance and I stand up for what I believe in and I stand up for those who don’t have a voice and I love hard and I work harder and I follow my heart!

How is it that when you look at me, you can’t SEE that?!

That’s what I want to scream!

Being fat, is honestly the most miniscule thing compared to all the other motha fuckin’ THINGS!

Being fat, is just, like, not what this is all about!

But yet, when they bring it up, as though it is, my mind does a 180 and all of a sudden, being fat is everything.

Being fat, is the reason I’m broke. Being fat, is the reason I’m single. Being fat, is the reason I left New York. Being fat, is why I gave up on my dream. All of a sudden, I’m convinced I gave up on my dream. I am a giver-upper. I gave up. And it’s all because I couldn’t keep off the fat.

And then I’m crying, and I’m feeling pathetic, and then my deepest darkest voices start to speak.

I don’t know how to dress myself. I look terrible in all my clothes. If someone gave me a magic wand and said that it would get rid of forty pounds, yes I would love that. I’m worried I’ll never meet a man that can love my chubby cheeks. What if I don’t get married before Grandma dies. What if my younger brother gets married before me. It’s because I’m fat and I’m a failure.

I am a motherfuckin, body love advocate, or whatever you want to call me, organizing retreats for women who have these thoughts, and now, here I am, sitting at the kitchen table with a pile of snotty napkins having them too.

Does this mean, oh dear God, how can I even say it, that I’m…

Human?

That I’m…

Not a woman of steel?

Cuz seriously up until now, I was seriously beginning to think I was getting to steel status.

No… I wasn’t, I was maybe thinking all these things but preaching otherwise because I’m a fraud.

I’m a fraud and I’m not a roaring tiger I’m just a mute kitten and I’m fat and destined to live the rest of my life teaching dance but coming home to an empty apartment which at least has a washer and dryer because when I was pursuing my dream in New York I never had that but now that I’ve given up I do.

I’ve lost my sense of empowerment and all sense of confidence.

And then I saw this. On my friend Ed’s Facebook:

“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.”

Ed is part of my, other tribe. My New York tribe. Perhaps the reason that when people ask me where I’m from, I’ve always said, New York. My tribe in New York is a mess of dancers, actors, singers, waitresses, fitness instructors, doctors, agents, drag queens, and misfits that I have fallen in love with over the decade I’ve spent living and working there. This tribe, this adopted one, is the one I feel I should have been born into, because it’s the one that makes me feel like I am home.

And when Ed posted that quote, I felt, done. I felt, fed up.

Different than the other courage quote you see all the time with the word roar in it, this one made me mad. This one made me say fuck you. This one made me want to rip my shirt off like the Hulk and growl at everyone in a five mile radius.

This quote made me want to say, FUCK YOU and your JUDGEMENT and your INSECURITIES that have reached into my very soul and turned it sour.

I am a woman, I know what I want, I know what I have, and I know who I am.

Being fat does not change any of those things.

Being fat doesn’t take my dance talent, my creativity, my choreography away from me.

Being fat doesn’t make me dumber, duller, or quieter and it certainly doesn’t take away my humor.

Being fat is not who I am. Being fat is not what I do.

Being fat is a side effect of eating disorder recovery and a sometimes very wimpy food budget.

Being fat runs in the fam.

It is NOT who I am. It is NOT what I do. And it is NOT the way my tribe sees me.

When my New York tribe looks at me, they see me. They see everything I’ve written, said, hugged, danced, laughed, cried, described, and smiled. They see the essence of me, and they see a recovered girl who lives a life of freedom and passion as a grown woman. They see the struggle lines on my face and love me because of them, not despite them.

I have lived in my own personal hell and I have lived in Pennsylvania and I have lived in Jersey and Washington Heights and Astoria, but up until now, I have never lived in my own body without hating it.

And I love my family, the tribe I was born into, so they are granted forgiveness, and many gentle discussions. But for the rest of the population, I’m saying, if you can’t see how big a deal that is, if you can’t be happy for me and celebrate that with me, then we don’t have much to talk about anyway.

Being fat, is not who I am.

My name is Amanda Trusty, and I had the courage to get help, move to paradise, and fill the holes in my heart. I will not allow being fat to distract me from that or to keep me standing in one place while the rest of the world continues to twirl. And I fuckin’ hope you can stand up and say the same thing.

Mahalo, for your time.

Disney Steps Up It’s Social Issue Game with INSIDE OUT and Here’s Why We Should Celebrate

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[Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.]

It was the moment when the Train of Thought tumbled off its tracks and broke into splintered pieces that I lost it for the first time during the movie. As a creative being, I felt deeply moved watching something that so often happens to me being illustrated on a seventy foot movie screen. I looked to my right and left at my friends to see if I was the only one having a MOMENT, and I was thankful to see that I was not alone.

I have attempted to explain depression and anxiety to friends and family since I first learned they were the names for the things going on inside my body. I have swallowed the “just breathe” and the “just find gratitude for your life” advice for years. I have kept my mouth quiet during arguments about suicide and drug overdose sitting at the holiday table because I knew it was easier to stay quiet than talk about how intensely I understand what drives people to such things.

And then, Pixar paid Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling to say them for me.

“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems,” Sadness says to an evasive and frustrated Joy, halfway through the film.

Well, ain’t that the truth.

Inside Out, in my opinion, is a movie made more for adults than children, but a five-year-old might argue otherwise. Don’t get me started on how this is why Pixar is just, my favorite. Everyone in a Pixar audience walks away from the movie understanding something different than the human who sat next to them.

And I don’t know about the audience I sat with, but I found the movie to be so many things.

First of all, body diversity. Yes, we can argue that Sadness was fat (or just the upside down teardrop that I think the illustrators were going for) and yes, we can argue that Joy was thin which presents an idea to children that sad people are fat and happy people are thin but, someone already did that, so I’m going to focus on the positives of this movie.

Let’s talk about the differences between Joy’s waist in this movie, and Elsa’s waist in Frozen. Although Joy is still on the thin side, she’s a step toward a more realistic representation of a size six woman than Elsa’s Barbie doll design. And let’s talk about the fact that Disgust was fabulous and also pear-shaped. I know a lot of fabulous pear-shaped women, but Disney has never acknowledged them before. Finally, we’re starting to see more reality in the way women are represented in these animated movies. Think back to Ariel, and Belle, and Jasmine, and their impossible proportions. Compared to the princesses, Inside Out is a sign of progress, and I think we should celebrate that. Perhaps our celebration will be heard, and encourage more like this. I want to throw a freakin’ parade to celebrate how many different women’s body types were represented in the movie, my favorite being the mother’s. For once, in a Disney movie, the mother had hips, and a bust, and wasn’t supermodel height. I loved this, and much to the dismay of those sitting around me, announced it several times during the movie.

Second of all, female presence and empowerment. Going along with the improved body diversity in the Disney empire, let’s talk about how this entire movie was about a.) a little girl who plays hockey (often pegged as a “boy’s” sport, much like dancing is pegged as a “girl’s”) and b.) a female protagonist and antagonist, if we’re calling Sadness the antagonist. After watching male characters as the basis in Cars, Monsters Inc., and the Toy Story trilogy, I felt like throwing confetti when I saw the preview for Inside Out the first time. Not only was it a female heavy movie, but there were NO PRINCESSES and there was NO LOVE STORY! This is huge! And although perhaps a minor detail, my favorite part about the female presence in this movie was that Fear, was not! Fear was represented by a male character, voiced by Bill Hader. How many euphemisms are associated with fear and caution that refer to female anatomy? Too many. Do I think fear should have a gender at all? Of course not. But in a Disney movie, to have Fear not be represented by a woman is a victory in my eyes.

Third, although not as improved as we wish for… racial diversity. Yes, truth, once again, the primary characters in the film were three white people from Minnesota. But the classroom scenes featured a black teacher, and children of several ethnic and racial backgrounds. I know we aren’t even close to achieving racial diversity in many many aspects of American media, but compared to Disney movies of days gone by, this movie definitely shows progress in that there were multiple ethnicities and racial backgrounds in the same movie. Additionally, although possibly irrelevant, I loved that all the characters working inside Riley’s brain were colors of the rainbow, not colors of human skin. This allowed me to be completely immersed in the illustrated psychology of the film with an unbiased point of view as I watched the story unfold. I don’t think the story would have worked if they hadn’t used such color variety to explain the workings of the human brain to seven-year-olds and seventy-year-olds alike.

Finally and most importantly, mental health. For those who don’t understand what it’s like to have a chemical imbalance in the brain, or shall I say, for those who don’t believe that mental health disorders are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, there could be no easier explanation than what we just saw in that movie theatre.

It was psychology 101 performed by cartoons.

And for that I say thank you.

Perhaps for some out there, when they saw the movie, they noticed what happened when Joy and Sadness went missing. No one in the main control room knew what to do. Riley was confused, irritable, and unable to make decisions. This wasn’t just a story for children – this was an example for adults of the way the human brain’s imbalances can affect every. single. thing.

And what I loved most about it all, is the hope that I felt after leaving the theatre. Watching Joy scramble through what must have been ten or eleven impossible obstacles, just to get back to headquarters and make Riley feel happy, was so visceral for me. It reminded me of the open letter to my happiness that I wrote a few months back, telling it that I never meant for it to feel unwelcome or unappreciated. I just wasn’t aware of how hard it was working to get through to the front of my thoughts.

To watch Joy fight each uphill battle, literally, to get back home and do her job, made me think about my anxiety in a different way. Not only do I have panic attacks when I’m overwhelmed or stressed, but I also get them when life is great and opportunity knocks. And I know that this is caused by turmoil inside my body that I try very hard to manage naturally, without medication. Seeing Joy and Sadness tumble and fall and at times, almost give up, gave me realization that it’s when those two emotions “fight” with each other, that my body gets out of whack and goes haywire. I don’t know if this makes me feel better, but it made me feel, satisfied. That finally, someone is talking about it.

And that’s what I walked out of the theatre feeling. I felt, satisfied. I felt, relieved. I felt like a multi-billion dollar movie production company finally said, fuck the pink elephant that everyone’s trying to avoid, let’s make a blockbuster out of it instead.

For the seven-year-olds in the audience, I think the movie was funny and colorful. For the teenagers in the audience, I think the movie was funny and colorful and possibly enlightening. For the 28-year-olds in the audience having panic attacks in Vegas after living in Hawai’i for a year and struggling to love their bodies after two years of eating disorder recovery, I think the movie was funny, and colorful, and empathetic, and comforting, and hilarious, and really ambitious. And speaking for those 28-year-olds, I can say that I was really just so grateful, to have witnessed such an incredible and successful undertaking – bringing mental health to the forefront of global conversation.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, go see for yourself. I know I haven’t processed everything that I felt while I watched it, but I simply appreciate the fact that it was produced, so so so much. It will strike a chord in your heart that maybe you didn’t realize needed to be touched, and if nothing else, it will make you laugh hysterically. And I mean, hysterically. It will also make you ugly cry. Which according to Sadness, is alright, and can sometimes, even save the whole damn day.

Run, don’t walk, to see it. I think it will make you appreciate many of the things in your life that you’ve never understood. Which has always been the point of cinema to begin with.

And I say, let us throw some celebration, for that.

*Note that Inside Out is a co-production by Pixar AND Disney, and I chose to use Disney in the title because I feel this movie was more progressive for them, than for Pixar, who has been pushing social norms for a long time (i.e. Wall-E). Either way, the movie showed progress for both companies and I’m still. over. here. screaming. HALLELUJAH!