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