Sunday, August 22, 2010

Letter to Self

In January, Bryan had us write letters to ourselves and seal them in an envelope. We were all on a high from Christmas and New Years’ break, and everyone was happy to see each other. We missed the students, and missed working, so it was a perfect time to write an upbeat letter to remind us why we were doing what we were doing (in case we forgot later in the year). We were supposed to save the sealed letter for a “rainy” day when we needed encouragement. I kept mine on my desk so I saw it every single day. Fortunately I never needed it last semester. I would sometimes have a discouraging day, and think, “Oh yea, I should open the letter…” but then I would think through the events of the day and say, “Naaaah, it wasn’t that bad. I’m going to save it for when I’m devastated.” So I’ve just been holding onto the envelope, assuming that it would be useful in the future. I ended up opening it Thursday.

I’ll write a part two later on why I needed to open it, but I felt really comforted after reading it, and I thought I’d share the letter with all my teacher friends out there! You guys are probably still in your honeymoon phase with the kids since the school year just started, but if my memory is correct, that phase will be wearing off preeetty soon. :) And I’m sure you guys are already running on fumes-- it’s so easy to get caught up in the to-do lists and action plans, and get stressed out because the kids aren’t where we want them to be-- both in their academics and their character-- but force yourself to take time to breathe, step back and see the bigger picture, and most importantly enjoy life!

Anyways, although this letter was geared towards me as a teacher, it was still really helpful when I was feeling down the other day, so maybe it can be encouraging to someone else…

“You are loved. No matter what circumstances may be going on around you, never doubt that you are loved by the creator of the universe. He is awesome in his grandeur and ability, yet he knows you intimately. And when you think everything around you is falling apart or that you are just not good enough, remember that you are loved by the very being that is love.

Try to remember that you are not expected to go out and save the entire world—it’s not possible. Rather you are called to serve and love. Take moments to enjoy the immaturity of the teenagers that you teach—treat each one as an individual soul that you get to touch for just these few moments. Enjoy the company of your friends. Show gratitude for them; relish in their quirkiness and compassion—again remembering that your interactions can be imprints on the soul. May every encounter reveal the love of Jesus…”

Good luck! Miss you NC crew!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Turning 27

Ever since I was little, my mom always made my birthdays a big deal.  Even when we didn't have a ton of money to waste, and my mom was working hard to provide for my brother and me, birthdays were our days, and my mom did whatever she could to make it an extra special day.  No matter what, she always made sure that I was surrounded by friends and that we were all entertained and having a great time.  Some highlights that I can still picture vividly... (5 yrs old) crying hysterically when a Strawberry Shortcake clown came walking up the driveway as birthday party surprise. I loved Strawberry Shortcake, but the clown freaked me out... (8 yrs old) Fame City/Funplex party- think roller skating, ski ball, putt putt, and go carts... (13 yrs old) bowling alley party- complete with teenybopper music and disco lighting... (18 yrs old) Magic Island Dinner party- fancy dresses and heels and a vegas-style magic show.  I think it was the first time I valeted my car, and I felt like a movie star...  Anyways, you get the idea, I love birthdays, and I love the birthday build-up.  In my house, my birthday usually started in July when I would say phrases like... "It's allllllmost my birthday month... are you so excited?!"  Which would lead to... "But I think I should be able to ride in the front seat because it's my birthday week."  At which point I would become practically invincible for the entire month of August because... "Hey! I just turned (fill in the blank)!"

Even years after I've left my mom's house, it's still ingrained in me to see my birthday as a vivacious celebration of friendship and life! So needless to say, I was feeling pretty down about being in this new city and not really having any friends here to ring in the new year with me.

All that being said, I was forced to realize that proximity does not have to dictate the degree of celebration...  Obviously there was a long list of people who I desperately wanted to see last Tuesday-- people I wanted to hug, people I wanted laugh with, people I wanted to sit around with and talk about how much we love Teresa from NJ Housewives, people I wanted to pray with and hear about what God is teaching them right now, people I wanted to go to Walmart with in the middle of the night, people I wanted to sit around and do nothing with, the list goes on and on...  I didn't get those wishes for my birthday, but what I did get was time to reflect, and time to appreciate how truly rich my friendships are.  Although we weren't all together partyting in the same room... or the same state for that matter, I still felt "surrounded" by amazing friends and amazing friendships.  And the fact that I am missing so many people is not reason to be disheartened, but rather it is the very thing that I celebrated this year! It's sad to be so far away from people that you care about, but it is a blessing to know that over the years I have crossed paths with so many wonderful people who have enriched my life tremendously.

So although I could fill an encyclopedia with the names of people that I love, I'm going to try to quickly give thanks to some friends who have specifically helped me a great deal these past few weeks as I've transitioned into this new phase of my life, and who serve as a constant reminder that distance is irrelevant in the arena of friendship.  (In alphabetical order):

Cimbak- For asking me out on a phone date!  ;)
Craig- For leaving messages asking for tickets to my show.  Thanks for believing in me and thanks for getting me here!  
Edith- For giving me something to look forward to in October!!
Groover- For keeping me in the loop about Colt Camp and the evolution of NC spirit by copying me on the all-staff emails!
Kat- For giving me something to look forward to in September!!
Kate- For tornadoing through NYC for just 24 hours but still creating the best weekend I've had here to date!
Katie- For being here to welcome me to the city on my first day.  And for commenting on my blogs!
Michelle- For your impending visit!  And for speaking words of encouragement and peace to me when I needed it. 
Pears- For initiating a standing weekly phone appointment.  And orchestrating a Labor Day reunionapalooza!
Tyler- For being there for me when I was down, and being so positive and supportive about everything(.) And for the random texts!

And just a huge thank you for ALL of my friends, for being in my life and making me a better person.  So wherever you are, find the closest thing to drink and raise it for a toast.  I'm serious.  Do this now.  And here's to 27 SPECTACULAR years! Celebrating life and love and everything else in between! Prost!

P.S. In case you were wondering, or in case I made it sound as such, I did not spend my entire birthday just sitting in my room reflecting.  :) About 20 dancers from my program came out to help me celebrate, and we had a "smashing" time.  One of the native New Yorkers recommended a spot called 123 Burgers Shots Beers-- creatively named after their $1 burgers, $2 shots, and $3 beers.  We didn't get too crazy, as we all had dance the next day, and some of them still had more classes that same night, but we all had a really great time and it was a fantastic birthday!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I'm Legit!

It didn't take long, but I think it is safe to say I am officially an uppity New Yorker.  Here are my top 10 reasons why I think I'm legit:

1. Someone on the subway asked me which stop to get off.

2. Someone on the street asked me which direction was 42nd Street.  (Now granted, we were both on 45th Street... and I had just come from 42nd Street... but it still counts!)

3. I used the intercom to answer the door and 'buzz' someone into my apartment building.   

4. I bought my fruits on the side of the road.

5. I got my herr done at a Dominican shop where no one spoke English.  And it was only 20 bucks!

6. I ate 1/2 a pizza in Brooklyn, then walked across the Brooklyn bridge.

7. I accidentally fell asleep on the subway, but miraculously woke up just as the train pulled into my stop!

8. I went grocery shopping in Harlem... by myself.

9. I got annoyed when 2 people were walking too slowly in front of me. 

10. I giggle a little inside everytime I see people with fold out maps, brochures, and fanny packs.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

And 5-6-7-8...

I took my first dance class on Friday.  Our orientation doesn't officially start until Monday, but I was getting nervous since I didn't dance all summer.  I took a ballet class, and it was incredible.  In Houston, when you take "Adult Classes", they basically assume that you are just there because you used to love dancing and you just want to stay in shape.  There's not really a lot of emphasis on you actually growing as an individual.  I guess they just assume that you aren't there to get a ton of corrections, you just want to sweat for an hour and a half, then be on your way.

This class that I took on Friday reminded me of what it was like when I used to dance as a teenager.  At first I was terrified because my teacher's mind tended to wander a lot, so she was a bit hard to follow.  For the first few exercsises, she would quickly rattle off the steps to a combination (without showing it to us): "Tendu 1, close 2, tendue 3, close 4, degage 5, and-a-6, posse 7, close 8. Same thing, en croix, front, side, back, side... then cambre forward, cambre backward... releve balance, and hold..."  And then mid-sentence she'd get distracted and give an elaborate analogy about some part of the body.  But then instead of returning to her instructions for the exercise, she'd just say, "Ok, and here we go, 5-6-7-8."  And all of a sudden we were supposed to recall the rapid instructions she had given 5 minutes ago!  Nevertheless, I eventually caught on to her style, and I began to thoroughly appreciate her side conversations, as they gave my muscles a chance to recover and my brain a chance to process.  

Anyways, what I most loved about her, was her commitment to correcting us and actually helping us to grow as dancers.  During each exercise, she'd walk around giving each student individual feedback: pushing down on our shoulders, rotating our hips, pulling at our legs, etc.  By the end of class she was addressing me by name, or sometimes affectionately calling me "The Southerner."  At one point, I apparently was trying to force my rotation from my knees rather than my hip socket, so she had the whole class lie on the floor, touching our hip bones, and identifying our "true rotations."  :) She was a wonderful teacher, and I'll hopefully be taking her class regularly.

As far as the actual program goes, we start orientation week on Monday which will include a self-defense class to help us feel more comfortable in the city, an alignment class to teach us proper technique to avoid injuries, and a placement test to see what level classes we should be taking.  In addition to those mandatory classes for week one, we're also expected to take dance classes of various genres so we can start to decide on a concentration.  For all the remaining weeks of the program we'll be required to take 12 dance classes a week: 2 ballet, 5 in our concentration, 3 diversity, and 2 electives.  My concentration will most likely be jazz/contemporary, so my diversity and electives classes will probably include a mix of hip hop, theatre jazz, vocal, and yoga.  There are 5 other American students in the Training Program with me (four seen in the picture) and on Monday we'll be introduced to about 40 international students doing a similar program with us. 

I'm super excited to start training!  I keep trying to figure out what my end goal for all of this is, but I really don't have any idea.  Honestly, I just love dancing and I want to get better at it.  That doesn't have to mean dancing on Broadway or So You Think You Can Dance; I'm just excited to develop my craft.  Besides, I think my true calling might be simpler than I think: it involves body paint and a milk crate...