Sunday, June 19, 2011

Before I Go

Ok, it's official; I just bought my ticket-- I have 2 more weeks left in NYC!!! Yikes!!! I know I'll be here again soon, but I still have a long list of things that I want to make sure I do before I leave.  I also took a walk down memory lane while I was compiling this list, and it reminded me of how blessed I've been this year.  What an incredible and life-changing experience!

If there's anything missing from my list, let me know!  But keep in mind I only have 14 days to do them!

Mary Poppins
Phantom of the Opera

Been there, done that:
Sister Act
Book of Mormon
West Side Story
Wicked (Broadway on Tour)
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

SNL- I hear you have to sign up for this once a year, but I'm still keeping it on my list :(
David Letterman
Apollo Theater- Amateur Night
Free Summer Concert Series
Nuyorican Poets Cafe- slam poetry open mic- waited in a line that wrapped the building, but couldn't get in.  I hear it's that good!

Been there, done that:
Broadway on Broadway- opening season show in Times Square- performances from each Bwy cast (and I was in the intermission performance!)
GLEE Live Tour- "audience member" for movie filming and then tickets to the concert afterwards

Kayak in the Hudson
Trapeze at Chelsea's rig
Explore High Line park
Eat a hot dog at Coney Island
Jersey Shore/ the Brownstone/ and Teresa and Joe's pizza parlor

Been there, done that: 
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge- done several times- INCREDIBLE at sunset
Attend a Yankees game
Museum of Modern Art- you need the entire day
Visit Ground Zero on Sept 11 
Ride bikes through Central Park- delightful during leave-changing season
Boat cruise around Lady Liberty
View NYC from the top of the Empire State Building
Rockafeller Center- breathtaking at Christmas time
Write on New Year's Eve confetti that falls in Times Square
Union Square farmer's market
Shopping in Williamsburg, Brooklyn- super hipster
Korean-town Private Karaoke Rooms- so much fun!

Papaya King
Bagelberry- it's the Pinkberry of bagels and cream cheese! So many options!

Been there, done that:
Amy Ruth's- chicken and waffles
Grimaldi's- voted no. 1 pizzeria in NYC
Shake Shack- okay burgers; incredible ice cream blizzards, including one with jelly donuts!
Vinyl- most hilarious waitstaff; crazy good brunch
Blockhead's- 17 different flavors of frozen margaritas! coconut's my go to 
Mother Burger- great junk food menu; fun environment; cheap drinks
Hot Bagels- strawberry cream cheese mixed with real strawberry slices
Hillstone- scariest management, best all-around food in NYC
Clinton St. Baking Co- biscuits and jam instead of bread basket
Five Napkin Burger- okay burgers; coffee toffee brownie sundae- to die for!
Southern Hospitality- amazing ribs, stuffing, and sweet potato fries; worst-case pecan pie
Food Trucks: hot dogs, hot sausages, falafel, waffles, pretzels, hot nuts, bagels, dumplings- wow this list amazes me! so many great things can come from a truck!

Serendipity- signed up for the 2 hour wait list, but didn't stay
Dean and Deluca

Been there, done that:  
Max Brenner's- creative dessert designs
Junior's- best cheesecake
Pinkberry- Swirl is better
Levain Bakery- their cookies are the size of muffins! and delicious!

Irish Rogue
Brooklyn Brewery
Frying Pan- bar on a boat in the Hudson

Been there, done that:  
Mercury Bar- party goes all night long; top 40 music pumping; friendly crowd 
O'Flaherty's- live music 7 nights a week
Reunion Surf Bar- ditsy waitresses, but fun tropical drink menu
Smith's Bar- live music, full dinner menu, decent time

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I thought I'd announce this here as a special reward to my blog followers.  First of all, thank you so much for your support during my year of adventures and self-discovery.  It's been such an intense and emotional year, but honestly, something as simple as knowing that you guys were reading this, and encouraging me to update more frequently, helped me to feel grounded in your friendship even though I was miles away. 

When I was in Nicaragua, there was a girl there who was volunteering from the States.  She had lived there in a small village for over a year with limited communication with her family-- i.e. a few times a week when she could get into the city and find an internet cafe, etc.  She was wrapping up her time in Nicaragua, about to move back to the U.S., and I remember her telling me that her biggest fear throughout her time in Nicaragua was the idea that her family and friends' lives just kept on going without her in it.  At the time I didn't fully understand her statement-- it seemed a bit selfish and a little over-dramatic; it's not like her family was going to forget about her, and it was only a year...  But within my first month of living in NYC on my own, her comment kept running through my mind, and I instantly found its meaning.  So again I thank you for taking an interest in my adventures, and essentially, even if it was just for a few minutes a day, allowing our two worlds to intersect. 

With that being said, here's my fun news:
As of 1:06pm (EST), I became the newest and proudest East End Explorer!  I will be East End's very first dance instructor, and I get the extreme privilege of building a dance program from the ground up! And the icing to the cake: my new boss helped assuage one of my fears by being extremely flexible and creative in allowing me to find ways to continue my dance education in Houston so that I don't lose all of the training and development I acquired here in New York City.  I'm extremely excited about my next chapter, and feel as though everything is falling in place more perfectly than I could have imagined.  I'll be staying in NYC as long as possible so I can squeeze out every ounce of talent and passion from this rich city-- probably leaving towards the end of July (the poet in me leaning towards the 26th to be exact, rounding out my one full year to the date)!

So there it is!  I am excited to be coming back to Texas and YES Prep-- drastically different, and eager to apply all that I've learned about life to my new phase, while still very much the same, and excited to feel at home again. 

'Tis so sweet...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Food for Thought

After recently retiring from my 8-month stint with waiting tables, I woke up at 4:30am this morning to return to the food service industry-- but this time with joy and excitement in my heart.  For many years, I've struggled with a desire to serve people who are homeless and hungry, but always having a different excuse for not getting involved.  Today was a first step as I went to St. Bartholomew's Church to serve a warm breakfast to anyone who chose to come.  What I loved about the church was that they had us set up 36 place settings, and allowed men and women to come in and sit for as long as they wanted.  Once someone left, a new person was welcomed in to have a seat.  No one was rushed, and seconds and thirds were given upon request.  Ladies walked around the room with carafes offering more apple juice and hot coffee, and as our guests left, they were encouraged to take baggies with tuna sandwiches and cereal bars with them for later in the day.  And if they wanted extra sandwiches, all they had to do was ask.  I couldn't get over how laissez-faire the whole process seemed to be.  I suppose I was expecting people to be herded through a line and scolded for asking for more than their fair share-- as if they should simply be grateful that we were doing this great service for them... but perhaps I was projecting those expectations from the darkness in my heart...

I just couldn't understand how everyone was going to be served endlessly without us running out of food, but to my great surprise, we had leftovers by the end of the meal, and we were trying to give extra food away!  And as always is the case in these situations, I walked away humbled and enlightened...

Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, "Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here."  [Jesus] replied, "You give them something to eat."  They answered, "We have only five loaves of bread and two fish." (About five thousand men were there.)  But he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each."  The disciples did so, and everybody sat down.  Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to the heaven, he gave thanks and broke them.  Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  Luke 9:12-17

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Defying Gravity

I don't really know who's reading which blogs, but this was a pretty defining moment in my NYC life, so I'm posting it to my main blog.  If you want to know more about my dancing/singing training, follow me on my 30-Day Full-Voice Challenge Blog: Rachael's 30-Day Challenge.

Today was my first private lesson with Kurt Robinson-- the organizer of the 30-Day Full-Voice Challenge: Broadway Dance Center-- Full Voice Challenge.  I've taken group classes from him for several months, but I've been afraid of going to his Performance class or taking private lessons from him because I didn't think I was ready.  Here's a blurb from the bio on his website:

Kurt’s clientele have enjoyed thriving performances in some of the hottest Broadway productions and national tours, including Billy Elliot, In the Heights, Hair, Spring Awakening, The Color Purple, Hairspray, Wicked, The Lion King, Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, Phantom of the Opera, Dream Girls, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, A Chorus Line, Producers, Chicago, Spamalot, American Idiot, and the Radio City Rockettes. He has coached recording artists for the Columbia Artists, Jive, Def Jam, Epic, Atlantic, and Nickelodeon labels.

I hope this begins to paint the picture of why I was a little nervous about singing in front of him.  Nevertheless, in the Challenge's spirit of facing my fears, I signed up for my lesson with Kurt in hopes of learning from one of the best.  In preparation for our first meeting, I ran all over town trying to print and purchase sheet music for various songs so that we had a variety to choose from.  I didn't want to get there and have him tell me that none of the songs I had were really appropriate for my voice.

After walking me through some vocal warm ups for about 30 minutes, he asked me what music I brought.  I told him that I really wanted to work on "Landslide" by the Dixie Chicks, but I could only find the Fleetwood Mac version.  I told him that I also brought "Fallen for You" by Colbie Caillet, and that long, long, long term I really hoped to one day work on the Glee version of "Defying Gravity".  We tinkered with "Landslide" for a few moments, and he told me what key I could transpose the music to so that it would sound like the Dixie Chick version.  He had me sing through "Fallen for You" once, and then he said: "This is too easy for you.  Bring out the 'Defying Gravity'!"

Let's just say that for a brief second there was a mini 4th of July fireworks display inside my chest.  I went to my bag and pulled out my Glee music book-- I tried to use those few seconds to take deep breaths and relax.  And as he played the intro, I realized this is it, all or nothing... I'm just going to go for it.  And I went for it.  I sang that song like I had done so many times before--  in my bedroom when I was positive none of my roommates were home, in my car with the windows rolled up tight, in the shower when the water and tile acoustics make everyone sound like American Idol-- I went for it.  When I finished, I waited for the casual dismissal, the "yeaaaa... let's hold on to that one..." or the "we can keep coming back to that one when we want to push ourselves..."  But that's not what he said.

Instead he said, "You are definitely ready for this piece."  And although it's been 9 months since I've moved to New York City, my journey started today, in that moment.  I've been called out on it so many times before-- I am my own worst enemy, and my mind is the one thing that's holding me back.  I'd heard it from Goheen, "Trust yourself, Rachael."  I'd heard it from Bettina, "Just go for it."  I'd heard it from Sheila, "Get out of your own way."  I'd heard it from my other teachers, and my mom, and my friends, and complete strangers.  I've heard it since I was 9 years old starting my very first dance classes at Miss Darlette's studio. I've heard it my entire life.  So it was nothing new when Kurt told me, "You have the technique and you're doing everything right, you just need to build your confidence."  But for some reason, today was my tipping point, and today, I chose to listen. 

Today I decided to accept the fact that I'm an artist.  Being an artist isn't about trying to outdo the person next to you, or about being the best, or becoming a star.  It isn't about the competition at all-- quite the contrary.  You become an 'artist' when you recognize that the comparisons no longer matter, and you do what you do because something comes alive inside of you when you do it.  Artists dedicate themselves to developing their craft, and they get as much of a thrill receiving a standing ovation at a sold out theater as they do in the privacy of their own studio when they master a new technique in their practice.  Rachael the Artist recognizes that there will always be room to be better, but that truth is no longer viewed as a defeat; instead it's viewed as a reward-- part of the ongoing commitment to growth and creativity that artists accept with their title.  I knew 'something changed within me' when I realized that for the first time in my life, I am no longer afraid of failing... I'm afraid of not trying.

"I'm through accepting limits 'cause someone says they're so.  Some things I cannot change, but 'til I try, I'll never know."
-Defying Gravity

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Revolving Door

Meet Christy Krumm.  Christy and I met on our first day of orientation at Hillstone Restaurant.  We were the only two new hires that day, so we immediately clung to one another as we tried to get acclimated to the intimidating environment that was our new job.  During our time together, we realized that we had a lot in common.  We were both brand new to New York City-- just a few weeks apart from one another.  She had moved from sunny beaches of California to pursue her dream of writing, and I had moved from the rolling plains of Texas to pursue my dream of dancing.  (I do recognize that I am from the thriving metropolis of Houston, and that I have never lived on a rolling plain, but it just go with it. :))

A few months into our friendship, Christy and I realized that we attended the same church.  She then invited me to a community group and the women's Bible study that she had been going to, and I started to attend those gatherings as well.  Whenever Christy and I would run in to each other, we would update each other on our lives, and it was apparent that we were in a similar love/hate relationship with the City... 
I'm wrapping up my time here in NYC, and I've been jotting down ideas of how I will capture this city and my time here in my blog-- I knew I was going to entitle it The Revolving Door and explain its tenacious and temporal qualities, but last night Christy sent some of us a link to her blog, and I knew that I could now never write that post.  She wrote it for me-- and it's beautiful and eloquent and accurate.  I'm just thankful that she beat me to it because she's an incredible writer, and my words could not have done justice to what this experience has been like.  So here's a window into my heart through the words of Christy Krumm:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

His Kingdom Come: On Earth As It Is in Heaven

Johnny Wilcox called me an angel...

I got into a really good conversation last night.  I was talking with some friends about the possibility of there being a more spiritual realm present in this life that we can tap into through meditation, yoga, prayer, or some form of extended communication with our creator.  And although I feel that we can be proactive in accessing this realm and being more aware of its presence on a regular bases, I also believe that there are random moments throughout our lives that the realm itself actually cuts through our obliviousness and forces us to face the deeper level of spirituality that lies beneath the surface of this life-- whether it's being inexplicably moved by a piece of music, or  having a breathtaking experience with nature, or feeling as though time stood still when you were drinking wine and sharing stories with the just perfect permutation of friends.  ***  Haley shared a story with us of a young boy at her camp that was paralyzed on the left side of his body, but loved dancing.  And while dancing at camp, he got so lost in the music, so 'surrendered' to the moment, that at one point both of his arms just danced up above his head.  To me, these are moments when the spiritual realm pierces through our thick layers of egocentrism, and materialism, and every other artificial -ism that society drowns us in, in order to expose small glimpses of what the creator truly intended life to be.

A few months ago, I had an encounter with said spiritual realm, and I wrote it down in my journal so I could come back to it and remember God's clear signs of his presence in our lives:

I had been praying for you to soften my heart and show me more day-to-day ways that I can serve those who are less fortunate than me and teach me to see people as Jesus saw them.  I passed by Johnny today as I was walking home from church.  He shook his cup of money, I smiled at him and kept walking, and he called out after me, something like, "Have a blessed day."  After several more steps, something tugged at my heart-- I can't keep walking away from the poor saying that I'm afraid to give them money because I don't know what they'll do with it.  That's just an excuse, and you are calling me to something more.  So I turned around and asked him if I could buy him a sandwich.  He asked for an egg and cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee.  While I was inside purchasing his meal, I wondered how this was advancing the kingdom of God.  Wasn't I just giving him a handout?  Wouldn't I just be dropping off an inexpensive sandwich and then be on my way to my warm apartment and my fridge full of groceries?  Would he in any way link this act to 'God'?  Would this in someway strengthen his faith and bring him closer to you?  Would this in any way change him or change me?  I wanted to be obedient, and I wanted to help someone in need, but I couldn't understand where you really fit into the picture.  Nevertheless, I took his sandwich and coffee out to him, and he was mid-conversation with a man who had just left a dollar in his cup.  I didn't fully understand what the original question must have been, but Johnny was answering it fervently: "Of course I have Jesus! God is sending me angels!  This morning I had pains in my stomach because I needed something to eat.  This girl (pointing to me), at first passed by me, but then turned back around to offer me food.  And you've given me this dollar so I can buy a cup of coffee later.  I sleep under the train tracks at night, with the rats, and when I wake up in the morning, I'm dehydrated-- I need a cup of coffee.  So people say, 'Is there a God, or is there not a God?' Of course there's a God! And he's sending his angels to us.  God is good!"  And there was my answer.

Really?! Could that conversation have been any more perfectly engineered and timed?!  Not to say that every person who is helped believes in God or that he's sending angels, but that conversation was for me, not Johnny.  In fact, I would be bold enough to say that Johnny knows more about God than I do.  Perhaps Johnny spends more time accessing the spiritual realm than I do.  To sleep with rats, in the subway tunnels, in the dead of New York winter, and say, 'God is good,' displays a level of faith that I've never experienced in my life.  Johnny was actually my angel that day that God was using to speak to me.  I instantly flashed to my months of whining and complaining in NYC-- about being cold or not having enough money or feeling lonely...

God, I don't know how you put up with me, but thank you for your patience, and thank you for teaching me a little every day.  May I be diligent enough to spend time-- removed from the hustle and bustle -- tapping into your realm of unfiltered joy, peace, and love.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Winter Wrap-Up

I know it's mid-April, and many of you have been enjoying 70+ weather for several weeks now, but here in NYC, we're finally at the tail end of winter.  In looking at the consistency of my blog posts, it looks as though I hibernated for the winter, so here's my attempt at summarizing all the awesome things that has happened here in the Big Frozen Apple.

Curtain Call
I graduated from my Broadway Dance Center program!  So now I just take classes on my own schedule.  Being a free agent is going well, but dancing so much during the program really put a strain on my body, and my old injuries have resurfaced-- specifically my once torn hamstrings.  I've done a lot of internet research regarding the matter, and I think that I have years of scar tissue that built up around my hamstrings, and every time I take class and force myself into different positions, the tissue tears a little more and more scar tissue develops.  I've lost a lot of range of motion, and it's been very frustrating.  I'm planning on trying acupuncture later this week; I'm not sure if that's the answer, but I've tried a lot of other things, so this is next on the list.   No matter what, I'm hopeful that I can be healed! *** As a result of my dance injuries, I started focusing more on singing towards the end of my program.  I changed my concentration from just Jazz to Jazz/Theatre.  Adding Theatre to my concentration allowed me to add several voice classes into my weekly schedule.  In May, I'll be performing a vocal ensemble piece at Symphony Space.  Rehearsals are going well, and I'm excited to perform at such a large venue.  I'll try to post a video! *** Lastly, I went on my first dance audition last week.  It was a HUGE first step for me.  I've been terrified of going, and there were actually several points throughout the day when I almost turned around and crawled back into my bed, but I stuck it out, and I did it!  And thanks to everyone who voted on my headshots. I actually didn't have them ready for the audition, and had to use a 4x6 photo which was really embarrassing, but it gave me the push I needed to finally place the order.  I hope to go on at least five more auditions before I leave NYC.  There's not really any show that I specifically want to be a part of, but I just want to get over my fears in general-- that will be the greatest gift I will take from this whole experience.  So I'm going to keep cranking them out; wish me luck!  

Hillstone's History
Black tie. Black vest. Black slacks. White buttoned-down Oxford. White apron with starched crease. Slicked back pony-tail. 'All slain. All dead.'  Yes I finally quit my job at Hillstone Restaurants! The anxiety and negative energy was too much for me.  It was actually affecting the rest of my NYC experience, as I spent most of my week dreading the approach of my next shift.  My heart would literally race as I started each shift.  I started getting to work early and bringing my Bible with me so I could give myself time to calm down.  It just wasn't a healthy environment-- never feeling good enough and constantly nervous that a manager was going to explode on you in any moment-- I had to get out of there.  And I did!  I had been praying for new opportunities to pop up for several weeks, but I was too lazy to actually go update my resume and print it.  Sure enough, the very day that I finally got around to doing it, I randomly wandered onto Craigslist and saw an open call for Mother Burger.  I went in, and got hired on the spot!  This was huge because everyone I knew that was looking for a job was having to search for several weeks, and I expected that I would have a similar fate, but thankfully everything fell into place.  Mother Burger is basically a fun burger and beer joint.  They sell $2 beers, $4 frozen margaritas, and $5 mixed drinks; if you've ever gone out in NYC, you'll understand how outrageously awesome these prices are.  As a result, I basically end up being a cocktail waitress by the end of the night-- going around and repeatedly bringing out new rounds for all of my rowdy tables.  It's a lot of fun, and the exact opposite of where I had come from, so therefore everything I was looking for.  Furthermore, it's a 6 minute walk from my house, so it doesn't get much better than that.  Naturally the pay is not as lucrative as Hillstone, but I'm happier... and calmer, and that's priceless.

Real-life Rockband
That's right! The most exciting thing that's happened to me since I moved here.  I'm in a praise and worship band!  I responded to an ad on Craigslist- which I'll admit I was a little leery about.  I had to travel to an obscure warehouse for our first rehearsal, but thankfully it was legit, and I came out alive.  James posted the ad and started the band.  He plays guitar and helps out on vocals.  Phil is our sweet drummer.  He's also the one who helped us find an amazing rehearsal spot.  We rent space from a man who charges about $10 an hour, and the space comes fully equipped with acoustic and electric guitars, drums, mics, amps, speakers-- the whole shebang. The landlord is super chill and doesn't care if we run over-- which may or may not be explained by the strong smell of reefer floating through the hallways as we leave.  It's hilarious because we come out of our soft, sweet worship rehearsal, and the bands waiting to come in after us are all donning black leather and bulky chains.  I always wonder if they can hear us while they're waiting; they must get quite a kick out of us.  Nevertheless, we love what we're doing!  I don't have pictures yet, but our recent additions are Angie (vocals), Kyle (bass guitar), and Will (keys).  We mostly play for fun, but we did get to lead worship for a service at a homeless shelter a few weeks ago.  Also as spring approaches, we're talking about going out to Central Park and playing on Sundays.  Either way, I heart all of my bandmates, and it's been great do something that I've always wanted to do.

Community Group
I started a Wednesday night Bible study at my apartment.  As most of you know, I was basically battling depression when I first moved to the city.  I finally decided to take matters into my own hand and start bringing back elements of my life that I loved.  Shout out to Jacob Blair who opened up his home and his kitchen to me for 2 years- hosting an intimate Bible study that literally changed my life.  His leadership is what gave me the inspiration to re-create something similar here in my apartment.  I reached out to a couple coworkers, girls from my dance program, and some friends of friends that I made in the city. From left to right, there's Tom, Tim, Amberlyn, and Bill; not pictured is Kevin, Richelle, Andrea, and Shannon.  We've had some great, meaningful discussions together, and I'm thankful for their friendship.

South of the Border
In March, I decided to give myself a Spring Break and took a trip to Cancun with some of my favorite ladies.  We had an absolute blast!  We stayed at an all-inclusive restort, so there was no need to ever leave our hotel.  Our days consisted of lying on the beach, eating, sleeping on the beach, eating, drinking by the pool, eating, and playing drinking games into the night.  The best night was when we finally decided to venture into the city to check out Cancun's night scene.  We had no idea where we were going, but our taxi dropped us off in the center of downtown where we were surrounded by clubs, music, lights, and loud spring-breakers.  To top it off, Nat whipped out her pack of glow sticks and started handing them out to all of us-- the night wouldn't have been the same without them.  The week was the perfect vacation from the City- a relaxing slow pace, gorgeous weather, making new friends, and reconnecting with old ones.  Viva Mexico!

Texas Bound
Lastly, I'm not going to be too specific right now because everything is still working itself out, and more importantly, I'm trying not to be my normal impulsive self and instead be patient and prayerful.  But due to some recent, exciting events, I might actually be packing up and leaving NYC a few months sooner than I expected.  I will definitely keep you posted as things unfold! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lessons from the Other Side of the Desk

Dedicated to my friends still in the trenches...

Hi, my name is Rachael, and I need approval from others.

That's a humbling thing to say when you're 27 years old, but it's truth.  And if it's true for a successful, grounded adult, it's more than true for an insecure, lost teenager.

Teacher friends this post is written for you!  These are some basic observations that I know we all know in theory, but perhaps this will be the reminder you need to refocus your efforts.  I wish I could teach a class tomorrow just to address some of these lessons that I've learned, but I hope you'll apply some tips from my current situation and report back with your results!  That way I can live vicariously through you and feel like I've made some sort of atonement for the mistakes I made during my tenure as a teacher.  I've boiled my experiences as a student to 4 basic ideas:

1. You Know My Name?!
The very first class I took at Broadway Dance Center was a ballet class with Beth Goheen.  I  arrived to NYC a week before my program started, so I was just taking class on my own trying to get a feel for the studio.  On that very first day, in that very first class,  Beth asked me my name as she has addressed me by name ever since for the past 6 months.  I took classes at studios in Houston for years, and was NEVER asked my name.  Furthermore, no other teacher has done that since I've been here.  Every day she starts class by walking through the classroom, greeting students by name, exchanging pleasantries, and introducing herself to people she hasn't met yet.  Throughout barre and across the floor, she consistently calls out my name and delivers both critiques and compliments about my work.

As a result, I work harder for Beth's class, than I do any other class.  I try to get there early; I stand in the front; I never mark my arms.  I work hard to apply the corrections she's giving me because I want her to know that I'm listening and that I'm growing.  Even though it's been 6 months now, there's a spark that ignites inside me every day, every time she says my name.  That being said, she addresses me every day, every time I'm in class.  From the first few moments that class starts, when she comes around greeting everyone, I become more present in the classroom.  I'm not just a warm body taking up a spot in a dance class, instead I'm an artist that Beth believes in and with whom she chooses to share her practice.

Application: Greet your students, by name, at the beginning of class.  Take advantage of that time before the bell rings. If this is something you do at the door every day, great! But don't make it seem too routine.  If you missed some people or had to rush everyone in at the end, walk around while they're doing their do-first, or silent reading, or journal writing, and say, "Goodmorning," to them.  Ask them about that book they were reading in the hallway, or about their brother who brought home that stray puppy yesterday, or anything that shows them that you remember them as an individual.  This will take some prep work.  It means you can't be writing on the board or stapling papers, or all the other things that we think HAVE to get done before the students walk in the door.  Furthermore, try to make sure you are addressing every student by name at some point throughout the class-- whether it is asking them a question or giving them praise.  I know a lot of times students would raise their hands, and I would just point or nod in their direction, or say, "Go ahead," to allow them to speak, but there is something significant that happens when you hear your name aloud. This humanizes the student, and makes them feel present in your class.  You want this.  I promise you, they'll work harder.  And this isn't something that you just do the first day after they come back from Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break, etc.  They need it every day, every class

2. Free Pass
This lesson I learned in the classes that were the opposite of the Beth Goheen classes.  These were the classes I took when I was feeling tired, lazy, or defeated; they were my free passes.  I knew that the teachers didn't know my name and didn't know my potential.  I could stand in the back; I could come out of my balance when my calves started cramping; I could lower my arms when my deltoids started burning.  No one was going to push me, or call me out when they knew I could do better.  On the other side, I could dance my arse off, and do the best that I've ever done in that class, but it wouldn't make a difference. No one was tracking my progress and acknowledging my growth.  I wasn't one of the rockstars in the front, so it was like I was not even there-- a free pass.

Application:  Are there students who might say that about your class?  They show up every day because they have to, but they're not one of your all-stars getting called on all the time, and they're not one of your knuckleheads getting called out all the time-- they're just there.  Identify those students.  No like really... take out a notebook, and write their names down.  Experiment: Can you list all the students in one of your classes without looking at a roster? Not by mentally going around the room based on your seating chart... but just list every student by who comes to the top of your head.  When you get stuck, or have to pause for a few seconds, you've identified the students to whom you've given free passes.  I guarantee you the majority of those students are not working at their full potential when they're in your classroom.  It's not too late... reel them in!  All it takes is a quick, "Good job, Angela!" or "Look at you! You're totally getting it now!"  Literally seconds of your time that will imprint their minds for months, even years to come. 

3. I Will Break My Ankle for You
Sheila Barker... still scares me.  If you ask most students around BDC about Sheila, they'll say something similar.  Her warm up is probably the hardest warmup of all the classes at the studio.  You're sweating within the first 6 minutes of class, but I wouldn't dare whine or wince while I'm in that class.  I just take really deep breaths, and literally pray to God that I don't pass out while I'm in there.  But if I had to, I would.  I would rather be carried out of her class on a stretcher than quit or cheat during any of her exercises.  She is fierce, and she's not afraid to get in your face.
-"Flat back over, reach longer, longer, LONGER! LONGER!  HOLD IT! Are you breathing? I can't hear you? HOLD IIIIIIIT!  Ok, relax over."
-"Uuuuuugghhhhh!" The whole room exhales.  
-"Oh, now you're breathing," she laughs. "Ok, let's try it again."
Puddles of sweat are gathering on the floor, but no one quits.  We all keep pushing-- keep 'fighting for it.'

This one is a little harder to explain.  I don't fully understand why we all work so hard for Sheila.  I mean we're all grown adults, there's nothing to really be afraid of, but there is definitely fear in that room.  Here are my two guesses: #1) No matter how old you get, no one ever wants to be embarrassed in front of their peers.   And although Sheila is compassionate, and we know her actions come from a good place, she will call you to task if she thinks you are giving her anything less than your personal 100%.  Let me clarify that she is very deliberate in differentiating her students, and she won't embarrass you because you aren't as good as the person next to you, but she will embarrass you if you aren't as good as the person you were the day before.  #2) Sheila's just scary.  She's demanding.  She has high expectations.  You never know exactly what to expect from her.  She is challenging-- regardless of what level of dancer you are; you will get your butt kicked.  There's just no such thing as an easy day in Sheila's class.

Application: #1) I don't think there is anything wrong with a little ol' fashioned humiliation. Again, let me be clear that there's a difference between belittling a child because of their lack of abilities (never, ever acceptable), and belittling a child because of their lack of effort (very, very appropriate).  Students need to learn to be embarrassed when something has their name on it, and it's not their best work.  I still remember my 4th grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Huffman.  I was terrified of him.  But I made sure to do my reading and homework every night because I didn't want to be embarrassed in class.  There's an art to humiliating kids-- you have to switch it up.  One day you send a student outside-- you'll deal with them when you have time, you don't want to waste their classmates time, the next day you raise your voice so you make an example in front of the whole class, the next day you keep your voice low and tell them you're so disappointed... you can't be predictable.  The other side of that though, is that you don't want the student to shut down in your class.  Although they did not bring their best effort that day, you have to go out of your way to find something to praise them about-- whether that day or the very next day.  Remind them of what it's like to be acknowledged for the right reasons, and that you are lavish in your praise if they are giving you their best.  #2) Be scary.  That doesn't mean be rude and distant- that's not how Sheila is at all; she's actually quite fun-loving.  But you should be the type of teacher that students know they're going to work in your class.  It's going to be hard, and they're going to have to use their brain.  And just because they're giving you the "right" answer doesn't mean that's enough.  In fact, there's never an "enough" point-- they're always pushing for more, inquiring about more, thinking more critically.  They should know that for the next hour, they aren't going to rest, and their brain is going to hurt.  Every grade level has that class.  Strive to be that class for your students.  The one that the students are all still talking about at lunch.  The one that they all keep saying is, 'soooo hard,' but they say it with a smile on their face because they delight in the challenge.  

4.  I Feel Like I'm Floating
--"What's your name?  Wow, fabulousness! Keep coming back, ok?!" --H. Rigg
--"That's it Rachael!! You've got it!"-- B. Goheen
--"You have a beautiful voice..." -- B. Sheppard
--"No, thank you.  You had such wonderful focus and intention with your movement." --A. Dones

Simple. Nothing profound or elaborate.  But life-changing and life-breathing all the same.  I remember the words; I remember the teachers; and I remember the feeling.  At the end of every class, students go literally go out of their way to walk to the front of the studio to pass by the teacher before they go out the back of the room.  We all mask it with 'thank you's' for the teacher and for the class, "Thank so much! That was such a great class!"  Blah, blah, blah.  Although our teachers are INCREDIBLE, and we really do appreciate them, there's that tiny inkling inside of you hoping that you did a good enough job in class that the teacher will linger on your 'thank you' just a little bit longer than everyone else's and ask you your name, and where you used to dance, and give you the faintest hint of praise on your artistry.  Again I remind you, these are mostly 20 and 30 year-old men and women-- hungering for recognition and approval from their teachers.

Application: I think the application here is clear.  Let positivity flow from your lips all day long.  In public, in private; aloud, in notes; before class, after class, during class-- as much as you can fit in in a day.  Take inventory of how much you complain and reprimand compared to how much you encourage and uplift-- a good number to strive for is 10% to 90%.  That's a really hard percentage to reach, but words are so powerful, and they can practically breathe life into a student.  I can't stress enough how simple these words need to be. "Great work today, Johnny!" and maybe a pat on the back as they're walking out the door is all you need-- you can change. their. day.  And often that message will fuel them for another week or two, leaving them excited to show up to your class each day because you notice their effort. As shallow as that is coming from me, put yourself in the mind of a 12 year-old... case closed.

Closing Notes
First of all, I didn't know exactly where to fit this in, but the whole time I was writing about the rigor and demand of Sheila Barker combined with the encouragement and acknowledgment of Beth Goheen, all I could think about was Emily Peck.  If you haven't sat in on her class, please find time to go this week, and be mesmerized.  But be careful because she might also make you want to quit your job as you realize you will never be the teacher that she is-- so why waste any more time trying.  ;) She epitomizes all of these principles I discussed, and I wish I could have had more time to study under her and basically be her. 

Secondly, I hope most of you know me well enough to know-- that IIII know-- that my classroom fell faaaar short of upholding these principles.  I use 2nd person in this post simply because you guys are still in it, and you can make changes tomorrow morning!  I wish I could.  Please try something out this week and write me back with your thoughts and results!  Maybe you can give me some tips on being a better student.  :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I went to a community group last night, and they opened up the floor to have people share about what's going on in their life right now.  It took me a long time to build up the courage, but I felt led to say something.  In fact, I'd say I was feeling guilt at the idea of not saying anything-- especially since I've been so quick to report all the negative in my life, I thought that this is one of the mediums in which I should express gratitude as things have started to look up.  So I finally started to say, "Well... I'll share..." literally at the exact same time as the facilitator started to say, "Ok, well let's wrap up."  I backed down and said, "Oh, it's okay.  Nevermind."  And several people encouraged me to continue, insisting that we were not on a set schedule.   

So I briefly talked about the struggles I had faced last semester with my new move.  I actually never even went into why I moved here or anything about dance (this information will be important later)-- I just talked about my job, and being lonely, etc. I spent more time focusing on how little things are starting to turn around, and how I was finally learning to take everything one day at a time, and most importantly how I was being forced to depend on God for my strength since I've been stripped of all the financial, emotional, and spiritual luxuries that made my life so comfortable for so long.

And that was it, several people nodded showing understanding and agreement with what I was saying.  They were very supportive, and I was glad that I took the time to wrestle with my thoughts and force myself to articulate them-- more for me than anyone else, but I never could have expected what happened next...

After I finished speaking, the facilitator continued his "wrap up," as he was originally trying to do before I had interrupted.  He explained that the last few minutes were going to be ours.  The worship leader was going to play some closing songs, but we could feel free to sing, journal, pray, sit in silence-- whatever we needed.  I felt awkward.  I didn't really know what to do, but that didn't last long.  Within seconds, the girl next to me tapped my leg and whispered, "Thank you for sharing.  That was just for me... I needed to hear that."  We spoke for a few minutes, and she talked about how she is getting over a recent breakup.  But just last night she ran into her ex, and he was with his new girlfriend, so she came to the community group with a heavy heart.  She said she needed to hear about relinquishing herself to God, and needing to depend on him every day to give her the strength she needed to cope and move on.  While we were in our conversation, another girl approached us from across the room, "I just wanted to come over here and talk to you," she said to me.  "I just moved here in August from California, and I feel like I'm in the exact same situation that you said you were in.  It was really great to hear your take on it, and what God's teaching you during this time."  By the end of the night, SIX people came up to me to thank me for sharing what I did because in someway it spoke to them personally.  I mean, I get that I live in New York City, and everyone's a transplant from somewhere else, and everyone goes through their own story of loneliness and frustration, but I wish I could describe the wonder in their eyes as they felt that they were receiving a divine message of hope and encouragement... and perhaps the wonder in my eyes as I contemplated this divine orchestration of timing and placement.  Considering I almost didn't say anything, it was really incredible to see my simple words being used for part of God's intricate plan.

But here's the real kicker.  One of the people that approached me, Jeannie Jo-- I had never met her before last night-- said she was so moved by what I said that she wanted to pray for me.  So she proceeded to pray over my situation for about 5 minutes, and here were the closing words of her prayer: "God please remove this backpack from Rachael's back, and carry it for her, so she can dance freely up the mountainside..."

If you don't have chills right now, please refer back to the closing paragraphs of one of my previous posts entitled Deliverance...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Ten - Week of 1.10.11

Last weeks top ten (in order of occurrence):

10) Wayne- Last weekend I hung out at my brother's apartment and watched The Others with him and his friend.  It was nice to be around family and just relax for the night.

9) Harkness Institute- On Monday, I went to a FREE injury prevention assessment for dancers.  I met with a physical therapist, one-on-one, for about an hour and a half.  She had me do all kinds of exercises and stretches, and she identified areas of potential danger in my current alignment.  She also gave me a list of stretches to do work on my existing injuries and help improve my general performance.  My hamstrings have extensive damage after tearing one and pulling the other many years ago.  I've re-injured them many times over the years, and a great deal of scar tissue has built up as a result.  Recently they have gotten so tight, that I was feeling pain when I would bend over to put my shoes on.  This is heartbreaking for someone who used to roll in and out of her splits and almost touch her nose in a high-kick line.  I still don't know if I'll ever make it back to that degree of flexibility, but after just one week of doing the recommended stretches and using my foam roller before and after every class, I'm noticing significant changes.  It's exciting to watch the transformation.

8) Chelsea Community Group- Monday night I went to that community group that Sue recommended the night before, and it was awesome.  Everyone was extremely welcoming, and it was a great time of worship, discussion, and prayer.  I'm planning on becoming a regular.

7) HEAT!!!-- I went throughout the entire fall and half of winter (including the Great Blizzard) without heat in my apartment.  I used to lay in my bed for hours after the alarm went off because I didn't want to leave my comforter.  And when I would try to read of use the computer, I would bundle up in my winter coat and blankets, but my fingers would literally go numb since they had to be exposed in order to turn the pages or type.  It's a long, stupid story as to why we didn't have heat, but I finally have it, and it's glorious!  A whole new world!

6) Intermediate-  I started taking some Int and IntAdv classes and not psyching myself out at the label.  At BDC classes progress through Basic, Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, and Intermediate Advanced.  I've mostly been taking AdvBeg classes and being sufficiently challenged at that level.  But for the past 2 weeks, I started trying to step out of my comfort zone, and push myself.  I still look a hot mess in those harder classes, but I'm picking up the choreography so much faster than I was at the beginning of my program, and I'm starting to let go more and just dance. 

5) Lyndsay- On Tuesday, I had drinks with Lyndsay.  She and I went to high school together and were officers on the dance team.  I haven't seem her in over 5 years, but she just moved to NYC this month, so we met up and were able to pick up where we left off.

4) Hillstone- Work went really well this week.  No one blew up at me; I made good money; and I even helped to encourage my co-worker who was struggling with some of the same issues I was dealing with at the beginning of my time there.  I also learned a new trick: even if I screw up with my table, as long as I leave a good LAST impression just before they're signing the charge slip, I get 20%.  So now I slide the credit card on the table, make direct eye-contact, give a huge smile, bat my eyelashes, and say, "Thank you soooo much!  Enjoy the rest of your evening!" Boom- 25 bucks. :)

3) Trader Joes- FIIIIINALLY went to Trader Joes, a grocery store that eeeeveryone's been talking about.  And now I get why they've been talking about it.  Everything is crazy cheap!  They have a lot of inexpensive organic products and they sell cheap pre-cooked meals.  I bought my groceries for the week for $36!  It was insane, and I am in love. 

2) Katie- Holy smokes, I love this girl!  I met Katie through Erica Stewart, who Facebook connected us when I first moved to NYC, and promised that we would get along well with each other.  What an understatement.  Since moving to NYC, the hardest I ever laugh is when I'm around this girl.  On Saturday, we went out for 'breakfast for dinner.'  I had blueberry pancakes at 8:30 at night, so it was already a great night.  But to top it off we went out for drinks.  We decided to look for "manly bars" as we called them, so our first stop was the bar on the corner that had at least 7 neon beer logos in the window.  Guys like shiny things and beer, so we figured we had the right spot.  And we were right.  Just to get to the bar, we had to push through about 12 guys-- probably the most straight men I've seen since I've moved to NYC.  Although we had a blast, we decided we're both awkward, and we're just going to have to live with that.  :) Our homework is to continue researching 'manly' bars and frequenting restaurants that have 'breakfast for dinner' options on their menu. 

1) GLEE- I'm working on a GLEE medley dance performance.  Jorge, one of the dancers in the program, is helping me choreograph it, and this morning we had a great rehearsal.  By the end of it, we were both grinning from ear to ear, so excited about the choreography that we came up with! Every week that I watch GLEE, I think about how that's EXACTLY what I wish I was doing, so I'm excited to put together this number and hopefully channel some of that inspiration. 

That's it- overall a great week! Looking forward to another one!

Monday, January 17, 2011


Last week was one of the best weeks that I've had in NYC!  Nothing spectacular happened, but after several months of doom and gloom entries, I want to be quick to share and give thanks when there's any sign of hope!

So last Sunday night I went to church, and the message really spoke to me.  On the inside I was really inspired by it, but I could still feel this could of depression that's been hovering over me for the past few months and really distancing me from God.  I feel like I've just been walking through the motions of my faith, and not really feeling the same vibrancy and passion that I felt before.  I've never been married, but I imagine one could compare it to when some couples' marriages become stale, and they know they still love each other, and they're in it for the long haul, but they also remember a time when they would get butterflies when they saw each other, and every day was that much more exciting as they got to experience life intricately intertwined with one another, but those days were far behind them.  That's where I was.  I could remember that time, and I wanted so desperately to have those emotions back, but I was numb-- giving in to the weight of my circumstances and slowly slipping away from communion with God.  I remember at one point a few months ago, having this profound realization that hell was less about flames and pitchforks, and more about the absence of God.  And as I walked further and further away from his presence, I was pulled further and further into my personal hell-- a downward spiral of negativity, ingratitude, and selfishness-- the opposite of everything I want to be in life.

Anyways, I don't know why this particular Sunday was the turning point.  I had gone to many sermons in weeks prior that were equally as inspiring, but I think the timing was just right with it being the start of a new year and all.  Nevertheless, at the end of the sermon, the pastor said that if you needed to talk to someone or wanted prayer, there would be people up in the front 'who would love to talk to you.'  That's typically the point when I tune out, start gathering my belongings, and put my coat on because there is clearly no way that I'm walking all the way to the front of the church to ask some stranger for prayer.  But that's because I've never been desperate before.  Desperate for change; desperate for hope.  So although every fiber of my flesh was screaming for me to walk out the door, my desperate soul led the way to the front alter.  I made awkward eye contact with a woman who smiled at me, and she motioned me to come sit down beside her.  We exchanged names, and within approximately 9 seconds, I was in uncontrollable tears, heaving and sobbing, explaining every emotion that I had bottled up since August.  I searched the depths of my heart, and left no rock unturned.  Sue didn't flinch-- she listened sympathetically, and ooh-ed and aaah-ed at all the right times to show me she understood my situation, and validated me in feeling the way I did.  Then she prayed for me and asked me to pray for myself.  She also encouraged me to join the community group that met on Mondays so I could start to get plugged in.  And that was it-- quick and painless-- and things have turned around eversince.  I feel as though I was hiking up the side of a mountain with a heavy backpack and someone just lifted the entire pack off my shoulders.  I'm still hiking, and it's still challenging, but without the heavy load I remember that I actually like hiking! I just couldn't handle that backpack anymore.

I'm finally able to see my surroundings in a more positive light, and everything seems to burst forth in a brighter hue than it did before.  I'm hopeful that this is the start of a far more colorful chapter than the previous 5 months that I will now start to refer to as the Dark Ages.  :)

"For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them."  Matthew 18: 20


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


We're several days into the new year... I'm a little behind... but I'm finally ready to make my new year's resolution.  I LOVE new beginnings, fresh starts, clean slates, and all that jazz.  One thing I loved about teaching and being a student is that we kinda used to get two "new year's" every year.  Every semester, we got to come back-- well-rested and ambitious-- with the long list of things we were going to swear to start doing consistently and the other list of things we promised we'd never do again.  It's exciting to take time to reflect on your past and basically dump all the baggage that we feel was weighing us down by the end of the year.  And it's weird that we feel like we need a random calendar date to tell us when it's appropriate to dump that burdensome baggage, but we all do it-- whether it's the beginning of a school semester, or on your birthday, or even just the next upcoming Monday--  we all use these arbitrary measures of time to free ourselves of old mistakes and bad habits, and give ourselves a chance to start anew-- and January 1st is viewed as the epitome of that opportunity for renewal.

So needless to say, I was more than a little disappointed when I realized I had to "give up" on New Year's and new year's resolutions.   It was actually a rather depressing moment that felt very similar to when I found out that the tooth fairy was just my mom, and that WWF wrestling is all staged (little known fact: when I was younger, I used to be obsessed with Hulk Hogan, and my brother and I used to slap our elbows and jump off the couch sideways pretending we were wrestlers jumping off the ropes... but I digress).  The point being, when I made the decision to give up "resolutions", it was a similar disappointing revelation: that as excited as I get about new years' resolutions, they've actually never worked for me.  I can't tell you of a single year that I have accomplished something as a a result of a January 1st resolution.  In fact, I'd say that by April or May, I couldn't even tell you what the resolution was, much less there being any semblance of actual follow-through.  Soooo I'm trying something new. Inspired by Shauna Niequist, an incredible author who came to speak at my church in Houston around lent season of 2009, I've taken up the practice of New Year's Themes.  During her visit, Shauna shared that she gave up Fear for lent.  That's right-- she gave up fear-- not chocolate, or television, or cursing, but the whole concept of fear and all of the limitations that it encompasses.  I was so moved; I let that idea sit on my heart and I wrestled with it from time to time throughout the rest of the year until I decided to take it on as my own theme for the year of 2010.   So last year was my first attempt at NYT's, and now I'm a huge fan.  There's still that excitement of new beginnings and starting over, but with less pressure of finding perfection at a specific task, and more attention to gently refining who I am, how I think, and how I engage in this life.

I still have my list of to-do's, and goals, and good habits that I hope to achieve for the year, and I'll share those as well in a future post, but I've also narrowed in on the theme that I plan to focus on as I journey through this year. For you IB fans, perhaps I could describe this as the "lens" through which I hope to view 2011.  I was sifting through my old notebooks, and I was once again inspired by the words of Shauna Niequist, which led me to my theme for this year which is: Drifting.

The following is the paraphrase of one of her talks at Ecclesia.  Forgive me for butchering her actual words, but I was scribbling furiously in my notebook, trying to capture the essence of her message:  

"When going through wilderness and change, and when our life does not follow the fairytale we had planned, we should ride it like a wave.  Our tendency is to lock our knees and try to resist the waves.  As a result we get slapped around, knocked over, and washed up on the shore gasping for air.  But if we can let go and try to float, God will take us to somewhere new.  Letting go doesn't mean just letting the wave wash over us until it's over, but it means giving into the power of the wave, and going with it.  Live in it, accept it, and be transformed by it.  Change is good-- in the way that childbirth, heartbreak, and failure is good-- it's extremely painful, especially when you try to fight it, but it opens us up, and we can learn from it..."

This is the perfect image of where I've been these past 5 months.  I'm in a season of wilderness and change, and all I've done is buckled my knees, trying to resist the changes-- and sure enough, I feel tattered, worn out, and exhausted... thrown onto the shore, spitting up sand, waiting to be swept out to sea again and dragged under the next wave.  But now I'm trying a new approach: drifting-- giving in to the power of the wave, trusting in the perfect plan of God my Father.  I want to stop insisting on my plans, and being disappointed when things don't work out accordingly, and instead lay on my back, close my eyes, and float.  And I don't want to just float along the coastline where I can easily swim to shore when I get tired or scared; I want to be carried so far out to sea that I can't see anything but water in any direction, and I have no idea where I am or where I'm going-- because that's when my faith is strengthened.   And when the time is right, I want to drift onto a new shore, a new person, having been transformed by my journey, and more importantly, fully confident that I am in the exact spot, doing the exact thing that God has planned for me because it was his will being done, not my own.

Don't get me wrong-- drifting should not be confused with laziness or lack of ambition or even passivity.  Have you tried floating recently?  It's actually much harder than I remember it being as a child.  If you don't do it just right, you'll start to sink below the surface of the water and you can't breathe freely anymore.  In order to stay afloat, you actually have to arch your back, tilt your chin towards the sky, keep your head leaning backwards-- if you try to look up and see where you are, you upset the balance and your legs start to go under, and there's a way to hold your arms to change your center of buoyancy, etc., etc.  What appears to be a simple and effortless task, actually involves a great deal of energy and focus for proper execution.  And that's just to stay afloat in still waters like a pool; imagine what it takes to float when you're out at sea folding in and out of the waves.  Likewise, I anticipate that this commitment to "drifting" will require similar discipline and diligence.  Every day, at every moment, for every situation, I have to make the decision to live by faith, and "lean not on my own understanding."

There's a haziness sitting over my future right now, and I'm going through lots of change and turmoil, but this year I'm choosing to not be anxious about it and not fight against it.  As the doubt and uncertainty creeps in about what I'll do after this dance program finishes... and what city/state/country I should move to... and how will I support myself financially... and what I ultimately want to do with my life... my natural tendency is to calling me to be overwhelmed, to start gripping for control, or to just give up and take the easy path, but my spirit is telling me: "Be still, and know that I am God."  So this year, I'm choosing to ignore the societal pressures that insist that I have a plan, and a backup plan, and an action plan, and 5-year plan.  I'm choosing to stop fighting against the difficulties that I'm facing in New York City, and instead embrace them and try to learn what God is revealing to me about myself and how he's trying to transform me.  This year, I'm choosing to drift.  Wish me luck!

 P.S. If you've never read Shauna Niequist's books, please go buy them now, and be inspired!  She'll change your life.  Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet-- enjoy!