Monday, August 1, 2016

The Next Chapter: A Survival Guide

Hey guys!

As a young adult, I'm going to be looking for work and a new place to live very soon. I'm entering into my last year of my education, and all I can think about is what I'm going to do after I graduate.

Life is going to change drastically and I need to be ready. I may be a bit ahead of myself, but this is how I operate. I try to plan out my future even when there are countless unknowns.

I do, however, have every right to be worried. I'm visually impaired and have had parents supporting me my entire life. I've never been on my own. I'm scared that because of this, I'll be asking for help sooner than I want to. 

In lieu of my approaching adulthood, I have been thinking about tools I could use during the process. As a result, today we are talking about tools for survival. We can all use these ideas when we enter into a new or unfamiliar chapter. Journey with me through these different ideas, and see if any of them resonate with you. Each tool is written in bold. 

Think on your toes.
I wanted to start general and then move towards more specific tools later. Thinking on your toes can mean many things. Check out this list. If you think on your toes you...
  • anticipate possible problems 
  • respond quickly to those problems
  • respond calmly and collectively to those problems
  • assess the current situation when you enter into it, or even before you enter into it
  • immediately weigh the pros and cons
  • are always sensitive and aware of your surroundings (people places, and events
Thinking on your toes is the opposite of being lazy. It means having that lightbulb above your head turned on constantly. I struggle with this. Sometimes I don't want to think or compete or try to get ahead. My laziness gets the better of me and then I feel deep regret after the fact. 

The reality is that I need to get over this if I want to be the best version of myself. There isn't time for laziness. Opportunities come and go and if you aren't thinking, you will miss them. Just be smart. That's what I tell myself. Put a little more thought into everything. 

Buy your choreographer a thank you card with your email address in it. Or, introduce yourself to your professor after the first class. It's the acts like this that will start to become really beneficial habits. Eventually, you will naturally think on your toes and will have to turn down certain opportunities because you won't have time.

To summarize, think quickly, think ahead, and most importantly, think big.

Fake it til' you make it.
Fake it til' you make it just means that you shouldn't show people that you're uncomfortable or out of your element. Instead, have confidence (even if it's fake) and vitality during difficult endeavors.

For example, today was the first time in 3 months that I wore my pointe shoes during ballet class. That's a long time for a dancer, and I was afraid of looking out of shape and weak. I was nervous and insecure on the inside, but determined, focused, and calm on the outside. I acted like the class was no big deal, even though it was my first class back on pointe!

To my surprise, I wasn't that out of shape, my feet didn't hurt that bad, and the steps weren't that hard. The expectation that it would be a difficult class was pushed aside because I pretended like I was fine. I faked it til' I made it through that class. Before I knew it, the class was over and I was enjoying a Starbucks. 

When you don't act like you're scared, you can surprise yourself. If you don't put energy into negative outcomes/feelings, then you leave room for the positive ones. 

Fake it until you make it through whatever it is that you are afraid of! If you have a specific experience, comment and let me know!

Quit comparing.
This is one of my favorite tools because it's close to home. I have always compared myself to other dancers. I either wanted this girl's feet, or her ability to turn, or the amount of attention she was getting from the teacher. 

Sometimes, I would take other people's successes as my own personal failures. I would be upset because some one else got something amazing, like a dance company contract or an acceptance into a selective summer program. 

I have recently learned that comparison is pointless and painful. No one should live that way. It feels great to just be excited and hopeful for your own journey. Quit thinking about what other people get. 

This video of comedian and TV personality, Chelsea Handler is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Watch and learn from her. She hits the nail on the head.

Go with your gut.
This is a really self explanatory tool. Go with what you feel is right. Trust your intuition whenever you are questioning a decision or having problems. I bet you that 9 times out of 10, your gut will tell you the correct answer. I love quotes, enjoy these about intuition!

Say goodbye to shy.
I used to be a shy kid growing up. With my family, I was comfortable showing my true personality, but with new people, it was hard. I often closed myself off because I was scared of what they would think of me.

This happens a lot even after people grow up. They are closed off because they are afraid of being judged.

The sooner you let go of the shy exterior that protects you, the sooner opportunities will fall into your lap. When you're shy, people will look over you or think you don't care. 

Being open (saying bye to shy) in life means that you embrace people, places, and things that come your way. Openness can't happen if you sit back and wait.
I feel as though shyness holds people back from achieving their full potential. If not in their career, shyness will make it harder for others to see the real person they are. Things don't just happen. Relationships aren't just formed.

Say goodbye to shy for a few days and see if you notice a difference in your friendships and opportunities at work.

Stay grounded.
As a dancer, I'm always trying to stay grounded in the floor so I don't fall or lose my balance. The funny thing is, is that I have  trouble staying grounded in my personal life as well. 

I live thousands of miles from California, which is where my family is and where I call home. When I'm home, I truly feel like myself. I am grounded in my actions, beliefs, and values. I can easily judge right from wrong and I feel secure with who I am. 

When I'm in New York, I feel my roots start to lift out of the ground. I start to forget who I am and who I want to become. It's such a weird conundrum I find myself in each year. I get to school, do well for a few weeks, and then slowly drift.

I'll ask myself, "Who should I be hanging out with? Are they the kind of people I want to be hanging out with? Why can't I seem to feel comfortable with the people that are surrounding me?"

I've learned that family is a huge tool for staying grounded. There really is no place like home. To stay grounded, it's important to constantly remind yourself of where you came from. The reminder of home will keep everything in perspective. 

I have pictures of my family all over my dorm room. Each year I make a new collage and put it above my bed. My collages look a lot like this. 

Another amazing tool for staying grounded is a dream/vision board. A dream/vision board is a collage of a bunch images that capture your biggest goals and dreams. On mine, I have pictures of famous dancers I admire, renowned choreographers I want to work with, and inspirational words of encouragement. 

I highly recommend you make one because they remind you of what's important. 

There is a lot of negative minutia in life that can bring us down. These dream/vision boards help counteract all the crap that makes us feel bad. On a dream/vision board, everything is happy, hopeful, positive.

I want to keep mine and look back years later. I've heard stories about people's lives resembling their dream boards. Use this link and make oneHow to make a dream or vision board on Pinterest, so many options. 

I hope you can benefit from a few of these survival tools. I know I will during my last year of college and first year as a real adult. Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Stretching Yourself Too Thin? How to Avoid Burning Out

Hello readers,

During the school year, I have a strenuous schedule and sometimes become burnt out. When I'm "burnt out" I become tired, grouchy, unmotivated, lazy, and complacent during my day to day routine. I simply want to quit school, pack my bags, and get on a plane home. You may know the feeling I'm talking about. It's the feeling of being just absolutely done.

On a daily basis I have academic courses at Fordham, dance classes at Alvin Ailey, rehearsals, church events, cross training workouts, homework/papers due, meals to make, and more. 

My life is jam packed with obligations and exciting opportunities. I love my life in New York. However, I often forget how blessed I am and I become super burnt out, uneasy, and just plain over it. 

I ask myself, "How can you do all of this and not get burnt out?" Or, "Next year, can you do a better job of avoiding burn out?"

That's why I am writing this post. It is as much for me as it is for you. My goal here is to put together a list of things we can all use to avoid getting burnt out. 

  1. Take a breath. I have a really awesome and cooky professor at Fordham who brought in a Tai Chi Master, Addison Martin to class (he can kill someone with the touch of his finger). He told us that if you take a 7 count inhale and a 4 count exhale, you can reset your mind and refocus your thoughts. Try this! A small breath will give you a second to evalute the current situation and enable you to be completely present and mindful. When I'm feeling flustered, angry, or stressed, I take a few deep and long breaths. They really calm me down and put my problems in perspective.
  2. Do something for you! When I feel like I'm being stretched too thin with school, dance, and life in general, I try to do something for myself. I do something that gives me a bit immediate joy/satisfaction. I have no shame in saying this. We are all human and were raised in a society filled with immediate gratifications. Go get a pastry. Go to your favorite clothing store. Or, go to the nearest pet store to play with some puppies. That last option literally works every time. Go out and do something fun!
  3. Make a "To Do List." I love lists, especially when I have many things going on in my brain! Make a list of what you have to get done, or about the issues that you are thinking about. It will make you feel better, I promise.
  4. Call your mom. My mom is one of my best friends. If you're feeling like you're life is spiraling out of control, call a family member or friend that you trust. Get everything off your chest. Don't wait to do this. The sooner you vent, the sooner you will feel better.
  5. Go for a joy walk. Sometimes we just need a little air. I know that when I'm cooped up in my dorm room for too long, I go crazy. It feels great to get out and just walk. If you can't go for a walk, go for a drive and blast your favorite music in the car.
  6. Meditate. Life can move so fast sometimes. To slow down, I often use the Podcast's guided meditations. The meditations are short, inspirational, and positive. There is one for any issue you may be having. My favorite mediations are called Renewal, and Emotional Clearing. I get really caught up in my emotions, so this 27 minute mediation really does the trick of me. If you have never tried meditating, you absolutely should! There is an amazing sense of calm that comes over you during and after meditation. Everyone needs to experience this at least once.

I hope these ideas help you find little moments of peace and joy during your hectic life. If you can't find these moments, you are probably being stretched too thin by different aspects of your life. An ambitious, fast paced lifestyle can't be maintained for very long. You will burn out and have to rebuild your motivation. If you search for the moments of quiet, joy, and relaxation during the chaos, you can avoid burn out. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

If They Don't Add, They Take Away

In October of 2015, my close girlfriend came to visit me at school in New York City. She flew from San Diego and was planning to stay in my dorm for a few nights.

She had just been dumped after a year long relationship and was having a pretty rough time. I suggested she come to visit so that she could get her mind off the breakup. 

During the days and weeks leading up to the trip, we talked and texted everyday in preparation and excitement. I did not expect that this trip would mark the end of a four year friendship. 

She arrived on a Thursday afternoon and everything was good between us. However, she did seem like she wasn't feeling very good; she was quiet and only ate one bite of her empanada at dinner. 

So, being the concerned friend that I was, I probed her about what was wrong. This led me to taking her to the urgent care on 57th and 8th. It was my idea and she reluctantly agreed.

She was prescribed some medicine, (I don't want to say why we were at the doctor, it's too personal) and started feel better and brighten up. 

The next day I had classes. So, we met afterward and did a lot of walking around the area. We got tea and macarons, she met a bunch of my friends, and she even came to rehearsal with me that night. Things were going fine, but my nerves about being the perfect host were growing because the weekend was approaching. 

I was really tired on Friday night and wanted to stay in. We ended up talking until really late. I thought it was an amazing conversation, but maybe it wasn't exciting enough for her. 

The next day we walked up and down 5th Avenue and then met one her friends who was visiting the city at the same time. This was not my idea! However, I was playing it very cool and didn't mind meeting her friend. 

We walked all the way to the friend's hotel in Times Square (of all damn places) and then went to a long dinner. Then, get this, my friend agreed that we would babysit her friend's infant child! I was surprised she agreed. That night we ended up walking around Times Square with a stroller while the rest of her friend's family went to a broadway show. It was miserable. 

We ended up babysitting of four hours! After that, I was exhausted and definitely did not want to go out. 

The night concluded after we met with one of my close friends for burgers at midnight. We hung out for a while and then went to bed. She was being super quiet, distant, and cold during our meal and conversation with my friend. It was embarrassing and made me so uncomfortable.

As time passed during the weekend, I became more and more anxious about making sure she had a good time. I was texting my Mom the whole time saying things like, "Ugh this is so stressful, she seems annoyed!" 

I think the more anxious I got, the more annoyed at me she became. I constantly asked her what she wanted to do and she would say, "Whatever is fine." 

So, I did my best to make decisions about which areas to walk through, which neighborhoods to visit, and what places to eat. On Sunday, we walked around the West Village which she claimed she didn't like as much as 5th Ave. 

Things were extremely tense that whole day. I knew she was upset but every time I asked her if she was alright, she said she was fine. She gave me nothing! She was so indifferent and cold. This attitude of not caring about anything rubbed me the wrong way. I still get uncomfortable when I think about it. 

She left the next morning. I think she expected me to walk her out, but I didn't. I said goodbye and then said, "Have a safe flight."

It happened just like that; our friendship would never be the same. This fiasco got me thinking about the entirety of our friendship.

After her visit, I realized that both friends should be benefited by a friendship. A friend should add to you and your life, not take away or make you feel anxious/uncomfortable. 

The only thing that this friendship gave me was an ego boost. I felt like a good person because I was always making her feel better. That is all. There was no reciprocation. I didn't gain anything positive form being her friend. If anything, her bad attitude and negative outlook on life rubbed off on me.

I didn't realize this before. My friend and I were close in high school and had lots in common. Now we don't, and that's okay. 
Sometimes people grow apart and don't necessarily need to be friends anymore. 

You may find that your friend is choosing a path or acting a certain way that you don't agree with. Don't go with them if you know in your heart that it's wrong. Stay true to yourself (your morals, values, beliefs, and attitudes). That may lead to friends coming in and out of your life, but so be it! At least you know that no one is taking the good from you and replacing it with bad. Find friends who add to you and make you a better person. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Step Out to Stand Out

Hello guys!

Today's post is about taking steps in life that scare you at first, but greatly benefit you later.

Here's a personal example to get the ball rolling. If I want to get corrections from my dance teachers, noticed by the school directions, and casted all of the leading roles, I need to step into the front of the room during classes and auditions. I can't be afraid of standing alone or messing up the step. 

A lack of desire is not what holds most of us back from taking our steps. It is the fear of failing that keeps us dancing small and in the back of the crowd. Talent and uniqueness emerge if you take risks! You can't be afraid of being exposed and vulnerable. 

The reality is that when you step out/take a risk, there is a chance that you may fail. Failure is inevitable, but what you do after failure is not. 

That part is up to you. It's up to you to use that failure as fuel for your internal strength. Each step will either get you closer to success or will make you stronger. Isn't that a pretty encouraging cycle?

The stronger you become, the more you can handle failure/defeat. The more you can handle failure/defeat, the more courage you will have. Soon, hard steps become easy because you are no longer afraid of failing. It's quite an exciting pattern. You just need to take the first step. 

Taking your step does not have to be in your career only. You can (and should) take steps in your relationships and in your daily routine as well. 

For the single people out there, say hello to the pretty girl or guy sitting alone at Starbucks. Take the risk! Hey, you could end up with a new girlfriend or boyfriend. 

And now for your routine. Order the salad instead of the burger. Your body will thank you later. Don't be afraid of trying to lose that extra weight! Dive in head first and in a few months you will see a change. 

The same goes for exercising. Don't worry about what you look like in those yoga pants on the elliptical. Get moving, stay moving, and you will soon see some results.

If you want to experience the truest form of happiness and bliss, you need to take risks; and those risks start with a step out. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Psychology for Dancers

Hey guys!

I'm excited for today's post because I am going to report on an interview I conducted recently with the Psychologist, Vincenzo Tarantino.

I heard about him through a family friend and took advantage of a great opportunity. I have always been very interested in matters of the brain and wanted to see what a real psychologist had to say about my questions concerning dancers. Check out the interview below. 

1. Many pro dancers have a perfectionist mentality; they obsess about their bodies and are constantly trying to be thinner. If a dancer is struggling with his/her body image, what are a few of the first steps they should take to feel more comfortable in their skin?
Great question! I would like to start by saying that it's not uncommon for individuals in your industry to feel this way. Society, particularly in the media, promote standards of beauty that are usually impossible for most people to attain without taking drastic measures.The best advice I can give is to stop setting yourself up for failure. Don't set goals that are impossible to achieve. Instead, take smaller steps towards your goal and build from there! Not only will your self-esteem increase but this technique will pave the way for your future success. Focus on establishing healthy habits, not weight management.
If you, or anyone you know is struggling with an eating disorder don't hesitate to get help. Clinical eating disorders and/or disordered eating habits can severely threaten the physical/emotional health without the proper treatment.
2. Male dancers, young and old, usually have some type of experiences with bullying. As a psychologist, what would you tell a male dancer to help him cope with other boys making fun of him?
Bullying can occur in a variety of different places, contexts, and/or locations. It can be verbal, physical, relational, social and/or electronic. Being a victim of bullying can lead to types of emotional distress such as: anger, anxiety, shame, and isolation. Solutions to bullying are not simple. It is important to find a safe/supportive environment to address your feelings.
Assertive communication is one of the many skills one can practice. Assertive communication is a form of expressing “what you want” without being too passive or too aggressive. Use “I” statements and let him/her know how you feel. For example: “I would like you to stop calling me___.” or “ I feel __ when you do __”.  Be clear and direct!  It is important to set boundaries. What is “you” and what is “not you”; between what “they” think and what “you” think. With a strong boundary, there’s an acceptance that just because they think it/feel it/say it/do it doesn’t mean you have to as well.
3. Auditions and audition season are very anxiety provoking! Do you have any techniques that a dancer could use to calm themselves down before the big day? Or, what would you say to them if they came to you for help with this issue?
I too, would be nervous!  Anxiety is a normal, adaptive reaction, and is one of the most common experiences of children and adults. You can’t control the audition situation, but you can control yourself! Stay calm and take a deep breath. Allow yourself time to relax when your anxiety becomes too high. You've likely been preparing yourself for this event and you shouldn't let your nerves get the best of you. Set clear/reasonable expectations. Know what/when to expect on your big day and give it everything you've got.
 4. Dancers must learn how to cope with rejection. They are constantly being told no by choreographers and directors. What would generally say to client who is coming to you with serious problems with never feeling good enough?
Inadequacy or “not being good enough” is experienced by everyone at once point or another. But when these feelings begin to interfere with the ability to maintain relationships, succeed in your career, and/or lead to long periods of unhappiness, then exploring the underlying issues that stimulate those feelings may help. Acknowledge your strengths and minimize your weaknesses so that you can feel confident and adequate, regardless of your limitations. Ask yourself what is in your control to change? Are you willing to make the changes? If not, then do what you can to let go and move on. 
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”  - Buddha.

I'm so glad that I was able to speak with Vincenzo. Many of the things I believe were reiterated by him in this interview. It was nice to talk with a Psychologist without having to pay a couple hundred dollars for a session. It was awesome. We can all learn from what he had to say!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Spize, Speaking With Your Eyes

Hey guys,

My goal for today's post is to share with you the importance and power of speaking with your eyes. Whether I am performing on stage, doing a Skype interview, or meeting some one for the first time, I try to emote and communicate with my eyes. No one I dance or interact with has the slightest clue that I am visually impaired because of the attention I put into my eyes. 

This skill has brought me recognition as a dancer and a wonderful ability to connect with everyone I meet. It's the reason why I'm able to make tons of friends and audience members cry. 

As you read, take note of the important italicized words. Use them as guidelines and you will speak with your eyes in no time. 

The process starts with confidence. When you get ready for your big speech, (or your hot date) be confident and know that you are going to give strong eye contact to whomever you will be speaking to. 

Unwavering and intentional eye contact is powerful. You don't want to creep anyone out by starring, but you need to really see and listen to whom your communicating with. This shows that you care about the interaction that's taking place. 

If you care about the interaction, then you are probably being completely present. This is so important! I cannot tell you how  many dance teachers have corrected us dancers on our lack of presence. Presence is captivating and allows people to see that you're genuinely involved in what ever it is that you are doing. 

You can be present during the simplest of activites. For example, my nieces, Noelle and Asher know if I'm fully present during our movie nights. If I watch and enjoy the movie, they notice, and the experience means more to them. If I stare into space, they feel like I'm not interested in being there with them. 

Avoid glazed-over eyes. This type of focus is the opposite of being present. It communicates nothing and looks like you're lazy or tired. The glazed over and blank expression can also mean that you're just deep in thought. 

A lot of times we have to get ourselves out of "internal mode" to use our eyes effectively. We forget to be external because we are stuck inside our heads. For me, a good example of this is seeing the transformation in dancers when they focus less on movement (overly internal) and more on dancing for the audience. 

There is nothing wrong with being an introverted person, but there will be times when you need to communicate with people, and you want those interactions to be positive and beneficial for you. 

We are not all performers, models, and public speakers. However, those of us who are must master the smize. To smize,  is to smile with your eyes. It's probably the easiest form of speaking with your eyes. Simply think about something positive (maybe that adorable boy you are texting) and let your eyes react. 

This is one of the most powerful tools I can give you. When you generate emotions through your eyes, people will automatically be intrigued by you. They will listen to you, see you, and respect you because of your magnetic persona. 

It all starts in the eyes. I am going to go out on a limb and say that success is 50% personality and 50% skill/hardwork. Speak with your eyes gives you more personality. It adds complexity and charisma to any type of interaction you have!

I speak with my eyes on a daily basis and have learned over the course of my life how powerful this skill can be. I may not see well of out them, but I've learned that I can use them to my advantage.

We all have this power in us. See if you can find and utilize your spize. If you find that it's working of you, comment and let me know!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Top Three Ballet Hairstyles: A How-To

Hey readers,

I received feedback a few weeks ago saying that it might be interesting to see how to create a perfect ballet bun. Well today is the day! I am going to explain how to create the three most popular dancer hairstyles. 

ClassiCinnamon Roll: This classic bun is the easiest one to create. First, put your hair in a ponytail anywhere you want on your head. I usually do a high ponytail, it gives me more height. Next, twist the hair and spiral it into a cinnamon roll share. Some people pin the hair after they've made the roll shape, but I pin as I go. This bun is great for rehearsals and sends a dedicated student vibe. I like it because it's fast, easy, and professional.

French Twist: This elegant do is what a lot of older professional ballerinas wear during company class or in company photoshoots. Choreographers often ask for French twists because of their unique look. As a result, I am often asking my friends to help me with one. They can be pretty challenging, so a good one will take a few tries. Watch this video because me explaining it will be more confusing than helpful.

The Giselle Bun: This is one of my favorite bun styles. It is inspired by the classical ballet, Giselle. Giselle is a delicate and sweet character who wears her hair in a low bun with a middle part. In performances, dancers swoop their hair over their ears on each side of their head. This creates an ethereal effect. I would avoid this for classes and rehearsals but on stage it's gorgeous! It's a similar concept to the classic Cinnamon roll, just part you hair in the middle and comb the hair over your forehead slightly. This video is a good visual.

There you have it! The three most worn dancer bun/hairstyles. Honestly, these styles are not just for dancers. I would wear any of them on a normal day in New York City. Happy hairdos readers! All for now!