Following Your Dream is Your JOB

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While some people seem to live without urgency to do anything in particular, I am forever plagued by the feeling that time is running out; time to explore and experience everything this good life has to offer, and time to do whatever amazing thing it is that I was put on the earth to do, my job with a capital J, if you will. I just don’t want this life to slip past without doing something important that is both the full expression of my creativity and the highest gift I can give to the world. A tall order to fill? Oh, yeah!

Being rigged up by this particular driver is great for pursuing a creative life. Sadly, some of the time I spend doing the seemingly menial tasks that pay the bills, or keep the house clean-ish, I feel like I am just wasting my time here on earth to really make a difference; to do my Job.  And when I am doing things I enjoy, I wonder if what I’m doing is helping anyone or just a selfish quest for my own personal gain. I start to feel like my life is being sucked into a vacuum-packed pouch - no wiggle room.

Every story can be told from an infinite number of perspectives. One version of my story is to tell you how I moved to NYC at 23 to follow my dream of becoming a professional dancer. I took classes and auditioned and was able to dance for smaller companies and produce my own work.

The other version is that I moved to NYC when I was 23 to follow my dream of becoming a professional dancer. I was able to take classes where I danced well but was never the best, I performed with companies, but not the ones that I really loved or who paid actual dollars, and all the while I was gimping along financially making my money as a waitress as I watched my peers climb corporate ladders and do fancy things with their money like, not spend every single penny between paychecks.

Both versions of my story are true and during the time I was living that particular dream, my perspective shifted back and forth between the two. I always wondered if I was a success or a failure. In a soft romantic light, I felt like a bohemian renegade and under the florescent lights of the stock room where I changed out keg taps at 2am, I wondered if I was bad a being a grown up.

Eventually, I got married, had a baby and left NYC, leaving both my dance dream and my life in the service industry behind. Then, shortly after I'd settled back in Austin, I received this message on Facebook that changed my life and the way I view my work in the world. It's a bit long, but worth the read...

Hi Michelle, this might be the strangest message you receive on FB, but I had to share my story with you: You waited on me at Sweetwater in Williamsburg a loooong time ago--I was on a date with a total jerk who was hitting on you during our date, and I remember your name because I remember how much my date liked your last name 😊 Anyway, you mentioned that you were a dancer, and at the time I wasn't a dancer but always desperately wanted to dance and was so jealous of dancers, and for some bizarre reason, instead of getting pissed that my date was hitting on you, I started a conversation with you about dance.  I asked you about studios to take dance classes, and you mentioned DNA, which I had heard of but wouldn't in a million years consider taking a class there, since in my mind that's where "real dancers" go to dance.  The date got progressively worse from there, and long story short, that was the last time I ever saw that guy again!

  About six months later, I was wandering around Soho and came upon DNA, and walked in to check it out, and when I looked into the studio at the top of the stairs where a class was in session, you were the first person I saw dancing in the class, which I thought was really weird.  I looked around a little bit and then left, and proceeded to get quite depressed about not being a dancer, etc. etc. I walked around a bit more and then took the L home, and when I got off at Bedford, I was walking up the subway stairs, and I looked up and caught the profile of the person walking up the stairs ahead of me, and I thought, "Is that that girl?! It can't be!" But sure enough, when I got to the top of the stairs and got a good look, it was you.  I was really creeped out by this, as I'm sure you are right now as you read this, but I promise the ending of this story is really great...anyway, I wanted to say something to you cause I just thought the situation was too weird to be a coincidence, but I didn't really know what to say, so I said to myself, "I won't talk to her unless she gets on the bus, cause what are the chances she'll get on the bus?" But sure enough, you did, and in fact, you sat next to me.  You might remember this conversation between the two of us, where I introduced myself and to my surprise, you remembered me from that awful date night, and I think I said something weird like "I think I ran into you because you were supposed to tell me something", and to my shock, you didn't tell me to get the hell away from you or run to the back of the bus, you told me that in fact you were thinking about me a couple of days earlier because you heard of a modern dance class that was starting at a place called Triskelion Arts.  I thanked you for the info, got off at my stop on Manhattan Ave., and never saw you again.  But I DID take that dance class at Triskelion, and although the class was a horrible experience cause I was the only one that showed up for it and the teacher was sorely disappointed with my dance ability, at the end of the class a woman walked in to the studio and the teacher said "This is Abby--she runs the studio and she's a choreographer too.  In fact, she's starting rehearsal for a dance piece right now." And this woman, who didn't know me from a hole in the wall, looked at me and said "Yeah, you wanna be in it?" I started fumbling for words and telling her I wasn't a dancer, and she said "Oh don't worry, I like to work with both trained and untrained dancers." That was in 2005, and a couple of months later, after agonizing about the decision and thinking that I was out of my mind to do this, I quit my job running events and making a ton of money in order to be in her dance piece.  I ended up being in two more of her shows, as well as choreographing my own work (of which I've done 4 pieces now) and performing my work in a couple of places in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as New Haven and Martha's Vineyard, and I am now in a dance company and dance is a regular part of my life!  I also went to West Africa for a month to study African dance and drum with a guy who owned a drum-making shop down the hall from Triskelion's studio.  And all of this happened from meeting you on the worst date of my life! I just had to share that story with you, I hope I didn't creep you out sending you this really long message out of nowhere, but I've told the story to many people and they are all amazed by it, and suddenly I wondered if I could find you on FB to tell YOU the story, and to thank you for telling me about that dance class--it completely changed the course of my life in the most amazing way, and to this day I cannot get over the fact that the worst date ever turned into an opportunity to do what I always dreamed of doing but thought I couldn't do.  My life is now beyond my wildest dreams--I'm not in some major company or touring the world, or even getting paid to dance, but for me just to have dance and choreography be a part of my life makes me so happy.  And I never could have predicted the bizarre way that the opportunity fell into my lap! Anyway, my apologies if you are totally freaked out by this story or by me contacting you, and double apologies if this is not the person I think it is!

And that was it…the moment that I really understood that it matters that we follow our dreams and that to do so inspires other people to follow theirs. At the same time I learned that the day job that pays the bills matters too because it’s just as important to focus on how you do what you do rather than what you are doing. Being nice to people is a form of artwork too.

Did I love being a waitress? Not all the time, but it allowed me a chance to connect with people from all over the world and to share my story that, at least for one woman, meant more than the crappy date she was on or the meal I served her. Her message to me was one of the best gifts I have ever received. She freed me. She reminded me that following your heart’s greatest desires is more than enough and that is the greatest story you can live. 

Is there someone out there who has inspired you to Do Yo Thang? Make sure you let that person know how their generosity changed your life and share your story with us here at This Savage Life.

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