The big stuff.
As 2016 comes to a close, I have a few things to say for anyone who feels like listening:
Life is weird. The world is twisted and often hurtful. You don't have to look very far to see that. But I don't say that to be a pessimist; in fact, I say it to drive the point that because of the negativity that so abundantly makes up our surroundings, it's all the more apparent that whatever we do, we must do it for our own personal fulfillment. For our enjoyment. For ourselves. Because if we don't, there's not much else to live for. And this is not to promote selfishness, but to touch on the idea that if we don't do for ourselves, we have no way to contribute to the wellbeing and fulfillment of anyone else. That's the honest truth as I've learned it.
Be it career paths or relationships with those we love, if they're not fulfilling the things touching our truth and purpose and deep meaning, what are they but a waste of this already-too-little time we have?
All that to say... I've gone through some major changes over the past four or five years. Major. Big stuff. Deep stuff. Stuff I don't usually talk about with others because it's a lot and as a society, we undeniably look down on that too-much-ness. But this is precisely why I'm an artist; I get to challenge what's socially acceptable and live accordingly. And thankfully, because the greatest of these changes have occurred in this past year alone (most specifically the latter half of it), I've recently become more available to those who get it. People who see me. Artists who understand and aren't afraid of the bigness of these changes, because they've experienced them in some way on their own journeys, no doubt. It's almost necessary, I've come to realize; if you want to say something with what you do, it helps to have something to talk about.
Anyway, as it always seems to be, this year has been challenging in a way I didn't anticipate (and frankly, even when I didn't think things could get worse, they did). By the same token, this year served as the sturdiest launching pad for me to make the most remarkable and drastic changes I've ever made in my life.
Mind you, these eventually liberating changes started as the most terrifying prospects of an unknown territory. It's panic inducing to watch what you've always known fall away, becoming less and less important as you navigate this new way of being. It feels like the world is coming to an end right before your eyes. But that's my point, and I'm not afraid to use an absolute to express it: The big stuff that will change your life for the better always starts as something that feels like the end of the world. And that's because it is: It's the end of the world to which you submit yourself as you struggle to fit into it—but in ending your time there, you get to belong to the world that asks nothing of you save your unabashed you-ness, which you are absolutely required to explore and express in its entirety.
It's terrifying because there's a stretch of transition time in which you belong to neither world in particular, and everything feels hazy and doubtful and it would be a million times easier to dart back to the world you knew, but you can't do that because now you know you can't fit there. You'll never fit there. It's a fact you can no longer deny.
So you straddle this empty space for a while. Sometimes it's isolating. But it's in that space that you are forced with all of your strength to understand yourself: who you are, what you want, what you need, what you have to say, how your story contributes to both the personal and universal passing of time in a meaningful way.
That's when you figure out what fulfills the things that touch your truth. Your purpose. Your meaning. The things that are vital to your thriving in this life you get to live. You gain that clarity in the space that's anything but clear, because there, all you have is yourself. Wherever you're going and whatever/whomever you'll find there is yet to be decided. You are all you have. And so you are all you can understand.
Sometimes I still feel like I have one foot in that empty space, but after spending most of the year being wholly tossed around there, I can say without a doubt that I have one foot (and maybe a hand?) solidly in my new home—the world where I get to be who I am because I now have a better understanding of what that means. It's exciting. It's putting me in touch with the people I've always wanted to work with, subsequently getting me involved in the work I've always wanted to do—though before, I didn't know I wanted to do it. I didn't know I needed to do it.
But I guess the simplest part of this is that now, I'm doing it. Because now, I can. This work, this way of life—it's accessible to me in a way it never could have been prior to this transition period between one world and the other. Now, I'm open enough. Free enough of that other world to get a taste of this new one. Far enough in it that I no longer wonder what would happen if I turned around in search of the comfort of what was once so familiar.
I'm acutely aware of what I've gained in exchange for what I've given up: In losing the comforts that kept me perceivably safe, though completely impenetrable by experience and human connection and therefore leaving me somewhat lacking and unfulfilled as an artist, I've learned the strength in such vulnerability. I've also learned the downside of it, but all of it has proven to be priceless information that feeds a life well lived—one infused with depth, moving solidly but freely through the world.
It's in this light that I've come to understand the importance of self-fulfillment. If we're unhappy or unrealized, we're unavailable. If we're unavailable, we're stuck. If we're stuck, what are we doing but perpetuating the cycle of not-quite-there-but-not-sure-what-to-do-about-it?
Certainly not living—at least not as fully as we could.
And so it's all falling together. Piece by piece, and peacefully. It's still a hustle, of course; it always is and always will be, in a way. But it's not a hustle to nowhere anymore. It's a hustle towards further expounding on who I am and what I have to offer: dancing the work I want to be dancing, teaching students who ultimately continue to teach me, taking part in photographic work that pushes my own perceived limits of what art can say (stay tuned, coming soon!). The opportunities are endless. The connections are growing as I grow in my availability to them.
That's the whole point: the growing. The finding. The learning. The unlearning. The relearning. It's so full and there's so much cradled within every part.
The whole point is to fully experience the fullness of it all. That's where the pleasure is. That's where the purpose will come. That's where the connections with the minds and hearts of those who will contribute to and benefit from your journey will cross your path—and when they do, the point is to be able to meet them all the way.
It all starts with that change that feels like the end of the world.
2016 was my year to feel the heavy realness of that ending. As for 2017, I can't say for sure what will come, but I have a feeling it's going to be good. And no matter what's in store, I'm ready for it. Open to it. Available. And that's a gorgeous feeling, indeed.