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Past Lives + Relational Healing

I'm having some big feelings again, but in a good way - and these big feelings have inspired Monday night's 6pm modern/contemporary choreo! For class on January 30th, we'll be dancing to BORNS' Past Lives.

I've spent most of my life in dance studios (since age 3), so my brain now starts envisioning choreography when I hear most songs. So I choose the songs I teach to every week by listening to one of my seemingly endless playlists of songs that move me (often while I work on freelance marketing projects & digital art commissions). If a song also inspires ideas for the other media I work with, I listen to it over and over while I brainstorm through movements.

I chose BORNS' Past Lives because it made me want to write longform (as evidenced by this post), and because it also made me think about how much my life has changed over the last few years.

My personal life has historically been quite the roller coaster, and I'm so thankful for the coping strategies I've learned and the growth I've experienced as I've devoted myself to my healing. My therapist often talks about the power of healing through connection with others. The concept has always made sense to me, but I don't think I fully understood what they meant until I experienced it for myself.

For some context:

In October 2020, I blissfully married my long term partner as part of a protest of Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court. In April 2021, I finally decided to end things after realizing how miserable we both had become. By the end of May 2021, my spouse had moved out. It's now January 2023, and I am still working on getting the divorce legally finalized.

In the year and a half or so since the separation, I've been putting in some serious work to heal, rediscover and better understand my most authentic self, and learn how to advocate for my own needs and boundaries without feeling guilty for doing so. What I've learned is that no matter how many self-help books you read, no matter how much reflection or journaling or meditation you do - the internal work is only half of the healing equation.

It's honestly batshit (in a good way) to me how much of my healing has come from simply spending time fully present with the people I love. Just by existing as the people they are and choosing to exist in relationship with me, my chosen family continuously shows me through their actions the kind of healthy, intentional love of all kinds that we all deserve.

I remember when Jessica, my college roommate and long-distance best friend, asked me to be in her wedding. One of the first things she and her fiancé decided was that they'd use the term "wedding party" instead of "bridesmaids" and "groomsmen" - I'm the only nonbinary person in the wedding (at least that I know of), but it was important to Jessica and Spencer both to make sure that I'd be comfortable and affirmed in my gender during their wedding day. Cue the tears.

I remember Cal, my "twin twink" and best friend, going to a Rolling Stones concert with me even though they are nowhere near as big of a classic rock fan as I am. I was originally hoping to go with my dad (from whom I got my music taste), but I was 100% ready to go by myself and send him videos of the whole thing when I heard that he couldn't make it into town. Cal asked if I wanted to make the concert a besties' night instead, and that night is now one of my favorite memories of our friendship. They even made the concession stand run for us both so I wouldn't miss a second of the Stones waiting in line for pretzels and beer.

I remember Andy, my longtime friend and collaborator who became my partner on Winter Solstice 2022 (still swooning), showing me what he did with the room where he records virtual sound baths. He decorated so I could also use the space as a video backdrop for my creative work. I'm talking complete with mini tapestries, fairy lights, "vines", and a chair and pillows. Having access to that space is part of what gave me the idea for Direct Motion, and that room is now where I teach my online dance classes from.

And every time I perform in a show or teach a dance class, I can feel myself healing even more. The isolation, shame, self-hatred, and stagnancy of my traumatic past have been replaced with repeated experiences of community, support, love, joy, creativity, and embodied motion. And that's pretty fuckin' rad.

If I'm being fully honest with you, switching from an 8-5 marketing career with a performance career on the side to full time creative self-employment was not at all my original plan. But I'm thankful that things didn't go as planned, because I've landed in a better place than I could have imagined for myself.

In a way, Direct Motion feels simultaneously like a fresh start and like a capstone project. While our first class was just a few weeks ago, starting this online dance studio has also required me to apply everything that I've learned from my professional life so far.

In a way, Direct Motion also feels like coming home and making my younger self proud. Elementary school me dreamed of owning my own dance studio someday. I lived and breathed dance as a child, but I struggled a lot with the politics, favoritism, and cutthroat nature of the competitive dance world. Seeing one of my peers socially ostracized and ultimately leave the studio after being outed certainly didn't help either.

So in a way, devoting myself to performing and teaching dance means devoting myself to healing my childhood trauma. And I'm so grateful to be able to hold space for us all to move through whatever life has thrown at us, too.

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