Thursday, April 26, 2018

On Moving Forward In The Face of Unknowns

Lately, I've been hit with an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty, restlessness, and anxiety over what the future's going to hold.

This past January, I finally got an opportunity that I've been chasing literally since I graduated high school. I feel like I can't talk about it too much (don't want to jinx it), but I auditioned for a professional ice show. I would literally get to do what I love, every single day, for my job. Leading up to it, I pulled out all of the stops. I trained harder, an even focused on working on some of my mental blocks, so I wouldn't crack under pressure.

As far as I am concerned, all of that hard work paid off. I left extremely proud of what I put out there, and confident that I had showed them not only my best self, but also an accurate portrayal of what they'd be getting should the hire me. Since I auditioned when the show was closest to me, back in January, it's been a very long wait since contracts aren't really out until late spring. For a while, I was fine. I felt good, I didn't panic. But lately? It's all I can think about. I have to actively resist the urge to email them every day, begging them to just hire me.

I am still waiting to hear back with a definitive yes or no. I've followed up, but was only told that they don't have an answer yet. Which is definitely better than being told no...but still. I'm getting very nervous.

I don't even know if I can describe how much I want this. It's literally the only thing I've know, for sure, that I wanted to do with my life. While touring itself would be an amazing opportunity, it would also open up so many doors for my life after I stop wanting to live on the road. This could set the stage for my whole career, and therefore my whole life (I understand I'm being very dramatic).

All of this unknown is making it extremely hard for me to focus and push myself this spring. I have so many ideas for different projects, but I just keep starting them and then getting overwhelmed, sad, and feeling some major impostor syndrome. This summer, I could either be starting an incredible journey of living on the road and skating for a living, or I could just am I going to do if I'm still here? What if I end up repeating this exact same year over again?

I understand that this kind of emotional crisis is what every other 21 year-old experiences, and that I'm being dramatic. I understand that one audition doesn't make or break a career. I understand that if I just stay positive, and work hard, I will end up exactly where I'm supposed to be. But like, tell that to the butterflies in my stomach because they will not stop the anxiety attacks.

My big question is, since there's not much I can do about this state of unknown, how can I continue to move forward and make progress, so that I'm in a good place whether it's the best or worst case scenario? Instead of exclusively focusing on how to make myself more hire-able (because I've already put a lot of work there, and obsessing actually holds back my progress), what do I really want to see happen in my skating, work, life?

I know that I want to focus on longevity. I don't plan on quitting skating, even once I become 'too old' (no such thing). So with that in mind, I can afford to take a breath. I want to focus on learning everything I can about the sport, and improving some technique that I'm not happy with. This is going to take a lot of time. Working on my jump technique has already been at the forefront of my mind for over a year, and it's still got a ways to go. But really, there isn't a rush.

I want to challenge myself artistically. While competing with my TOI team is always a great creative boost, I also want to challenge myself to create more of my own stuff. I'm planning on choreographing my own Showcase program this year, and am performing with AIT-Boston this spring, which involves a lot of improv.

I want to be trained enough to pass two freestyle tests. There are 8 freestyle tests you can work towards passing through USFSA, and I've only got three left: Novice, Junior, and Senior. I really, really want to pass through Junior by July (if you follow me on Instagram, this is my 100 day project). No going around it, for that to happen I have to be putting everything towards training. I need more stamina. More fight to get all my jumps in. And frankly, I need to actually consistently land the required jumps, which I'm not always doing, even out of a program.

And finally, I want to write more. Writing has always been something I'm passionate about, and I've often toyed with the idea of figuring out how to pursue it professionally. But what would that look like? Could I dedicate enough time to it on top of skating and work? Could I ever make it full time? How do I write what I enjoy, not just pound out 1000 words for content mills?

I feel like more questions than answers. I'm terrified that I'll look back in 10 years at this time of my life, and realize I missed so many opportunities (maybe even the opportunity to enjoy this?). I'm so scared that I won't amount to anything, or, gasp, I'll just be an average person. I know myself well enough to know that this time next week I'll probably be happy and go-lucky, and believing the world is all possibility, but right now I just feel a little stuck. It's also raining today. Maybe I'll blame my mood on that.

But regardless of whether or not I feel like I'm moving forward correctly, I have to recognize that my life is and always will be progressing. I don't actually get to choose when, or to some extent how, I'm going to 'move forward'. Life just hands me a situation, and I have to figure out how to deal with.

So maybe, that is the action plan I so desperately want. Accept the situation that I've been given. Be grateful for how much progress I had to make to be in this situation. And then press on. Keep working. Keep experimenting. Take myself a little less seriously, but also take my ideas, my potential, a good deal more seriously.

Happy Thursday! Be the grittiest!
xoxo Gillian

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Choose To Live The Bigger Life

Monday night after work, my mom and I drove 10 minutes from our house and took a brisk, 1 hour hike that led us up and around 3 small peaks. It was the kind of evening that reminds me that no matter how badly I want to travel and move and experience different places, NH will always be my home. The fact that, with no more tools than my own two feet, I can trek through dense forests and out on craggy hilltops, my imagination calling the elevated fields the moors of England, is incredible to me. It was post-work at 5 o'clock on a Monday night, after what had been a 'not horrible but definitely meh' day. And there I was, having the kind of beautiful experience I keep stored in the back of my mind under 'bucket lists'.

The thing is, there is nothing magical about 5pm on a Monday. As a current day-job holder, it's tempting to call it the least magical time of the week. But the truth is, we can't spend our days waiting for the magical moments and perfect situations. They don't really exist. Instead, we need to be able to look at our lives with clear eyes and actively pursue the work, people, situations, and interests that will add the most joy. 

I occasionally listen to Gretchen Rubin's podcast 'Happier', and I've been ruminating on a point she made a couple of months back (I've searched for the episode, but I can't remember exactly which one it was). Rubin was talking about her family's long, drawn-out decision to get their dog Barnaby. As newbie-dog owners, they were reading everything they could get their hands on about dogs and training, the pros and the cons. Living in NYC, there was no question that choosing to get a dog would mean a substantial life change; but would it be worth it? Sure, having a pet ads a lot of joy to life, but would the extra hassle outweigh the newly-added joy?

Upon reflecting, Rubin thought, "choose to live the bigger life." Spoiler alert: they got the dog, and they are so happy they did. Yes, training is hard. Yes, having a dog in an apartment is hard. Yes, he's added an extra responsibility to their already-full plates. But alongside all of that, he's also made their lives bigger. He's made playtime more boundless, their bonds a little deeper. Turns out, adding complexity can quite often also mean we're adding depth. 

"Choose to live the bigger life" has not been absent from my mind since the day I first heard it. It spurs me on to stop playing small, and instead explore the outer reaches of my capability. What would happen if I tried for the better job? Started that side project? Started talking to my friend-crush? Asked someone out? Took that new class? Everything that is great, and exciting, and ultimately soul-filling, is on the the other side of an active choice to do something. Even the simple things. 

I've also discovered that living the bigger life does not always mean living the more Insta-worthy, crazy-solo-trekking-across-Europe-life, either (unless, of course, it does). Living the bigger life is choosing not to be satisfied with the same-old, same-old, that leaves you peevish and annoyed instead of happy. You can live your bigger life by starting your freelance gig on the side. Or playing pickup hockey. Or running a 5K. Or having a kid. Or going to see your friend's play. Or turning off the TV and reading really great books. It can also mean taking a job in a different state, going back to school, saving for an adventurous vacation, or working for yourself. My guess is, that for you, living your biggest life involves a mixture of crazy, toe-crinkling adventures, and some ridiculously pleasant hum-drum experiences. The sweet spot is in the balance. 

Last Monday, work was boring. I was tired. It was 5 o'clock, and I'd eaten a decent amount of chocolate already. I wanted to lay on the couch and watch Friends, but probably would have ended up attempting to be 'productive', and ultimately scrolling my phone. But instead, I got pushed out of the house and on a hike that has no joke, changed my entire week. It gave me time to catch up with my mom. It helped me re-calibrate after a busy weekend. It gave me time, and respite, to now look out at the rest of my week and know that I've been able to spend time doing exactly what 'dream Gillian' would be doing. 

I will always stand by the opinion that we have significantly more power over our lives than we think we do. No matter your situation, you're in charge of what you make of it. I don't want to look back in 20 years and think that I settled or cowered in a corner when life came and offered things that were exciting (and terrifying). Even on Mondays, I can check that I'm doing my best. Trying my best. Pursuing that bigger, more satisfied, more authentic life.

Happy Thursday!
xoxo Gillian