Lessons from My 21st Year

Lessons from My 21st Year

In my 22nd year of life, I am gaining so much growth and knowledge through faith, dance, and friends pushing me along.

Lessons from My 21st Year
Photo by Domia Edwards
In the change in the moons, I am feeling a deep shift from seeking validation to self-validating moments, not looking for a "great job" after a performance, or even an acknowledgement from my peers. While I am fortunate to be supported by community where words of encouragement and deep love pours out from my community, professors, and families acknowledging my growth, I am happily in a place where I do not feel like I need this.
Weirdly enough, I can count on one hand the amount of times I have opened my Bible this semester. I can also count on one hand the amount of times I have attended Bible study and church this semester. I really have taken a step back from avenues of my community that I previously felt like I needed in order to be one with God.
But now since the new year of life in 2019, I have found that I have had to focus my energy more in the gifts God has given me where it is additional performance opportunities, choreography, print, and other media that have quite literally fallen into my lap. And while those had their own lessons within them, I have learned that I did not have enough time to pursue what I had been doing - leading Bible study with my friends, joining with them to pray over the community, attending spirit dance sessions at USC, etc. I used to attach my identity with a sense of being a public spiritual figure and would honestly, judge other people if I did not see them in those same spheres.
But since being blessed in ways that I did not plan, I wrestled with the idea of giving those things away - specifically because I did not want to put the ways of my school over the needs to God, but what I realized in that process was that I am also serving God in doing those opportunities that could lead Christ to people I am performing for, talking to at those events, etc.
In that same way I also noticed that now 11 months later and into my 22nd year of life, I am also noticing that I am not seeking validation in the same ways for these different opportunities. As a performer, of course, I will think and overthink about what happened on stage and how I can better prepare for next time. But one thing that makes art so powerful is that it reflects to you what you need at that time.
For me, this enlightenment came in the form of learning and performing Crystal Pite's "Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue". The premise of the dance piece is to analyze and physicalize the idea of rescue through 10 different duets with lighting and ambient music. Through this process, I realized that the piece is never meant to be perfect. In other words, there was no clear finish in which you could either nail the pirouette or fall out of it. Pite's work is more accrued towards the idea of working actively on stage or in rehearsal. You must work to navigate where you are and make decisions at a moment's notice-- moments in which your body cannot rely on muscle memory. It is in these moments when you really dive into the idea of rescue. You have to push the intuitive part of your dancing, which is the most raw and untouched part of the journey so far.
Having worked on this piece for about a year or so, I am noticing that notes I was getting last year went beyond the specific movements. They were ideas of doubt and judgement. I noticed I would hesitate or stop before continuing to dance for fear of making a mistake. I felt constant judgement. But one thing I have learned through both this process, through relationships, and through other experiences, is that there are no mistakes. There is only what is and what is not - I have Jermaine Spivey to thank for that. Conversations about this with Jermaine, along with my mentor Martha Nichols, my family-friends: Ashely, Jakevis, and Amaria have helped me to further understand my deep belief in "right" and "wrong". All of these conversations have led me to understand how much of this, though not all of it, comes from my Christian faith-- or lack thereof.

Joyous moments with Amaria and JakevisTaken by Rachel Harris

Growing up as a part of these organizations, I had more faith in the routine and believed that I would be blessed if I fulfilled these duties. I thought that if I forgot to pray, there was immediate shame, guilt, and a knowledge that I would not/could not be blessed that day. But what this also breeds is a sense of entitlement. Because even when I would do "the work of the Lord" in direct context of what I thought that looked like, there was no guarantee. By seeking God-- not in a linear progression, but by having Him at the center and actively seeking Him in everything I do, I will honor Him somehow. I should know that He sees me even if no one else does. So in this way, I have been able to walk into situations that I had no idea how to navigate and receive God's blessing and bless others.
As the start of the new semester approaches, I have been meditating and feeling God say that I am treading lightly in places where he has given me authority to walk firmly. After receiving this message, I was honestly devastated. Here I am again getting the same notes in dance that apply to life: I am apologizing, I am asking permission, I am following direction too closely, I can be more free; I need to trust myself more. I have internalized all of these notes, and I admit to feeling that way-- always subtly judging myself whether I realize it or not. I overthink a lot and try to find reasons why things happen rather than reflecting on my role and discerning whether or not to change my actions.
That being said, I am training myself to not overly judge and to simply see what is and what is not. That being said, the same discernment that told me to walk in authority, also clearly tells me when I have to walk away. I do not know why but I seem to think that in the spirit of "no right and no wrong" just being what is and what is not. I know that if my instinct tells me "no," it is for good reason. I know that I cannot lose something that is meant to be mine, but it does not make giving it up or losing it any easier. The reasoning helps sometimes, but my heart and mind still need to learn how to navigate without that thing, person, or idea in my life. As of now I am forgetting that regardless of how faithful I am, it is okay to allow time for me be sad over me walking away from something - as long as I honor that notion and do actually walk away.
So, the past year has given me a lot. I have made tremendous decisions that I will not make again. I have also made a choice to say "yes and" and "why not?". As a graduating senior, I am noticing a lot of uncertainty and doubt from my peers about their futures. And I wish they would see themselves, the way I see them: as unstoppable people with unlimited potential matched with work ethic to get them there. So for us and in this next year while the fear is still there and judgement exists, I am challenging myself to safely and prayerfully walk firmly into my 22nd year of my faith, saying "yes and…" and "why not".
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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