Time is such a funny thing. In some ways, I still feel like a child who looks up to (and is often intimidated by!) adults. In other ways, I am incredibly grateful & aware of my years around the sun and what they have taught me. Aging gets such a bad rap, especially in the dance world. But, in case you are a young dancer fearing your late twenties or thirties, thinking you're already washed up, "old," and broken...hopefully this post assures you it doesn't have to be that way. Each year shouldn't feel like one step closer to your dance grave...but a journey that awards you more control & understanding in your body along with more confidence in your self, your art, and what you want to say through your art.
Age is wonderful like this -- the older you get, the better you should also get -- if you use your time wisely, that is. So, this is me sharing a few of the lessons that I've learned through my experience on this earth over the last 40 years and the resources that have helped shape me into who I am today.
About My Body
I can't expect my body to look, feel, and be the same way as when I was 20. But in some ways, I expect more from it -- both performance-wise & aesthetically -- simply because I've had more time to figure it out and understand how to coax certain results out of it.
Physical shifts are a natural part of evolving & aging. If you try to fight them or deny their reality...that's when things start to go downhill. Instead of nurturing growth, you wind up fighting against your nature and creating your own demise. For example, if you try to eat the same way and exercise the same way as when you were younger...thinking, "It worked back then; it must work now"...that's when you get into trouble. The harder you try to force things that way, the further from your goals you get. Then, you start to think, "I must not be working hard enough to see results"...and push yourself harder. And that's your downward spiral right there. I've watched so many of my peers end their careers early out of pure exhaustion & the pressure to try to hold on to what they were before. This leads to injuries and burnout -- where the payoff of your art no longer surpasses the sacrifice.
The key to continual improvement with your body is accepting these natural shifts and then adjusting your eating & workouts to align with your body's new needs. Your body is a complicated thing. You can't just plug in the same formula decade after decade and expect the same results. You have to shift WITH your body; not fight against it. As a seasoned dancer, you must learn to prioritize recovery. That is why it is crucial to find a cross-training technique that is extremely efficient and effective in giving you results with very little time spent training. This is not an excuse to slack off. It's the opposite -- you learn to work really hard & make it count when you are training...and then let your body heal and recover the rest of the time.
It's tempting to want to squeeze the reins and push yourself harder when you feel your body changing & not performing the way it used to. But instead of thinking you have to work harder and more...you have to think of shifting with your changing body. Training differently has been the key to coaxing my body into a performance vehicle that I feel confident and in control of as I become more seasoned in this dance art.
Life Lessons Age Has Taught Me:
(A lot of these sound like terrible clichés that you've heard dozens of times...but at 40, I now really feel the truth behind them.)
- My goals & the work I do are no longer centered around getting people to love me...but around getting people to love themselves.
- The more I know...the less I understand.
- My phone is sneakily becoming an A.I. version of myself...and if I'm not careful, I will end up investing way more time & energy into developing this fake self rather than the real one.
- Life is unfair. You don't always get what you deserve. Period.
- Experience trumps knowledge every time. Always. You can think you know something...but you don't really know it until you've experienced it. This applies to both positive & negative things in life.
- Many things in this world are conspiring to make you angry. But you get to choose every day whether to get sucked into that anger or find the happiness & love that exists right along side it.
- Attempting to control things you have no control over is a great way to make yourself miserable.Many things are out of your control. But, at the same time you have way more power than you think over your experience in this life. Your happiness is determined by you grasping that power.
- The world isn't the just, fair, righteous system you think it is. There are bad people who do bad things. You can either add to the depravity in an effort to get even...or do your part to amplify the good.
- Comfort & pleasure can only truly be appreciated alongside sacrifice and hard work.
- Your overachiever mindset tricks you into thinking life is a contest you have to win. But you get so much more out of life when you see it as a platform to learn & evolve through experimentation, trial & error, risk & reward.
- Your body performs so much better when you nurture it into transformation versus forcing it through destructive means.
- Mistakes & failures get a bad rap. They are the best teachers & should be valued just as much as the wins.
- Everything we do in our efforts to be "good enough" is out of our desire to be loved. It's so simple really -- we all just want to be loved. If you can understand this, you can see & hear people the way they need to be seen & heard.
People I Find Constant Inspiration From:
- Eugene Thong: @etfwellness - my coach & mentor in all things in life (because we all need someone to help us see outside ourselves and the story/drama we create in our own heads on a daily basis)
- Ash Ambirge: @ashambirge / Blog
- Ed Latimore: @edlatimore / Blog
- My Friends: when they hear & see me...they help me heal my wounds & remind me of the good left in the world.
Podcasts & Channels That Help Me Level Up:
Books That Have Been Pivotal Turning Points:
- "The Gifts of Imperfection" (& every single other book she's written!) by Brené Brown
- "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson
- "The Middle Finger Project" by Ash Ambirge
- "Choose Wonder Over Worry" by Amber Rae
- "Tools of Titans" by Tim Ferriss
- "12 Rules For Life" by Jordan B. Peterson
- "The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse" by Charlie Mackesy
(Side note: I am not associated with any of these links and get no cut from any sales. This is just me sharing the tools that have helped me through the years.)
There are countless other sources of inspiration and life changing events & people that have shaped me into this 40-year-old version of myself. But hopefully you find some inspiration in some of the resources above for your own life.
Every year is a new opportunity...a new challenge to grow and become a better version of your self. If you reframe the way you think about aging this way, it becomes a beautiful thing that improves your artistry rather than detracts from it. And, if you are able to do the right things to keep your physical body resilient and optimized by adjusting to its changing needs through the years, you can continue to grow as a dancer as you grow as a person, giving your dancing a richer depth & impact. Aging isn't a bad thing. It's something to be celebrated and respected...if you take on the responsibilty to use your time wisely!
PC: Juan Pablo Zapata - JPZ Image - ***A special thanks to you, Juan, for helping me document this important milestone in my life with this photo shoot!