Navigating the Rut of Dissatisfaction

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photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

If you are a dancer in Houston and you have ever taken a dance class with Jane Weiner of Hope Stone Dance, you are familiar with the classic manner in which she ends each class. She says something like, “Take a moment to find yourself in the mirror and thank body, mind, and soul for where you were today. It takes all three of these to be the artist/dancer/human that you are, and you are exactly where you need to be on your journey.” One day after a particularly invigorating and mind opening class, I thought in response, “Where am I?”

Some of you may have asked yourself this question at least once or twice in your life, but I really felt like it was the first time I had ever asked myself this question. I had made a lot of decisions regarding my life and career in the last few years, and it seemed that I had simply said yes to everything, hoping that it would pay off in some huge way. The reality hit that nothing had really launched me to the success I had wanted quite like I had hoped. Small progresses had been made, but I was still doing the adjunct hustle, still teaching in studios until 9:00 pm every night, still just making ends meet the only way I had figured out how.

I wanted and had expected more from myself in every area of my dance career. I wanted more performance opportunities. I wanted a full time teaching position at the college level. I wanted to create. Some of the grief came back… in grad school I had all this time, and free space, and free dancers to create and recreate. Without the convenience of all these gifts right at my fingertips, I had stopped creating and I was feeling it.

It instantly seemed apparent to me that nothing I had accomplished for myself within the last few years was enough for me. It was fine… but it could be so much better. I felt myself spiraling down into a deep dissatisfaction with myself. As a consequence, I also knew that another identity crisis would soon ensue. I did what I always did when I felt inadequate… I called my mother. There is something about the idea that your mother’s womb is your first home that makes you want go back to it each time you feel lost. We’ve all seen that cute little Pinterest quote that says something like, “you’re the only one who knows what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside.” You know the one I’m talking about? Well it’s true; no matter where I live, my mother’s lap will perpetually be my true home.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

Mom said what she always said. She told me that she loved me. She told me I was not a failure, even though it was okay to fail sometimes, because that’s how we learn. She reminded me of all I had accomplished since my graduation, and to be grateful for all that I have. She reminded me that no one ever succeeded by giving up. And then she told me to look at the areas of my life that I was unhappy with, understand what it was that made me unhappy, and change it if possible. Mom was also convinced that one day I would dance for Hope Stone, so Jane, if you’re reading this, I’m ready when you are.

Now, I love my mom, but she’s a little biased. The woman was my biggest fan, truest supporter, and my hero, but at the time, I didn’t believe a word she said. But I did take her advice, and I did make changes. I said no to opportunities that I felt would not be fulfilling. I went after the opportunities I really wanted. I let go of positions that were not helping me to achieve my goals. All of this was good for me, and I felt progress, but I still had this overwhelming dissatisfaction with my life. I compared myself to others, and I just didn’t add up. I was in a rut.

Then one day, as I was surfing Facebook and looking at how successful and happy all my friends seemed to be at all times, I came across an article on the Huffington Post titled Why Generation Y Yuppies are so Unhappy written by Tim Urban. So remember that generation I was telling you about? The one that has it in their heads that they can do anything they want, like be an astronaut or the president? This generation believes that they are special and have special gifts to offer the world, and apparently they have outrageous expectations for themselves about who they will be and what they will accomplish. Sound familiar?

In fourth grade when my teachers and parents told me I could do “anything” I want to do, what I heard was I can do “everything” I want to do. I have lived life with this idea in mind, and it has served me in several instances, but at this moment, in the current economy, and in my current profession, it was not serving me at all.

So what did I do? I made a dance, and I made this the subject matter. I explored through movement and design this idea of inadequacy. I questioned all the different parts of me that seemed to be a priority. There is a part that just wants to dance; this is the part that craves spontaneity and a little bit of the spotlight. There is part that wants to teach and really make a difference in the lives of students; this is the part that needs the stability of a full time position in order to feel successful. Then there is the part that loves to create – to simply express ideas through movement, boldly accepting judgment, hoping that just one person might truly get it.

I ultimately found that each part of me was fighting for attention, and in order for one part to shine, the other two needed to take the back seat. What I concluded was that I was really craving wholeness instead of this compartmentalized, competitive, existence.

Knowledge can be a tricky thing, but I think what I now know is that we all have responsibilities and priorities, and, more importantly, we all have limits. See, I didn’t think that I had any limits. Sometimes we do have to choose, because it is simply not possible for us to have all that we want all at once. And maybe Jane’s right… maybe where we are, is exactly where we need to be at any given point in time. And maybe my mom is right too… that if we aren’t necessarily where we want to be in life, we have the power to change that. And maybe it’s time for me to trust both of these concepts and allow them to work together.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

Jamie Zahradnik is from Wharton, Texas.  She attained her BFA in Dance from SHSU graduating Summa Cum Laude in May 2008, and her MFA in Dance in 2011.  She is also a certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst.  Jamie has performed with Rednerrus Feil Dance Company, and Psophonia Dance Company, and has most recently performed for local independent artists Laura Gutierrez, Brittany Theford-Deveau, and Rebekah Chappell. Jamie currently serves as a dance professor and the dance program coordinator for San Jacinto College. She loves sharing herself with others through performing, teaching, and creating.

Do you have a grad school story you’d like to share? Have questions or advice that you gleaned from grad school? Was it all that you dreamed of?  Or maybe not?  Contact us, we’d love to hear from you.


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