So last week, I wrote about Johnny.
This week, he wrote about me. He even came up with this week’s title. Ladies and gents, a guest blog post from the man I’m dating, Johnny Burkhart.
Beauty & The Beast
What It’s Like To Date A Woman Recovering From An Eating Disorder
When Amanda asked me to write a guest blog, I was hesitant to say the least. Could I really be honest about what it’s like to date a woman with a binge eating disorder and would she still love me afterwards? I pray that the latter part is true.
Another reason I was hesitant was because she wanted me to respond to an article entitled 5 Reasons To Date A Girl With An Eating Disorder written by an anonymous guy on the misogynistic website “Return of Kings”. The author of the article, who writes under an alias (ahem, coward), claims to “specialize in dating culture and social intelligence”. Before I read the article, I glanced at the comments below it which were strewn with hate for this anonymous guy and disgust for the article. Alrighty then, this oughta be great. After I read the actual article, I realized this guy had no idea what he was talking about. The article did not contain any intelligence, but was possibly his attempt at humor? One can only hope.
Apparently any idiot can spew out a bunch of nonsense and have it posted on the internet. So why shouldn’t I give it a shot?
This post is in no way a response to that article, and if you have any sense at all, you will totally ignore that article and not give it any more energy than it has already received. What I have written below is simply my experience dating Amanda and is not a blanket statement about what it’s like to date women with eating disorders or specifically binge eating disorders.
Honestly Though! – One of the things that most attracted me to Amanda was her honesty. I don’t think we would be together today if it weren’t for her brutal honesty. I read her blog before we ever went on our first date, so I knew what kind of craziness I was signing up for. I was in awe of how honest she was in her blog, and even face to face with people. It’s truly inspiring and sometimes a little scary, especially when she writes about me in her blog.
Something that came to me after reading her blog was that I had grown up with a binge eater. I had never called it that or thought of it in the terms she puts it in, but my mother was/is a binge eater. I watched her slowly put on the pounds as I grew up and saw the toll that it took on her body. She is now in recovery for it and working on getting healthier which I am incredibly proud of her for.
This realization caught me off guard, and I was afraid that if Amanda found out, she wouldn’t want to date me. I was afraid that she might think that I was trying to heal some old shit with my mother – which could be true, let’s face it – and that she wouldn’t want any part of it. I mean, we did meet when we were at a retreat center where she came to do some major healing around her ED. But I knew that honesty was the only course of action here, so I told her.
Honesty plays a big role in our relationship today and it has to. It has to go both ways. We have to be honest with each other. That could be said for any relationship really, but when you’re dating a binge eater that is especially true. Even when it’s hard and I feel that pit in the bottom of my stomach, no pun intended, I know that I have to be honest with Amanda. So bear with me as I get real honest about some shit here.
Shame vs. Accountability “You ate all the cookies?!!” - When we first started dating, Amanda told me that I couldn’t say “anything” to her about her food decisions. I understand that shame plays a big role with women who have ED’s, I get it! But there’s a fine line between shame and accountability when you date/live with a woman who is a binge eater.
There are times when I bite my tongue because I don’t want risk her feeling shamed by me. Look, I don’t want to sound like her mother or anything. But we do share food and expenses, so there does need to be some form of accountability for what we consume. So when I ask where all the Fudge Mint Cookies are, I am not trying to shame her. I just want some fucking cookies!
I have learned to know when to pick my battles. Sometimes you can’t win, no matter what, you just can’t! When she does eat all the cookies, I know better than to say “why did you eat all the cookies, what were you thinking?” That would be shaming. I have also learned that if she buys cupcakes and there’s only one left, I better not eat it without asking her first or there will be hell to pay.
Now, when she asks if we can go get some ice cream, I know better than to say to her, “Really? Ice cream? Is that such a great choice right now?” I either say “Yeah, let’s go get some ice cream”, or “No thanks.” It can be that simple. I know better than to try and play her mom and monitor her food choices – I think that’s part of the reason we’re in this whole mess in the first place. That’s not my job nor do I ever want that job. My job is to love her no matter what her food choices are that day or that moment and to try to encourage her to be the best she can be.
The Emotional Roller Coaster Ride – They say that women are ruled by their emotions, and having an eating disorder just adds to that equation. Dating a woman with an ED can be quite the emotional roller coaster. The ups and downs, good decisions followed by bad decisions, craziness and uncertainty make for some interesting times.
There are days when she feels good about herself and she makes good decisions. She’s confident and it seems nothing can get in her way. Those are the days when she loves me and I can do nothing wrong, she’s supportive and nonjudgmental. Even if I say the wrong thing to her she can just laugh it off.
Then there are the days when she doesn’t want to get out of bed, let alone get dressed. She makes unhealthy decisions, like eating cake just before going to sleep. She has zero confidence in herself or what she’s doing in life. Those are the days when if I make the slightest comment about anything she wants to kill me and I would rather be anywhere else but by her side. Thankfully there are less of these days and more of the good days or I might have to reconsider the situation.
Amanda is one of the most ambitious and positive people I have ever met or had the pleasure of being in a relationship with. But when she has bad days, there’s not much I can say or do to bring her out of it. As much as possible, I try and let her find her own solutions to things and encourage her to look inside at what’s really going on. I know from experience that people need to really sit in their shit and feel it before they are ready to come out of it.
The same fire that fuels her passion for dance and performing is also at the heart of her addiction in some way.
“It is a beast, this thing that stirs in the core of her being, but it is also the star of her innermost nature. We have to care for this suffering with extreme reverence so that, in our fear and anger at the beast, we do not overlook the star.” – Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul
Body Image & Sex – When I was 19 years old, I told my live-in girlfriend that if she got fat that I would leave her. OK, OK, put down your weapons ladies! That was a long time ago and I have learned to be more compassionate. I’d also like to think I’ve gotten a lot smarter about how to talk to women. Key word, “think”.
Many years later, I find myself in a relationship with a woman whose weight has slowly but steadily increased since we began dating. Now I would never say anything to her about this because it really doesn’t matter to me anymore. I find her just as sexy and attractive as when we first began dating.
Sexy to me isn’t about being rail thin or starving yourself or working out 8 hours a day. Sexy to me is about how you carry yourself, the love that you share with others and being emotionally present. Amanda has that; I mean did you see her Roar performance? This woman has got that attitude and drive that just does it for me and it doesn’t matter what the number on the scale says.
Amanda has asked me before if I think she is fat or has gained weight but I don’t take the bait. I’m not going to stand over her shoulder as she steps on the scale either. It’s not my job or place to say if she’s gained weight or needs to lose a few pounds. Again, my job is to love her just the way she is, fat, thin, clear skin, or broken out.
I’m not saying it’s always easy because it’s not. Having sex with someone who just engulfed a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate chips doesn’t exactly do it for me. Then there’s the days she wants to make out in the morning with a huge whitehead on her upper lip from binging on chocolate the night before. “Um… hey babe maybe you uh… can you take care of that before we uh… um I mean have you uh… oh boy!” Thankfully those times are the exceptions and not the rule.
The “D” Word – Recently Amanda asked me if I would be willing to do an Intolerance Test with her. Not sure what she was talking about I asked her to explain what that meant. She proceeded to tell me how you weren’t allowed to have any gluten, dairy, corn, sugar, bread, processed foods, or bananas for 3 weeks. Oh, and no eating out at restaurants either, my personal favorite. “Well,” I said, “as fun as that sounds, I don’t really like doing Diets!”. Then the earth actually stopped spinning for a few seconds and she said “IT’S NOT A DIET! It’s an intolerance test don’t call it a Diet!” Yep, I actually said the “D” word to a binger, my bad.
Not realizing what the “D” word meant to someone with an eating disorder, I had some back peddling to do here. I proceeded to tell her that I would help support her in any way I could without actually doing the intolerance test with her the whole time. I’m willing to try some new recipes and things but giving all that up for 3 weeks basically amounted to torture to me. I’m of the philosophy of everything in moderation.
Amanda used to tell me about her experiences with trying to cut out sugar and desserts and how that would just lead to more bingeing. So I wasn’t so gung ho about this intolerance test to begin with. She would always say that it’s better to have some of her favorite foods around just in case the cravings came on and she could try and hit them off at the pass before full bingeing mode kicked in.
So a few days later she started her “intolerance test” and the fun began. I really should have seen it coming. It hit me like that magical visit from Aunt Flo each month. When you take away sugar and all the deliciousness of most foods away from a binger, it’s not a pretty picture at first. Luckily that only lasted a couple days.
I was surprised that she even wanted to try it, given her history of trying food restriction, and I was honestly skeptical of the whole thing. She eventually settled into it though and seems to be hitting her stride now. She really is handling it amazingly well. It speaks volumes for her recovery that she is able to stick with it, and I am so proud of her for that.
So #Blessed – One of our closest friends, John Reardon, was the catalyst for our relationship. He is always saying to me how blessed Amanda is to have me in her life. I can literally feel Amanda’s eyes roll back in her skull and cringe every time he says this or texts it to me. But like, it’s true. Some of you know or have experienced what it’s like to be in a relationship where you don’t feel supported by the other person OR their behavior just seems to trigger you into doing things you shouldn’t. When you find the “right” person, they should lift you up and encourage you, not trigger your bad habits and addictions. I think, (again, key word, “think”), that I lift Amanda up instead of triggering her, and that’s why John always says how blessed she is to have me in her life.
I am also so blessed to have Amanda in my life. Her love and enthusiasm for life are infectious and I am so inspired by her. So much so, that I agreed to learn a duet tap dance with her for the May recital with the dance studio she’s teaching at – in front of an actual audience. I have mixed feelings about this decision, but it’s all happening now, so I’m just gonna go with it. I was also inspired by her to write this post and put it out there to you all. All of her passion and love for life make all of the craziness of her ED seem so insignificant.
“The uniqueness of a person is made up of the insane and twisted as much as it is of the rational and normal.” Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul
You see, Amanda and I are both a little twisted and insane, but in a way that supports each other. And for that, we are both so blessed.
Seriously Though! – Dating a woman who is recovering from an eating disorder isn’t as scary as it might seem. As I started out saying here, the key is really all about honesty. Like Amanda always says, “everyone has their shit” that they are dealing with – some more than others. But if you’re honest about your shit, it makes all the difference in the world. Hiding your shit really only makes things worse in the end.
So ladies and gents, if you think that hiding an eating disorder or an addiction from the person you are dating is a good thing, or the safe thing, I want you to reconsider. I strongly encourage you to share your shit with your partner. It may help explain some of the crazy shit you do from time to time. I know that if I didn’t know what Amanda was dealing with, I would have been out the door a long time ago. Knowing what she’s going through allows me to be more compassionate with her when she’s acting like a crazy bitch. Seriously though!
I don’t try and heal Amanda. That’s not the intention here. You are honest not so your partner can help fix you, but to bear witness to what you are going through. I’ve dated, and was even married, to women who were a closed book and would never reveal what was really going on, not even to a therapist. They carried a lot of extra baggage around to basically try and save some face. It eventually catches up to all of us at some point. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m thankful everyday for Amanda’s honesty – even when things are rough between us – because it’s the foundation of our relationship and the reason our love is so strong to this day.
Let me just remind you – like I remind Amanda often – of the second agreement of The Four Agreements: Don’t make assumptions. You cannot assume what your friends or your significant other will think if you open up to them about your issues. Never assume. And if you open up to them, and they make an ass out of you, then seriously though, they are NOT worth your time.
Well, I think I covered all the ground I wanted to here. I’ve been trying to come up with a good way to close this all up, but I’m a little stuck, so I’m just gonna let Bob Marley do the talking.
Lots of aloha from Hawaii,
Next Week’s Posting:
I’m not sure but I’m sure Amanda has something good to say
I’m dating someone who kills three-inch cockroaches that I find in the shower, while I scream and cry from the kitchen.
I’m also dating someone who gets annoyed when there are waterspots on the silverware and mutters obscenities under his breath when I forget to dry the forks with a towel.
I don’t always know if the pros outweigh the cons.
When Johnny and I first moved into our apartment on the Kona side of the Big Island of Hawaii, I was just soooo overwhelmed. I was coming off a seven year relationship with New York City where I was used to cooking for one, drinking for two, and everything I ever wanted was always just out of my reach.
I was used to leaving at least an hour early for work (you never know how the A train is feeling), packing a bag to last me all day long (a direct result of that A train commute from Washington Heights), and coming home to my roommate and my cat at the end of the day. I’m not alone in this lifestyle – there are many, many, many others like me.
Even when I dated in New York, I was still cooking for one in my Washington Heights, Astoria, or Upper East Side apartment. Rarely did my boys come to have dinner at my apartment – it was too much of a commute. We ended up out to eat, or we cooked at his place.
Needless to say, moving in with Johnny – a man I fell in love with basically yesterday (aka a mere six months ago), and pooling our money together for a weekly grocery trip, monthly rent, and insanely high utility bills – overwhelmed me, and that’s putting it lightly. Suddenly, I felt like I had to report every expense, every thought, every idea to him because everything was now being shared. It wasn’t just my bathroom to dirty up with excess foundation powder and toothpaste spots on the mirror – I now had to share all my private spaces with someone else.
A recipe for disaster, if you know me at all.
But I tried to make myself a good little girlfriend anyway. I cooked a few dinners for the two of us, hoping to impress Johnny with my skillz. We don’t like the same things so, that was definitely a short-lived endeavor. I tried to keep my side of the closet tidy – and you would think that this would be simple, considering I wear the same pair of jean shorts and the same four Lululemon tops pretty much every day – but alas, just as my closet in NYC always was, it’s still a disaster, right now, as we speak. I tried to fold the towels nicely, to organize our three spices nicely, to tidy up the fridge nicely, to be a good, nice, helpful girlfriend person.
It did not end well.
It ended with me wanting to leave. Leave the apartment, leave Johnny, leave Hawaii. It was not what I signed up for. I’m not really the housewife type. I really like drinking beer in my underwear in front of Friends re-runs, like, I’m just not as domestic as I tell men that I am when I first meet them. They say you create your reality with your own words, but, it’s been like five years and lying about my domesticity still hasn’t come to fruition so…
After many vent sessions with my friend Rachel, who I met here in Hawaii, things came to a head and I was done. Through. Over it. But Rachel wouldn’t let me give up until I wrote Johnny a letter. Even if I didn’t read it to him, it could help me unload how I was feeling, since I’m better with written word than spoken.
It kind of went like this:
“Johnny, I have cried every day, I feel lost, I hear myself sabotaging our relationship, I ate all the Milano cookies, etc., etc. etc.”
Mmmmm, not so helpful. Rachel made me continue.
Four pages later, the letter ended like this:
“I want a boyfriend – not a husband. I want to have fun, and do things, and explore Hawaii, with my boyfriend. I don’t want to talk about rings, or engagements, or marriage, or opening a dance studio, or being together forever, anymore. I just want to live in the moment with my boyfriend and have a grand old fucking fun ass time. I miss having fun – being silly – making rash decisions – having sex in the middle of the night – laughing like hyenas. I want to be involved in a happy, ridiculous, spontaneous, sexy, head over heels in love relationship with you. Not a marriage, a relationship. I know we have it in us somewhere. If we stop taking things so seriously, well, actually, if I stop taking things so seriously, we can find it again. So before we conquer whatever we set our sights on, let’s go back to crazy, silly, stupid love and enjoy the freedom of Hawaii.”
“I want a boyfriend, not a husband.”
That’s what I told Johnny two and a half months ago. I wanted a boyfriend – a boyfriend who I can mess around with, make stupid decisions, be crazy, ahhhhhh like all that crazy stuff! Let’s be crazy! Let’s be unhealthy! Let’s be reckless!
Fast forward to right now. Last night actually. This is what I realized last night when I was sitting at dinner with Johnny and our friend, Lino.
I’ve had enough boyfriends. I’ve had my fair share of wounded boys, and depressed boys, and inconsiderate boys, and confused boys, and lazy boys, and rich boys, and insecure boys. That’s what they’ve been. Boys. When I wrote that blog post back in October to my exes, it was called “Dear…Boys”. Because I’ve only ever dated boys.
Now, I’m dating a man.
And although I say I didn’t sign up for a husband, I think it’s fair to say that I actually didn’t sign up for anything. I boarded a plane to Honolulu last August planning on finding myself, spending time alone, recovering, healing.
Well. The minute I did all that inner work, the minute I took the time for myself, and I let go of ex-boyfriend baggage and hating myself, I had room to let love in. I didn’t really ask for it, but I guess someone upstairs decided that I was ready. So, love just happened to be presented in the form of a beautiful, hilarious, hard-working man from Portland named Johnny.
And today, here I am, just now realizing that he’s so much more than I ever give him credit for.
I’ve come to look at Johnny in random moments realizing that he is exactly what I need him to be. He’s a man. Note that I said he’s what I need him to be. I didn’t say, he’s what I need. There’s a difference. I’ve come to appreciate the wholeness of myself – realizing that I do not need a man to complete me – but if I’m going to spend this much time with a man, I need him to be, well, Johnny.
A man who is sure of himself, but not cocky. A man who is secure in his own body, but not arrogant. A man who has a sense of humor, but does not use it to mock me. A man who compliments my beauty and talent, but isn’t cheesy about it. A man who can take care of himself, but is willing to let me help sometimes. A man who can hold a conversation with anyone, but also come home and laugh about the idiocy of tourists at work. A man who can make me laugh so hard I spit up my coffee, but can also fight back when I attack him with hormonal fits of PMS and sugar-withdrawal.
What I’ve come to see in my own relationship, is that I’m dating a man. And really, I don’t know that I ever need to date a boy again.
At this time in my life – as my weight fluctuates, my clothes don’t always fit, my skin breaks out when I binge on sugar, my emotions are roller coasters, and my money comes and goes like the waves on the beach – sometimes non-existent completely – I probably shouldn’t be dating anyone at all. I should be developing a strong relationship with myself, accepting who I am, and exploring who I’d like to become.
At this time in my life – when I’m too busy sorting out the mess in my head to sort out the mess in my closet – I probably shouldn’t be living with anyone, much less someone who I’m dating.
But you know what? I started breaking rules the minute I knew how to climb up on to the counter and open the cookie jar. I’m not going to just stop breaking them now, just when things are starting to get interesting. I’m slowly learning how to duck, catch, and throw back the curveballs that life continues to hurl at me, and I certainly didn’t learn how to do that by following the rules.
So here I am, dating the man who cries. The man who stands in his underwear and his socks and plays the one song on the ukelele that he knows over, and over, and over, and over again. The man who is covered in tattoos that my grandmother commented on at Christmas.
I’m dating the man who isn’t afraid of love, my PMS (most of the time), or spicy food. I’m dating the man who knows what’s healthy for him but eats Cheeto’s anyway. I’m dating the man who likes to dry the dishes, must have soft Egyptian cotton sheets, and never forgets water and a camera when we go hiking even if I do.
I’m dating a handsome man, a confident man, a sexual man, a hilarious man, a compassionate man, an empathetic man, a strong-as-hell man.
I’m dating a man who can take care of himself. He doesn’t need me. I don’t need him. And that’s why it works.
I write all this out to you this week for three reasons.
- If you are in a committed relationship, or an amazing friendship, sometimes it takes a moment of slowing down, and stepping back, to look at a person we love with new eyes. Look at their face again, learn the shape of their body again, listen to their laugh again – as though for the first time. Find the gratitude for who they are, and the love they bring into your life. Thank them, love them, remind them of how awesome they are and how happy you are that you found them. There are lots of greeting cards out there that will do this for you, but I find, that writing little post-it notes of my own and leaving it on Johnny’s Cheeto’s works just as well, if not better.
- In this day and age, there’s a lot of Elephant Journal and Glamour articles written about “following your gut” and “listening to your intuition”. We’ve learned that if something doesn’t feel right, to flee, to ditch, to move on. It’s so important that we listen to our instincts, yes, but sometimes, I think we confuse our intuition with our fear. Is our gut telling us that something isn’t right and we should flee immediately so we don’t get hurt? Or is our ego telling us that we aren’t good enough to hang around and overcome this obstacle, so we should abort this mission before we get bruised? There’s a difference. No one ever made it to their end goal without a few bruises and disappointments. It’s okay to feel the fear, sit in it, and stick around until we can really be calm enough to listen to our intuition. Don’t let fear do the talking. Allow your gut to speak to you, yes, but only when you are in a state where your gut is calm, and capable of making a decision based on love. Had I left Hawaii two weeks after moving in with Johnny when things got hard and he repeatedly asked me to dry all the silverware, I would feel like I left something behind that I never got the chance to see through. The man wasn’t slapping me across the face and yelling – he was simply asking me to do something that I don’t like to do. This is not a reason to flee. And I’m so happy that I didn’t flee.
- An attitude of gratitude. Our significant others, and our friends, and our mothers, and our brothers, are not perfect. Everyone has something that will annoy you. But everyone in your life also has a capacity to love, laugh, and learn. The more we accept our loved ones for who they are, and who we get to be when we are with them, the less heartbreak and frustration we have to deal with in the long run. When I am with Johnny, I can poop with the door open, I can watch TV with a clay mask on my face, I can call him and remind him that I need tampons while he’s at Costco. This might not be what every lady is looking for in life, but for me, it’s pretty great. I eat chia seeds – I poop – it’s okay – he still loves me – the cycle continues – I’m grateful. I’m grateful for who I get to be when I’m with Johnny, and my best friends, and my family – and that’s 100% authentic Trusty. No fronts, no fakes, no fascades. All me – flaws and ugly laugh and bedhead and all. And I’m so grateful for that. So I encourage you to find that gratitude this week, and all the weeks to come. Find that gratitude for the lovely heart that your closest friends hold within them, and find the gratitude for the fact that they are willing and open enough to share that lovely heart with you all the time.
You know, it’s funny. Johnny offers me more encouragement, more support, and more love than any boy I have ever dated. And yet all this time, I keep trying avoid seriousness and commitment in order to keep our relationship light and silly and free. And light and silly and free is great, right? It’s great and it’s fun and it’s what makes life enjoyable.
But today, I accept that it’s totally okay when our relationship is serious, or rocky, or sensible at times. Sometimes it’s about bills, groceries, and paychecks, sometimes it’s about taking the day off to spend all of Sunday on a boat. Sometimes it’s about who forgot to put gas in the car, sometimes it’s about lying in bed all day watching The Office and gently joke-arguing about who will go pick up the takeout this time.
It’s serious and ridiculous and silly and emotional and rocky and smooth and up and down and amazing and confusing. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because at the end of the day, I found myself a good, strong, handsome man who left fear in Portland when he moved to Hawaii and spends his time being brave, loving, and supportive in our relationship.
I didn’t sign up for a husband. I actually didn’t sign up for anything when I boarded that plane to Honolulu.
But what I got, without signing anything, is exactly what I wanted, even if I didn’t realize it until I was already living it. I’m grateful, I’m humbled, and I’m can’t help lovin’ that man of mine.
I bet you totally feel the same way about someone in your life! Go hug ‘em, text ‘em, kiss ‘em, call ‘em, and remind them how grateful you are for their love in your life! Muah!
Next week’s posting:
Another Guest Blog!
Everyone keeps asking me what my aha moment was. To write this blog, to start living, to start healing, to re-surface.
I don’t believe that my “aha” moment was this big bolt of lightning that struck me on my way to Schmackary’s for my second red velvet cookie of the day. No one gave me the “aha” moment in a gift-wrapped bag. No quote on Pinterest inspired it.
It was sort of just, another little moment in time, just like the rest of my previous moments in time, that was way more profound than all the others.
Sometimes, your moments have to lead you to a very dark place before the next moment can come along and change everything.
And my God, have I had quite a variety of little moments that have added up over the years.
So I think I want to explain the timeline of my personal little moments, in hopes that it will inspire you to turn around and think about your own. I actually wrote this timeline on August 1st, 2013, on my six hour plane ride from Phoenix, Arizona to Honolulu, Hawaii. I have all sorts of documents on this computer of mine, meant for blog posts at a later date, and this one hasn’t seemed appropriate until now. Because, as I begin to retrace my own steps with my beloved Geneen Roth books, since I’ve been finding myself sneaking entire bags of mint milano cookies (Karen Walker’s favorite!) during momentary setbacks this week, I feel that now is the best time to share what got me to this point.
I hope that this week’s post helps those who are looking for answers, or looking for someone to relate to. And if you yourself don’t need this help, I hope it invokes empathy in you for someone you love who may be stuggling with similar timeline events to mine. As unbelievably therapeutic, and occasionally hilarious this was for me to write, I encourage you, my strong, courageous, ferocious readers, to consider doing the same for yourself. It’s okay to embrace our funny and sad and ironic and amazing pasts so that we can learn from them, find gratitude for them, and then look to the future with hope. Because remember, my friends: all the little moments, the teeniest, tiniest of moments, have added up in their own unique ways to get all of us to right here, where we are right now.
Ladies and gentlemen, a story.
Once upon a time and all that jazz, sometime around the age of 18, a girl found herself in a land called Rock Bottom. Girl has never been quite sure how she got there, but all of a sudden, it was her new home. A home that she didn’t feel at home in.
Girl had freckles, blue eyes, unmanageable curly hair, and a tiny indent of a scar on the very tip of her nose from a chicken pox scab that she scratched when she was 4. She started dancing when she was three years old, around the time that she learned how to sing “Ten Little Angels” in church. She grew up riding forewheelers and horses in Pennsylvania. She always loved the winter because it meant hot chocolate and sledding on huge hills on her grandfather’s farm with her cousins.
Through many series of events, girl came to love food. The comfort of it. The memories it could bring back to life. The holes that it filled during times of confusion, loneliness, insecurity, emptiness.
Without her realizing it, a lot of moments in Girl’s life led her to her new home in Rock Bottom. Some of it was growing up in a dance studio, comparing herself to the other prettier, skinnier, more talented girls in full length mirrors every day. Some of it was being a band nerd instead of a cheerleader. Some of it was dating a gay man who didn’t know he was gay. Some of it was just part of growing up.
When Girl arrived in Rock Bottom, she knew that it was a place she wanted to leave immediately. So for the next six years, she came and went a lot. No really, like, a lot.
First, she went to college. For musical theatre. Some might say that was the first mistake. Looking back, it really was just all part of the journey.
She left Rock Bottom with a suitcase packed with t-shirts from every show she ever did, Abercrombie & Fitch tank tops that were too tight and too short in the stomach, pink tips at the bottom of her waist-length hair, and a broken heart. Not only did she get rejected from NYU’s Cap21 Musical Theatre program, she was dumped by her high school boyfriend that you met in Blog Post 5. So she arrived in Winchester, Virginia at Shenandoah University in August 2005, where she hung her dance pictures (aka cut-outs from ballet calendars, thank you for your time) on her closet door and decked out her entire side of the dorm room in Little Mermaid garb. Basically, Girl was nailing it. In every way.
While at Shenandoah, she discovered she couldn’t sing well enough to be in the fall musical, Sweeney Todd. So, she decided that the spring musical – the tap-dancing, showgirl-packed The Will Roger’s Follies – would definitely be where she would get her chance to shine.
Too bad there were five months in there to steal pie from the dessert bar in the cafeteria. Too bad there were no parents around to tell her not to eat peanut butter out of the jar. Too bad she discovered her tolerance for Natty Light straight from the keg.
Too bad that by the time auditions for The Will Roger’s Follies rolled around, she weighed 189 pounds. Showgirls do not weigh 189 pounds. Girl did not get a chance to shine once while at Shenandoah. Too bad, so sad.
Somewhere in there she talked to her friend Christine from high school and found out about AMDA – The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. It was a two year musical theatre program in New York City. It was her ticket out of Virginia. And after all, she really only ever wanted to be in New York City. This was it. It felt right.
So, after just one year, she left her friends and her chance at a four-year college experience at Shenandoah behind.
Just want to throw in there the near-death car accident Girl had on July 8th, 2006 which made her immobile for most of the summer before her transfer to AMDA – helping her maintain the 189 pounds with flying colors.
Girl moved to New York City in October of 2006. AMDA happened. It was great, at the time, for what it was. Are there things that could have been better? Absolutely. Were there teachers who promoted staying fit in order to make it in the business? Yes. Did Girl take those teachers seriously? Yes. Could Girl control her binge-eating, knowing that if she could stop binging she had a better chance at being cast? She tried. She really tried you guys. But no.
At this point, Girl had done Weight Watchers twice – once after her car accident and once during her second semester at AMDA in 2007. Full out, no marking, Weight Watchers program. Tracking points, losing 25 pounds, keeping it off for a hot minute, and binging it back on in a matter of days.
Girl was struggling. Trying. Trying. Boy, did that bitch try to keep that weight off.
Graduation came. There Girl was. Freshly 21. Freshly graduated. Freshly clueless. In New York City.
Over the next few years, she made frequent trips back to Rock Bottom but always left as soon as she had the chance. She was given a lot of opportunity to run away from Rock Bottom and she always, ALWAYS, took the opportunity. But she also, always returned to it. She was always so unclear on how she got there to start with, but at some point, it just became her permanent home base.
Life after AMDA looked like this:
May 25th, 2008: Girl graduates from AMDA. 160 pounds. This is fifteen pounds heavier than she was two months before when she auditioned for her senior showcase.
May 26th, 2008: Girl says good-bye to her best girlfriend from AMDA who goes home to New Jersey for the summer…and stays there.
May 27th, 2008: Girl starts bartending at Broadway theatres for survival job. Pounds are being gained.
July 2008: Girl and fellow AMDA alumni start talking about doing an all AMDA-alum production in the city.
August 2008: Girl gets drunk and meets the chef from Peru, who we shall call, The Little One, who strung her along for a year and a half.
September 2008: Girl starts working at Jake’s Dilemma, a frat-boy bar on the Upper West Side of NYC. Girl continues going home with The Little One after working all night. She also starts rehearsals for the AMDA-alum production. Pounds are being gained. Cigarettes are being smoked. Beer is becoming a staple.
October 2008: Girl, age 21 at this point, produces and choreographs Lucky Stiff in Times Square, and forms a non-profit theatre company while cocktail waitressing and trying not to piss off every friend she’s ever made with her insane mood swings and binge-drinking. What the fuck? Too much stress. Too much stress.
November 2008: Girl starts guest bartending at McFadden’s (Douchebag Central, 42nd Street and 2nd) and Turtle Bay (Douchbag Central Overflow, 51st and 2nd).
January 2009: Girl starts working at Equinox Fitness at the spa in order to get a free gym membership. 170 pounds.
Sometime in 2009: Girl’s only female cousin gets engaged.
Sometime in 2009: Girl realizes she has to sing in front of people in a bridesmaid dress. Girl gets a personal trainer through Equinox. Girl drinks a lot of Carnation Instant Breakfast and eats a lot of tomatoes with salt and pepper.
June 2009: Girl gets a sweet job working at Poco, a new restaurant downtown in the east village. Spanish tapas. Sweet, specialty cocktails. Pounds are gained.
August 2009: Girl is making so much money as a waitress and bartender. Auditions? What auditions?
Labor Day Weekend 2009: The Little One fucks up royally and girl finally cuts him out of her life before heading to New Jersey to visit previously mentioned girlfriend who was bestie at AMDA.
Labor Day Weekend 2009 continued: While visiting best girlfriend in New Jersey, Girl sleeps with the man she will proceed to date for the next two and a half years. His name in this blog is New Jersey. I know. The cleverness.
October 2009: Girl continues working at Poco. New Jersey comes to visit a few weekends and between that and a lot of phone dates they decide they are official. Cousin’s wedding comes and goes. 160 pounds. The thinnest Girl has been since March of 2008.
October 31st, 2009: New Jersey tells Girl he loves her.
Thanksgiving, 2009: New Jersey meets Girl’s family for the first time.
January 1st, 2010: Girl starts Weight Watchers for the third time.
Audition season, 2010: Girl gets called back for everything she auditions for. She is still working with personal trainer. She gives up her mild attempt at following Weight Watchers and just eats 1100 calories a day. And a lot of Splenda. She weighs 148 pounds and she is ripped.
May 2010, right before Girl’s mother’s birthday: Girl books her first professional gig at an Equity theatre. Damn Yankees. Happy birthday, Mom.
Night after booking first professional job: Girl starts a two week binge period that takes her weight from 148 to 157 in mere days.
June 2010: Girl goes to get measurements done for her Damn Yankees costumes. She tells the girls (who are dear, dear friends now) that she has just returned from vacation and they should take an inch off of all the measurements because she never weighs this much. Girl was lying.
July 2010: Girl starts rehearsals for Damn Yankees AND moves apartments during tech. Strong life choices.
August 2010: Girl closes Damn Yankees and goes to live with New Jersey for a month while doing next professional job – Anything Goes. She arrives for the first day of rehearsal 15 pounds heavier than when she auditioned. New Jersey does not ever want to have sex.
October 2010: Girl is sitting on the couch eating a pint of blueberry ice cream and gets a call that she booked Mame in Florida.
November 2010: Girl finds out New Jersey has a porn addiction. Girl drinks a lot of alcohol and looks at herself in the mirror naked a lot.
December 2010: Girl goes to Florida. Rehearses for Mame. Keeps porn addicted boyfriend a secret until halfway through the contract. Meets some of her best friends in life.
February 2011: Girl returns to New York from Florida.
March 2011: Girl goes to upstate New York to play Fraulein Kost in Cabaret. Costume designer is disgusted by how curvy all the women in the show are. Costume designer makes sarcastic comments about the size of corset all the Kit Kat girls need.
May 2011: Girl returns to same theatre to dance captain Crazy For You. Cheats on New Jersey. Dates new guy from contract. Weighs 170 pounds.
June 2011: Girl breaks things off with new guy. Girl is a total asshole about the breaking off. Girl is confused. Girl is fat. Girl can’t book any jobs because she is fat and she is a dancer and there are no fat dancers in 42nd Street.
July 2011: Girl starts talking to New Jersey again.
August 2011: Girl bartends the US Open. So. Much. Grey Goose.
September 11th, 2011: Girl moves to New Jersey to be with New Jersey for three months. Understudies a role at a theatre near his house for Equity points.
September 29th, 2011: Girl starts Weight Watchers for the 4th and final time.
December 6th, 2011: Girl gets new headshots at 155 pounds.
January 1st, 2012: Girl and New Jersey break up. For the last time. It’s really over.
February, 2012: Girl is nailing it and weighs in at Weight Watchers at 143 pounds. Girl is doing an off-Broadway show. Forty-eight of Girl’s friends come to see the show. A rich guy starts courting Girl and turns her life around, or so it seems, for two months. Life is good.
February 19th, 2012, 1pm: Girl receives an offer for How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying in Hilton Head, SC.
February 19th, 2012, 10pm: Girl starts a two week binge that just, never ends, that gets her up to 150 pounds by the time she leaves for Hilton Head on April 2nd.
April 2nd, 2012: Girl goes to Hilton Head at 152 pounds. Battles a ten pound window for most of the contract. Living with boys doesn’t help.
Two hours before invited dress rehearsal on April 24th: Rich dude tells Girl he’s not in love with her and cuts all contact. Fries are ordered. Ice cream is inhaled.
Beginning of May, 2012: Girl finds out she booked another contract, George M!, immediately following this current one. Only thing is, she auditioned for it at 12 pounds lighter than she is now. Now what?
May 22nd, 2012: Girl cuts out sugar, carbs, and alcohol for the last week of her Hilton Head contract in order to drop weight quickly for her next contract.
May 28th, 2012: Girl starts rehearsals for George M! and tries not to let anyone see her eat. Ever.
Sometime in May, 2012: Girl starts sleeping with a man who is in a relationship.
July 1st, 2012: Contract ends. Girl orders Bareburger delivery a lot. Continues sleeping with taken man. Gains back all weight she lost during contract.
August 15th, 2012: Girl meets Stallion. The man who will distract her from her depression, binging, and anxiety for the next 8 months.
August 15th, 2012 – March 12th, 2013: Life happens. But Stallion is in it. Life is like, kind of good. Girl choreographs two shows. Does Les Miserables in Illinois. Eats ice cream out of half gallon containers with Stallion.
March 12th – March 22nd, 2013: Stallion says he needs a break. Girl doesn’t eat. Girl wants to look fierce when they have the final “talk”.
March 22nd, 2013: Stallion admits to being depressed and emotionally unavailable. Girl looks fierce though. 150 pounds. The relationship ends.
March 28th, 2013: Girl’s birthday. Single. Unemployed. Many croissants are eaten.
April 2013: Out of all the callbacks Girl has in 2013, nada one works out.
April 14th, 2013: Girl looks great. Hasn’t been eating carbs or sugar. Goes to pick up things she left at Stallion’s house.
April 15th, 2013: The worst of the binging over the years begins.
Beginning of May 2013: Girl returns to Rock Bottom. And stays. Lays there in her gray little bed. Looking at her gray little ceiling. Pretzel crumbs on one side. A Yeungling bottle on the nightstand. Many a “not feeling well, can’t make it to your party/thing/birthday/lunch/housewarming tonight” text is sent.
May 9th, 2013: Girl goes to see her friend, Rachel. Rachel gives her two books, including Geneen Roth’s When Food Is Love.
May 10th, 2013: Girl goes home for Mother’s Day and brother’s graduation from college. Brother graduates with a degree in Landscape Architecture. Girl feels really great about her Associate’s Degree in Musical Theatre.
May 12th, 2013 at 1pm: Girl starts reading When Food Is Love on a bus back to New York City after brother’s graduation.
May 12th, 2013 at 5pm: Life is changed forever.
The story doesn’t end there. The story, this story, my story that you read every week, actually started there. A new, difficult, eye-opening story began there. Somewhere between May 12th, 2013 and May 31st, 2013, it all started happening. The calling Renfrew Center and the eating disorder diagnosis, the taking it all in and accepting and sharing of the news with friends and family, some friends being weird about it – some friends being awesome about it – some friends only finding out months later via the blog, the application and the acceptance to volunteer in Hawaii, and, the decision to share it all on the internet, with you.
I’ve had so many moments that have led me to my “aha” moment that are not the obvious. I listed pretty many of them for you.
I’d say, that there wouldn’t have been an “aha” moment without all the little moments leading up to Rachel handing me that book. I had to really be in a place where I couldn’t stand on my own two feet anymore in order for that book to speak to me.
When I opened that book, and realized that all these years, my binging was not a personal flaw, everything changed. I was using food as a drug and I had no idea. I always thought I was just really weak and had no self control and just didn’t want to be on Broadway bad enough to give up ice cream cake forever.
Sometimes, your “aha” moment will come when you least expect it. In Weight Watchers meetings, ironically enough, they ask new members what their “aha” moment was. Some ladies say it was seeing a picture at their son’s high school graduation and seeing how wide their hips were. Some say it was when they found themselves binging on their kid’s after school snacks while making dinner for the family. Some say that their doctor told them they needed to lose weight or face serious health issues for the rest of their lives.
I guess I didn’t realize that all these years, I didn’t have to be doing Weight Watchers to have an “aha” moment. Because this “aha” moment for me, in May of 2013, was the most important of them all, and it took place on a dirty bus on a Sunday afternoon coming into Port Authority after a weekend at home in PA.
I just want to say, that I think that it’s okay for us to embrace every little moment, no matter how small and trivial, with love and acceptance. Because all of those small moments make up our life. They are what makes each of our journeys unique to us. And without the shitty moments, the great moments wouldn’t stand out so much, don’t you agree?
I don’t really know what I’m doing. One day I want to choreograph, one day I want to write music, one day I want to keep Nutella in the house, one day I’m terrified of walking down the grocery aisle that even holds the Nutella, one day I want to be a vegan, one day I want to move back to New York even though there’s two feet of snow, one day I want to open a theatre in Hawaii. I am constantly changing my mind. I cry a lot. I laugh a lot. I drink too much coffee. I confuse my boyfriend constantly. But if I look back at my past, which half of my self-help books completely ban, I am reminded that I’ve had a lot of moments where I’ve changed my mind or I’ve been utterly confused. Where I’ve drank too much and where I’ve made, ahem, interesting, decisions. But I’ve still landed on my feet.
I might be 178 pounds at the moment. I might not be a showgirl at the moment. But I’m learning from my mistakes, and I’m recording them so I can look back on them when I need reminding. I’m alive and breathing. I can stop at one beer. I can keep chocolate chips in the house for over two months. And at 26, approaching 27, after a year of frightening health scares and depressive periods that scared my nearest and dearest, I’m thankful to be here – not just surviving – but learning, growing, living, loving, crying, laughing, and recovering, one day at a time.
May your personal timeline reveal to you what you need to see, learn, or revisit at this moment in your life. May your personal journal entries and recorded moments inspire you to embrace your mistakes and your successes, your gains and your losses, your failures and your lessons. I said it once, I said it twice, I’ll say it again and again – we all have our shit, dude, and that’s why we have to keep spreading the love to each other. We’re not alone. We’re all in this together, and we got this.
Peace, love, and aloha.
If you’ve read my posts before, you’ll know that I have a very intimate relationship with self-help books. I’ve never been able to afford therapy, and I truly believe that certain books saved my life this past year.
I believe that the official book for anyone who ever auditions, should be The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Please buy it (clicking on the title takes you right to Amazon), check it out of the library, steal it from a friend, read over someone’s shoulder, please. Please read it. It will change your life – not just auditionwise and careerwise, but it will change your entire life. Randy Skinner used to talk about it, but it wasn’t until Johnny forced me to get it (or else), that I picked it up.
The agreements are simple: Be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. Mr. Ruiz writes in simple text, that sometimes makes me feel like a child, but I don’t mind at all. I like that he breaks down the crucial information into easy reading and eye-opening sentences that I can comprehend.
This week, in a continuation with my promise to make February about audition preparation and coming together as a performing ohana across the miles, I tweaked all four of the agreements to fit the life of a performer. There’s even a bonus for you at the end.
The First Agreement
Don Miguel Ruiz says: Be impeccable with your word.
Trusty says: Just be honest.
I know that it’s extremely hard to follow through with everything we say during audition season. We sure do plan on getting up every day at five to get to the gym by six to get to the EPA by eight so we can do three different calls today before work at four. And there is nothing wrong with ambitious plans. But sometimes, we’re just pooped. Or sick. Or PMSing. Or whatever. So I think that we have to twist the first agreement a little bit to fit the actor life, just this once. We would love to follow through with this daily plan. We make ambitious plans in hopes that one or two of them come to fruition. But the more we beat ourselves up about not keeping every plan we make, the worse the gray cloud around us becomes, and we can throw ourselves into a personal guilt trip that spirals so far out of control we are just staying home every day to eat the cookies and cream for breakfast. No? Just me? Okay. Well, hopefully you get my drift.
My suggestion? Let’s just be honest with ourselves this year. As actors who sometimes audition for jobs more than we work jobs, we are constantly coming up with different tactics to deal with rejection. “They were only keeping tall girls.” “They only wanted Asian guys.” “The accompanist played my song way too slow.” Sometimes, this stuff is true. But sometimes, if we step back, these things are merely ego padding to keep us going. And that’s okay. It’s so okay. My suggestion is to be honest with ourselves in every other aspect of our life, so that there’s as much truth-facing as possible to keep us sane. Are we really being ourselves in our relationships? Are we lying to our mothers that we had a callback when we really don’t just to keep her from asking what’s happening every day? Are we eating our feelings because we’re so busy trying not to eat at all? Those three questions lie closest to my personal life, so they’re the first three I thought of, but there are more. I was myself in my relationship with Stallion last year unless I had to cry, I had to poop, or I was sober. I’ve lied to my mother a whoooole lot over the years. And the third question about food, well, c’mon, have you read the catch line for the blog? So in the midst of all these white lies and exaggerations we share on our OkCupid dates and our family visits during the holidays, let’s just observe what’s coming out of our mouths, and try to bring it back to honesty. The closest thing to honesty that we can get. And it’s not always gonna work. But like the fourth agreement says, just do your best, right?
That serious problem we’re ignoring, or the general assholery of people we date, or our love/hate relationship with Cheetoh’s whenever we have a bad day, is something to be observed rather than ignored, noticed rather than pushed away. It’s hard. It sucks. It like, totally sucks. But it leads to a better you. A more real you. An honest you, who you can fall in love with. And all of this personal growth that might come from more honesty, might also carry over into our artistic work. Our writing, our singing, our acting, our performing, our general persona when we walk into a room. We will find our authenticity through our honesty, and it will reflect in every aspect of our life. After all, aren’t we always being asked to bring authenticity to the characters we play? Authenticity starts with you. You at your very core. What makes you you, is fucking awesome. And the more honest you are, even when times get tough, the closer you come to staying true to who you awesomely are. It’s worth a try, no?
The Second Agreement
Don Miguel Ruiz says: Don’t take anything personally.
Trusty says: Ditto.
I’m not going to preach on taking rejection personally. Your mom preached it to you, your college professors preached it to you, your dance teachers and your roommates and anyone you’ve ever taken a master class with has preached it to you. Don’t take rejection personally. Easier said than done, but at least you’ve heard it before.
I want to talk about the question we all hate the most. The awful, the dreaded, the “what are you up to?” Listen. We have to stop taking “what are you up to” so personally. It’s a question. It’s a thing. Instead of hating whatever mouth it comes out of, let’s figure out some tactics for dealing.
First of all, the “what are you up to” is not a personal attack, 98% of the time. There are always the malicious ladies who I see every season who love to ask the question and get my blood pumping, but even then, it’s not about me. It’s about them. They have their own shit to figure out. I can’t take that personally.
“What are you up to” has caused many, many interesting answers to come out of my mouth before I had time to think about them (hence, my paragraph on honesty above.) I’m sure you can relate with your own stories and your own exaggerations, and I’ll give you a moment of silence to reflect with me about what we do to save ourselves from looking like we are jobless, starving artists who have to bartend at 5pm tonight. And seriously, is that really so, so, so bad? Cut yourselves a break. Seriously.
Ways to deal:
If an acquaintance, or a casting director asks you “what are you up to”: Kate Galvin, who used to cast shows for the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, gave me one of the most excellent pieces of advice I’d ever heard back in 2011. She said that people in that room just want to see if you’re a real person. Instead of stuttering over what job or what callback is going to make you look like “the shit”, just be honest. Answer the question by telling them about your sister’s new baby, or the wedding you just went to in New Orleans, or your yoga teacher training, or how you just moved to Brooklyn and you don’t own enough fake glasses to fit in. Tell them anything honest, anything about you, anything that could be funny, or interesting, or a conversation-starter. People love to compare stories – who knows where your answer might lead you with that choreographer who was just in New Orleans for a wedding as well. You don’t have to tell them about how you just closed Les Mis (four months ago) and how you’re in callbacks for Chicago (well, you got seen at the EPA, so). Don’t feel drilled. Don’t feel put on the spot. Just be yourself. Just show them you’re a real person who lives life outside of your career (even if it feels like most of the time, you don’t.)
If a family member asks you “what are you up to”, or better yet, “have you been on the Broadway yet?”: I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard to breathe, and try to empathize with your grandmother’s lack of understanding for your performing pursuit, but try to remember, she is not out to get you. She is not out to tell you you’re stupid for doing what you’re doing, or tell you to get a real job, or whatever. I mean, maybe she is, but I know that mine is not. My grandma, and my aunts and uncles and cousins and high school friends honest-to-God just have no idea what auditioning and performing really means. If you can, forgive said family member for making you feel like you’re doing nothing with your life, and answer with this: “I’ve made a lot of promising contacts this year, and in my business, who you know is just as important as what you know, and I’m really looking forward to continue my networking while I audition.” This will cause 90% of said family members to start talking about how politics are everything in this world, and Sue, their manager, just got promoted because her husband plays golf with some higher-up’s brother, and can you believe this Obamacare stuff and also, they saw Sue’s husband the other day at the grocery store and he looks like he’s gained weight. I mean, I’m not guaranteeing anything but people love to talk about themselves and if you open a door – like the “who you know not what you know” thing, they will probably let you off the hook and change the subject to something they know. After all, they might have just been asking “what are you up to” to be polite. They’d actually rather talk about something that they know, instead of feeling ignorant to what Broadway really is and whether or not it’s the same thing as that Times Square place.
If a close friend asks you “what are you up to”: Try and recall the last time a close friend did this. Most of the time, close friends respect the question asking process and avoid traveling down that road that they also don’t want to travel down. If you are a close friend of someone who is an actor and you find yourself asking them this question a lot, consider cutting it out of your vocabulary. We hate it, and we don’t want to hate you for asking it.
If your mother asks you “what are you up to”: Tell her you miss her and you love her. Don’t hate her for asking. She’s asking because she wants to support you and be there for you.
The Third Agreement
Don Miguel Ruiz says: Don’t make assumptions.
Trusty says: Seriously, ditto.
Don’t assume the girl across the holding room is looking at you with disgust. She might simply be picking blueberry seeds out of her teeth with her tongue.
Don’t assume the casting team will only be thinking about Chipotle if your audition is at 11:30. They might have had a big breakfast and are very intent on listening to you.
Don’t assume the dance call will be easy just because it’s non-Equity. Ever.
Don’t assume you won’t get a callback just because a casting intern is in the room for the EPA.
Don’t assume that the director is over it. Don’t assume the director hates you. Don’t assume the director thinks you’re too fat just because your birthday was yesterday and you feel like you look like the chocolate cake you treated yourself to. Don’t assume the choreographer wants you to fall out of your double pirouette. Don’t assume the accompanist can play obscure shit, unless it’s Joshua Zecher-Ross behind the piano. Don’t assume.
Don’t assume. Go in, like we talked about last week, fully respecting the people behind the table. Go in with no expections, no assumptions, no doubts at all. Go in there to do your best and be yourself, nothing more, nothing less.
The Fourth Agreement
Don Miguel Ruiz: Always do your best.
Trusty says: Always do your best.
It’s audition season. It’s cold. It’s exhausting. It’s a lot of things. But it’s also an awesome time of year. It’s not December, and it’s not July. There are auditions and opportunities and people to meet every single day from here until the end of April, at least. So listen, if you’re not honest with yourself today, or you flipped on your mom because she asked you how your audition went, forgive yourself. It’s today. Tomorrow is a new day. Do your best today. Your best today might be different than your best yesterday and it might be different than your best tomorrow, so focus on doing your best today. I know you work tonight, but for the next half hour, you’re dancing for Gerry McIntyre so honey, focus on this half hour and enjoy yourself! He’s teaching you soft-boiled egg hands – enjoy this moment brought to you by Gerry McIntyre yourself. If you don’t know who Gerry McIntyre is, get off Facebook this instant and google him. Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing, just do something about it instead. Do your best.
Nobody’s perfect. Nobody’s doing it all right, all the time. And this year, remember that. You’re up against thousands of other performers, yes. There aren’t enough jobs to go around, I know. But none of those performers are perfect. Nor are the jobs. They’re all just doing their best too – and their best, is different than your best. You are the only person who is best at being you. So rejoice in that, and rejoice in the authenticity you find this season as you bring more honesty into your life.
The Johnny Agreement
Johnny says: Do not make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on love.
Trusty says: Johnny’s right. Again.
Johnny (who is my boyfriend, by the way) reminds me of this when I have pitfalls along the way. He’s always right.
Fear is an ugly character in our personal stories. If Fear is the antagonist, make yourself the leading lady who knocks out Fear with your stilettos. If Fear is the bad guy, make yourself the dashing prince who crushes Fear to a pulp with one, good, stage combat punch.
We did not choose an easy career path. We did not choose the most lucrative career path. We chose this journey of ours out of love for all things music, all things dance, all things comedy, all things beautiful and creative and moving.
Remember to continue making choices and decisions based on love. Our love of art is what got us here. Let the love continue to carry us through our daily lives as we bring honesty and authenticity to everything we do
“We have to choose life. Choose risk. Choose love. The only safe place for our hearts is to dive deeply into magnificent, eternal, ridiculous, overhelming love. Really, do you have an option? How is that life of fearful control working for you? Better to ask, how it working for those who have to live with your fearful control? Come and be free in the love.” – Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself
I can’t elaborate much more. Just think on this one, The Johnny Agreement. It’s not really his agreement by the way – he’s just sharing it because he’s learned it in his own personal experience. It’s a learning experience we will all continue to have for the rest of our lives. Better to consider embarking on the journey now, rather than waiting until fear has completely overtaken us.
This week’s post has been spiritual, I admit. But isn’t audition season sort of spiritual in a way? We have to keep the faith that it will all work out the way it’s supposed to. Faith that our hard work will pay off. Faith that our karma will come back one day. Faith in ourselves.
I hope this helps in the next few weeks. I wish you faith, love, and freedom this week.
PS: Mahalo to those of you who submitted pictures and videos to Roar Part 2. I’ve received pictures from brave breast cancer survivers, women with C-section scars, men who think they are too skinny, and things that moved me beyond words. I couldn’t be more humbled, and inspired by all of you. You are all so much braver than you give yourselves credit for. It’s truly amazing. In order to proceed, we need about forty more submissions. Please consider contributing this week so we can move forward with this amazing, inspiring project.
So the SuperBowl is over. Christmas has passed. Chinese New Year has come and gone.
Now all we have to look forward to is the 50% off candy on February 15th and…
Audition. Seeing that word stirs up all sorts of emotions inside my bones.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the “season” lately. Living in Hawaii is extraordinary. It’s healthy. It’s beautiful. But I admit, missing the summerstock audition season keeps me up some nights. Five seasons in NYC have, well, seasoned me. But like all of us do after a tumultous relationship ends, I look back at my previous audition seasons with a fondness. I find myself only remembering the good things and conveniently forgetting the pain and the heartache.
This season, I can’t be there with my friends at Ripley-Grier digging for a photo I.D. on the one day a new guard starts working the ground floor and actually requires it. I won’t be there to tie my friends’ jewel tone halter dresses, or to take turns bringing Starbucks to an EPA at Nola, or to lend out my baby blue stapler at an open Gateway call.
But just because I can’t be there to take part, doesn’t mean I can’t be there in spirit.
So this month, I dedicate each post to you – my auditioning friends who are bustin’ their tail every day in the cold, tryna getta job for the summa.
Now if you aren’t an actress, or a dancer, or a singer, and you are lost as to what “audition season” pertains to, I welcome you to continue reading. Because you can probably relate to us more than you realize.
You know how you head to a job interview excitedly, making yourself presentable, and wearing a nice outfit, and updating your resume, and hoping – praying really – that they like you, and then leave wondering if you’re qualified or not, knowing that you did all you can and the decision is now all theirs and it’s completely out of your hands, and maybe having a lot of anxiety about it, not being able to completely let it go?
Actors do that process every single day, sometimes more than once.
Auditions are like interviews – only we have to sing, dance, and act on top of having a fabulous resume. And also play nice with others. And also look amazing. All the time.
So actors – this month is for you. This blog was born for you really. For us. For all of us who struggle with the ups and downs of this labor of love we have pursued for so many years.
And non-actors, this is for you too. In reading the next few posts, I hope you find yourself gaining new appreciation for performers at your local regional theatre, or for your granddaughter who has big dreams of moving to NYC after attending college for musical theatre, and even, for yourself. Whether your significant other is pursuing their dream this spring, or your brother or sister is traveling up and down the east coast to fill up their 2014 with gigs for their health insurance, these posts are for you as much as they are for the artists.. Empathy is a powerful thing. I hope this helps everyone find empathy and understanding for the lives of performers and artists.
1. The respect for “auntie”.
There is so much respect for elders in Hawaii. When we come across a woman older than us, we call her “auntie” as a sign of respect. The same applies to men – we call them “uncle”. It’s still not ingrained in me, and I forget sometimes, but I didn’t grow up here. It’s a different story for children who are born here. As soon as they learn to speak, little kids call everyone older than them, including me, “auntie”. It’s part of their culture. It’s how they’ve been raised.
When the four and five year olds that I teach forget my name, they call me “auntie”. Those children walk into my classroom without questioning how nice, or mean, or boring I might be. They give me the benefit of the doubt. I am immediately respected, and I am immediately “auntie”.
What if we walked into each audition room in the same manner?
Often times, I find myself walking into the audition room assuming I won’t get kept even if I do well. I assume the person sitting behind the table is “over it”. This is partly a protective measure for my ego, but it’s also the result of many audition experiences that have, what’s the word, oh, right, “jaded” me. Rarely do I find myself heading into that room full of respect for the people casting the show I’m auditioning for. But truth be told, we’ve all auditioned for some visionaries. We walk into that room expecting a casting intern, and much to our surprise, Kathleen Marshall is standing there waiting for us to line up. Shit. Hello, Kathleen Marshall. I wasn’t expecting you at all. I left my A-game in the changing room. I’ll…be right back. #jaded #shit #whydidn’tIwearmyflourescentleotard
This season, I just thought it might behoove all of us to walk into that room full of respect for the pianist, the director, the choreographer, the music director, the casting director, and even the intern who is taking lunch orders. I know that the people behind the table can sense the energy that comes through that door. Although they might not be able to put a name to the powerful aura we let off, they will feel it if we walk into that room full of respect for them – those “aunties” and “uncles” behind the table. Leaving our cynical attitude in the holding room and giving each person in that room the benefit of the doubt might change our entire thirty seconds in that room. And then, we can walk out of there feeling like we #nailedit.
2. Only use your fins when you need to.
If you ever have the opportunity to sit on hardened lava and observe sea turtles in the wild, I highly recommend you put your iPhone away and do so. You’ll find that sea turtles often float in the roughest of seas, near cliffs and rocks that would prove fatal for any human who finds himself so close to a dangerous shoreline. As a turtle comes up for air, you can spot his fins flapping above the surface, enabling you to follow him through your sunglasses as he floats in the treacherous water.
The turtles have been around for centuries, and when you watch them float, you can almost see why. They allow themselves to be carried into shore by each wave, but they never, ever crash into anything. As the waves ebb and flow, the turtles only use their fins when they have to to keep themselves away from danger. They float in, and swim away from the rocks just in time to get back into the flow of the sea. Over and over, they float with the waves looking helpless, and just when you gasp in fear that they’ll be crushed by the powerful water, they use their ancient fins to steer themselves clear of peril. It’s truly amazing to watch, and we can all learn a lesson from these protected creatures. By only using our fins when we have to, we can go with the flow a little more.
This audition season, things might not always work out the way we want them to. We might not get the time slot we want, and we might not get called back for the character we really wanted to read for, and we might miss one ECC because we’re caught dancing a second time at another. But hey, e ho mai baby. Let it come, let it flow. Flow with the waves this season, so that when you really have to use your fins – aka cut a bitch who jipped you in line at the one EPA you got up at 6am for – you’re calm, collected, and ready with a piping hot cup of Starbucks to chug after the confrontation. Don’t exhaust yourself on anything that doesn’t really matter in the long run. Only use your fins if you have to.
3. Don’t forget to look up.
Before I left for Hawaii in August, I made a final trip home to say goodbye to my family in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful day in July when I drove down the lane to my Poppop’s farm and hugged him, assuming I’d see him again in November after my time at the yoga retreat was done. We both looked up at the sky and he said, “Man, that’s a blue sky. You know, sometimes I call Rick just to say, ‘Rick, did you look up today?” Rick is my uncle, my Poppop’s oldest son, and he shoes horses, so he’s often looking down when he’s working. Grandfathers are always full of simple wisdom, aren’t they? I’m so lucky to have mine in my life, even if it’s only over the phone ever two weeks.
Here in Hawaii, we’re blessed with beautiful skies most every day. But we’re also blessed with the humpback whales who make their home here for the winter. They come here from up north to have their babies and mate before beginning their trek home in April. Johnny and I are kind of obsessed with them, and often find ourselves in danger of rear-ending the car in front of us because we’re watching the ocean for whales breaching instead of the road ahead of us.
There have been times where we’ve been chillin’ on the beach, and a whale will breach two, three, four times in a row and we fist pump and cheer. We look down the beach and everyone has their nose in their phone. They only look up because they hear us cheering and they have no idea why. They miss the humpback breaching, and then they board their plane back to the mainland complaining that they didn’t see a single whale on their trip.
This season, don’t forget to look up. If you take your nose out of your phone in that holding room, who knows what might happen. You’ll make a new friend who will sign you up tomorrow morning at Chelsea while you’re at Nola. You’ll catch the eye of the casting director who is familiar with you who ushers you into the room just before lunch so you don’t have to wait all day. You’ll spot a girl across the room wearing your same dress, giving you ample time to change into the second dress you bring to each audition for emergencies like a good little actress always does.
Observe your surroundings. Pay attention to who gets kept and who doesn’t. Make nice with the monitor. While everyone else is playing Candycrush, you could find opportunity for networking and inspiration without even trying. Don’t miss the whale breach. Don’t forget to look up.
4. Finally, show off when everyone else is resting.
We have spinner dolphins here who live up to their name whenever we have the privilege of swimming with them in their natural habitat. These wild dolphins feed at night, and rest during the day in quiet bays where snorkelers and paddleboarders don’t seem to bother them. The dolphins shut off half their brain when they rest, and travel in small groups for protection.
However some of them, don’t seem like the resting type. They’re actually little stars waiting to be discovered by their snorkeling audience. The dolphins jump, and play, and shoot so high out of the water that they spin multiple times before splashing back into the clear blue sea. They’ll often do this jump-spin several times in a row, and you’ll hear lots of people chuckling that the beauties are “showing off”. Because they rest the majority of the day, everyone squeals with delight when the dolphins “show off” because it’s a real treat.
This season, pull out your element of surprise, and show off when everyone around you is resting.
It’s a Thursday. You worked late last night. You’re in the third group of men to be seen at an afternoon dancer ECC and you’ve already been to a singer call this morning and you’ve only had time to pick up a banana and a coffee today. You look around you, and every other guy in the room bares the same, bored, exhausted look on their face as yours. No one even feels like going in that room to learn any sort of dance that might require physical exertion. It is now, that the spinner dolphins can inspire you. It is now, that you can think of the sea turtles, and use your fins.
This is a time to pull your energies together and show off when your exhausted group gets called to dance in front of the casting team. Make those poses pop. Use your face. Walk into that room respecting those “aunties” and “uncles” and find the passion in your heart to make them look up with your energetic dancing. The same applies to a singer appointment late in the day, or pulling a second monologue out of your ass even though your boyfriend kept you up all last night crying about his fear, of your fear, of commitment.
Show off in the room (and I mean seriously, in the room only, none of this holding room show off crap) when everyone else is resting. When everyone else is “over it”. When everyone else walks into that room hating the casting team with a passion without an ounce of respect for their artistry.
This is YOUR time to shine.
This is your season to shine.
I can’t be there to shine with you, but honey, I am cheering for you like you wouldn’t even believe. That cheer that Johnny and I do when a whale breaches – when we fist pump like idiots and yell “YEAH” like big burly men who just watched the Seahawks kick the Bronco’s sorry asses – that obnoxious cheer is for the whales, and the turtles, and the spinner dolphins, and for you.
Go get ‘em, Broadway baby. This year is yours.
And I don’t know what it’s worth, but I’m sending you all the aloha. All the love. And all the support. Because you’re my ohana. And ohana means family.
Shit, I’m crying. I gotta go. But next week, more audition season February Hawaiian love for you. Also, I made a shitty poster of these tidbits of Hawaiian audition advice so you can hang it on your bathroom mirror if you so choose: Hawaiian-Audition-Wisdom. That’s all.
*If you haven’t yet considered contributing a positive body word picture for my next video project for the Roar movement, please read the guidelines here (short version) or here (more specific, long version.) I would LOVE love LOVE to have your participation!
I have to admit that humility is a virtue as much as patience is. And so it is with great humility, that I write you a quick post this weekend.
Where I thought I’d receive hundreds of picture submissions in my inbox and have to sort through them painstakingly to choose which ones to use in the next Roar video, I stand corrected.
I’ve received one.
With only five days left before the deadline for picture submissions – for the next Roar video – I wanted to post a short list of guidelines for the weekenders.
In a humble attempt to spread body love and positivity, I’ll re-cap the next video’s theme for you.
A dedicated group of people have been working hard on music, preparing to edit, and market the next video – all by volunteering their time generously. We work for free – but love is free – so we’re just trying to spread what’s meant to be shared, and that’s love.
I would so much appreciate you considering a contribution to the next Roar video, so that we can continue to spread the message that where we are on our journeys right this second is okay and WONDERFUL. I would so much love to have your participation in this next powerful piece that embraces the natural beauty of everyone, and shows no support for the war of “fat vs. skinny” or “real vs. fake”, whatever that even means. The next vid, is about beauty in all forms – and what the power of positive words really holds. No more wars on bodies. Let’s just love what we got and show the world how to start doing that.
The Guidelines, my friends:
- We are seeking pictures, of people, with masking tape on their skin, showing a positive word (i.e. beautiful, amazing, strong) written in Sharpie (a la the first Roar video.) The first video removed negative words in this manner, so the next video is set to do the exact opposite. Positive words on the body will be used in the video.
- Body part suggestions: you can put the tape on your chest (but please cover your boobies if you are a lady), your upper or lower back, your belly, your side (ribs), legs, arms, shoulders, calves, quads, glutes, etc. You pick.
- It must be on your skin – not on clothing. We are showing all of your bravery in bearing skin. We are working to promote self-love, and the tape on the skin promotes self-love and bravery at the same time. If you feel pale, go ahead and write “Pale and Proud”. Embrace what you may think is not “magazine-worthy” by using that exact thing for this picture. The more vulnerability, the better this project will turn out.
- Please use two pieces of masking tape, slightly overlapping, so that there is ample room to write your positive word as large as possible. The masking tape is mandatory – there’s a theme here, so writing Sharpie directly on the skin is not part of the theme. Kapeesh?
- Use a THICK, black, dark blue, or dark purple Sharpie to write your word, or make extremely thick letters with a normal Sharpie. A normal Sharpie is not thick enough to be seen on camera, so you must thicken all of the letters.
- Please send me as much of a body shot as you can. We need as much of a full body shot as possible while still being able to read the masking tape. Not everyone will want to show their face in the shot. Quite alright. Please know that full body pictures including faces are what my editor, and my creative team long for. Pine for. Would absolutely prefer. Again, with the vulnerability.
- The masking tape and the word can be either horizontal or vertical on your body. Creativity is key.
- Please do not send pictures of your actual ass if you choose to highlight your ass. You can have arrows pointing to your ass with a word like “sexy” or “gorgeous”, but nudity does not help us. Use your discretion. I trust your judgement.
- Same with boobies.
- Note that while I can’t accept nudity, I greatly welcome your full body shots in bikinis, sports bras and shorts, board shorts, or basically any clothing that shows as much skin as possible. The whole point is masking tape on skin, showing a lot of skin, but not an inappropriate amount. It’s a fine line. Enjoy this vague request.
- Positive words only – examples are beautiful, gorgeous, pretty, amazing, strong, fabulous, fit, tough, amazing, handsome, sexy, incredible, hot, etc. Feel free to be creative and use something I didn’t even list here.
- I don’t know how I feel about using swear words, because I want teens to be able to see this and appreciate the beauty as well. Not that I have this crazy notion that teens don’t swear, but what I’m saying is, the less nudity and swearing we use, the less likely it is that YouTube will put an age-appropriate ban on the video. Use your judgement, or perhaps write something like “Effing Awesome”. Everyone will still get the point.
- Five second video clips of your dog holding a sign in his mouth that says “My mama is beautiful”, or of you kicking your face with the word “strong” on your thighs will also be considered. Or ideas like this. Again, creativity highly welcomed. I love it. I love it.
- Group shots, couples shots, friend shots, mom and daughter shots, dad and son shots, any combo of these is welcome. Creativity is awesome. Have fun – the goal is to have fun. I want you to have fun.
- Email me your picture or (five second) video, your full name (unless you absolutely do not want to), and a tiny paragraph (no more than 100 words) about what The Roar Movement means to you and/or why you’d like to be included to email@example.com. I request the paragraph only so I can get to know a bit about you before I use your picture. I love finding out people’s stories – it inspires me, and it will help inspire the video. If you really don’t feel like writing it though, no worries, I’ll accept the picture anyway.
- I MUST HAVE THIS EMAIL FROM YOU NO LATER THAN FEBRUARY 8TH. THAT’S NEXT SATURDAY. Originally the deadline was the 5th, but I’m extending it. Again, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I originally asked you to keep this hush hush. But if you feel like sharing it, so that we can receive more pictures via your Facebook friends or Twitter followers, go for it. I only want the video to show off the beautiful body-love movement that’s taking place all over the world, and so the more, the merrier. I would like to wait to make the statement until the finished product is ready, but right now, we need your help to get those pictures into my inbox!!!
I, Amanda Trusty, hereby swear that I will not spam you once I have your email address other than to send you a Thank You with a link to the finished project in March. I will not exploit, sell, or share your email address, picture, or name with anyone. I swear that I am pretty technologically challenged and do not know how to do any of these things anyway. I swear that your picture is being used for a project to promote body-love, self-love, and positivity just as the first video, and this blog does. This blog stands for such things, and I appreciate your help in this next movement so very, very much.
I swear from the bottom of my masking tape covered heart, that my team and I are working hard on a project that means so much to us, and we are determined to make a difference. Your participation in that would be incredible, and it would be an honor to feature each and every one of you who are reading this in the project.
It’s okay to accept where we are in our journeys, and celebrate where we stand at the moment, even if it’s not exactly what we feel we should look like or feel like. We are all perfect in our own ways, and it’s time to throw ourselves a party. Or at least a pep rally where we root for each other.
Mahalo, mahalo, mahalo for sharing this and participating and supporting the project. (Original post about this project here.)
(Regular weekly posting to be posted Sunday/Monday as always! Aloha!)
About a year ago, maybe more, my friend Caitlin Krause invited me to take a barre fitness class she was teaching at Pure Yoga on the Upper West Side. As a dancer, I walked into class feeling confident and overqualified. I mean, c’mon, a barre class? Easy peezy, here we go.
As a human, I walked into class feeling self-concious about my lack of Lululemon, and a little concerned at the lack of skinny mirrors.
Fifteen minutes into the class, I realized that I was basically wrong about all the things.
Lululemon doesn’t matter when you’re testing your own leg strength with just your body weight. Skinny mirrors don’t matter when you’re on the floor doing the most effective core workout you’ve ever experienced.
Caitlin kicked my ego’s ass just enough to make me feel accomplished, yet wanting to come back for more. My saddlebags shrank, my abs tightened, and my anxiety subsided. I had been terrified to enter her class – assuming I would be clueless and uneducated about the workout.
Guess what? I was right. I was clueless and uneducated about the workout. Because I’d never done it before.
That’s the whole point of trying new fitness classes. Of course we are clueless when we step into that room! That’s why those instructors have jobs. And 9 times out of 10, that’s what makes an instructor happiest. They WANT to help. They WANT to clue us in. They are HAPPY to teach to the clueless and the uneducated. Their livelihood is to help people learn to love their bodies and to teach us how to keep our bodies healthy and strong. Instead of being so intimidated by fitness instructors, I’ve learned to love them and be grateful for the gifts they have to offer.
Two months of Caitlin’s class – about two or three classes a week in early 2013- and my body was in the best shape it’s ever been. I felt sexy and strong, despite my secretive binging habits.
Most importantly, the class was the first group fitness experience I had ever had that left me feeling great. Optimistic. Not a complete failure.
So I encouraged friends to reach out to Caitlin and try her class as well. Not a one of them took her up on the offer.
Most of us have a weird thing about group fitness. Either the instructors are stronger than we are, or our peers are skinnier than we are, or we just feel like we don’t quite belong.
But there are exceptions to every rule, and I think I found mine when I jumped into Caitlin’s class with naivety and no expectations.
So I wanted to give you Caitlin’s insight to group fitness, in hopes that you could find your exception as well.
Maybe you’re already set with your spin classes and Zumba sets, maybe you’ve been to one step class and walked out, maybe you are too scared to try Crossfit. Whatever category you fit into, I think you’ll appreciate this honest and candid interview below.
Meet Caitlin Krause:
Caitlin and I first met working at Equinox Fitness in NYC in 2009 – as spa desk girls. She is a dancer with over 25 years of training who found her passion in fitness instruction. She loves to lay out in the sun as much as I do, she has a perfect cat named Winnie, and she is literally the best at walking in high heels, like, the best though. She’s a normal, yet fabulous, twentysomething who changes people’s lives multiple times a day. She says, “People attend fitness classes for a number of different reasons, but regardless of what they are, my main goal is to teach and inspire people to push past what they think they are capable of in a supportive, nurturing, positive, and safe environment.” Caitlin revolutionized the way I look at group fitness, and I think she does the same for a lot of her clients. I’m proud to call her an inspiration, and a friend. Below, are some insights that I think you’ll appreciate as much as I did.
Me: Fitness instructors are often looked at with this golden light around them. We tend to assume that y’all are perfect, y’all eat perfect things, y’all get perfect sleep, have perfect sex, make perfect money, all that good stuff. Do you care to speak on that assumption?
Caitlin: All I can say is NO ONE IS PERFECT!!! It would benefit all of us to move on from this idea of perfection. There isn’t a person alive that doesn’t have any problems, worries, struggles, challenges, vices, or insecurities. Fitness instructors are not an exception. Seriously.
Me: Some of us fear group fitness classes because we assume the instructor will judge us if we aren’t “good enough” in class. Can you share your thoughts on this?
Caitlin: On the topic of judgement, I’ll say that being a fitness instructor in the most basic form is like performing in a one woman (or man) show. I am up in front of an audience pouring my heart and soul out for people to accept me, or reject me, however and whenever they would like. Regardless of a person’s background before becoming an instructor, all of us who teach are subject to harsh judgment and criticism right there in every class, every day. No one is alone in feeling the wrath of judgement!
Now onto this idea of being “good” in your fitness class. If everyone was “good” or “great” at the class, what would be the point of my job? I am there to teach people how to use their body, their muscles, and their brains in a different way. My job is much more rewarding when I can see the light bulb go off in a person’s head. When people who attend my class begin to understand what they are doing and what I am asking, it’s absolutely awesome when, together, we see a change in how they feel physically and emotionally.
Most importantly, we need to get rid of this idea of being “good enough”. Good enough for who? This isn’t school or work. I am not rewarding you with an A+ or a raise in salary. The reward is coming from within yourself – the results that you see from pushing yourself past your comfort zone. And isn’t that what this whole “being good” thing really is? Why do we only feel comfortable doing things we are already “good” at? Being good doesn’t push us, and it doesn’t change us. Progress is only made through challenges and changes. That old saying is true: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
If you’re seeking out a new fitness class, it’s probably because you want a new result. None of us get new results from something we are already comfortable doing. We all have to stop expecting ourselves to be “good” or “perfect” at something new. Eliminate this and half the battle has already been won.
Me: Did you like group fitness classes before you became an instructor?
Caitlin: Growing up as a dancer, I have always been in a group class setting. I don’t think I was ever aware of whether or not I liked it. It was all I knew.
Once I moved to New York for college, I started attending fitness classes as a way to stay in shape outside of dance. Honestly, it circles back to this idea of being “comfortable.” Starting at the weight section of the gym can be totally overwhelming. I had no idea what I was doing, and rather than be concerned I would hurt myself, I was concerned that other people at the gym would judge me – that I would look like an idiot. So, I decided to attend the group classes because I figured it was safer to have someone just tell me what to do, alongside other people attempting the same idea. Turns out I LOVED THEM!!! I love the energy a class setting has. I love that I started to build relationships with the people I would see multiple times in class. It became a supportive environment where we could challenge each other in a non-threatening way. Plus, I live for LOUD music!
Me: Was there anything about the classes you attended that you wished were different?
Caitlin: For the most part, I always took classes that were amazing and had instructors that inspired me. I’ve been lucky to study under some of the most dedicated teachers. Those teachers are the people who inspired me to want to do what I do.
I was always taking as many classes as possible to figure out what I liked, and what my body responded to. From time to time I would leave a class thinking that it was a good class and a good work out, but I didn’t LOVE it.
It took me a long time to understand the difference between a teacher and an instructor. I found I loved the classes where I felt I was being taught something – not just instructed to follow along.
Me: When you started teaching your own classes, were you able to incorporate what you had wished was different in classes you once took?
Caitlin: I struggle with this question everyday! It is so important that I continue to learn and grow as an instructor. I want to be better for my clients with every single class.
I tell myself every day to just be authentic. This was the hardest concept for me to understand when I first became an instructor, and it is one that is present in every aspect of my life. What makes me, ME, is amazing and pretty damn special. While I knew this, I still couldn’t fully accept it. Self-acceptance is SO difficult. I’ve learned that I can only be me, and that includes all the wonderful and not so wonderful things that make up who I am. And not everyone will love that, and that’s okay, too. As long as I always work hard, and stay true to who I am as a person and as a teacher, I’m doing okay. People will see that and respond positively. If they don’t, I’ve learned that it has nothing to do with me.
Me: What is your best advice for a woman who has never exercised and is too shy to come to a fitness class?
Caitlin: Honestly, I feel like this answer is exactly the same as the one that follows this. When people begin to think of doing anything outside of their comfort zone, they might feel scared or intimidated. This means that there isn’t much difference between someone who has worked out consistently and someone who never has, if they are both shy and intimidated by a new class. We all need to just accept that sometimes we won’t be the best, or the smartest, or the most fit, and that it is okay! Once we accept this, doing something new isn’t quite as scary. We might even find that we are more successful at the new endeavor, because we have more energy to observe all the new information being presented to us.
Me: If a woman who is out of shape shows up for class and tells you she’s intimidated by the exercise, what is your response?
Caitlin: I get this all the time! Patience really is a virtue. We all want to do it perfectly on the first try and see the results NOW! However, the number one thing I tell my clients is to be patient. No one will walk into a class they have never taken before and be perfect (no such thing).
Often times, the hardest part is getting yourself to the workout. Once you are in the room, half the battle is over, and you deserve to give yourself a pat on the back for that.
I’m sorry, I just want to make sure we all read that one again.
The hardest part is getting yourself to the workout. Once you are in the room, half the battle is over, and you deserve to give yourself a pat on the back for that.
If we can both agree that you won’t totally know what’s going on every second, and you probably won’t do everything correctly, and that it is okay to possibly feel a little silly, then everything will be just fine. Breathe. Be patient with your mind and body. Learning new things can be scary, but again, I stress that it’s the challenges that change us. Don’t ever let something intimidate you just because it’s challenging. And DON’T GIVE UP!!
Me: How can women help themselves when it comes to finding the best fitness classes for them?
Caitlin: Do your research and try different things! Search the internet for what is around you. If the company’s website doesn’t give you enough information, call the gym/studio and ask questions. Try as many different things as you can.
I love exploring new workouts. It keeps things interesting, and it also helps me realize what I hate and what I love. Once you’re at the class, do not hesitate to talk to the instructor!!! Tell them it is your first time, and about any injuries or issues – even if it’s just feeling nervous to be trying something new. I’m serious. I love to talk to new people and learn how they are feeling – it only helps me help you more! The more information I have, the better chance you will have a positive experience.
Me: Can you speak on men? How is it when they come to your class, and should women feel intimidated when men take the same class as them?
Caitlin: I actually don’t treat men any differently than woman. I just see every single person as an athlete – there in my class to work. However, I definitely think there is a misconception that just because you are a man, you are comfortable in the gym. Or that men are wired to know how to use the free weight section in a gym. Men can be just as clueless, insecure, and shy as women, and they might even feel added pressure to perform better because “they are men” and they are “supposed to be stronger”. Again, try new things and find out what works for you, and let the assumptions roll off you shoulders – no matter what gender, age, or kind of athlete you are.
Me: Anything else you want people to know about fitness instructors?
Caitlin: Sure! I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that my favorite part about my job is watching people change. Whether it’s mentally, physically, or emotionally, watching the changes is the BEST part of my job!
I love my job, and I’m here to help you. I’m here to answer your questions. I’m here to challenge you. I’m here to teach you something new. I’m here to play the music and facilitate a fun class. Most instructors are here to do the same. Trust us – we love what we do and we want to share it with you – not judge you or intimidate you. Do your best and remember that the class is for YOU, not for me, not for your peers. It’s for YOUR body and YOUR spirit. You deserve to treat yourself!