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Seasons of change

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been pretty quiet online this year, largely because there were so many changes in my life, and so many big emotions about those changes, that I didn’t really even know where to begin.  But with the changing of the year, it feels like a good time to look back and reflect on the last 12 months.

I spent the first half of my year with an amazing, challenging, intensely emotional group of students who made a lasting mark on my heart.  Over our time together, I grew both more comfortable as a teacher and at the same time more unsure of my ability to ever be the teacher I wanted to be, or to gain the emotional distance necessary to make year after year of teaching sustainable.  By June I never wanted to say goodbye to my students and couldn’t imagine spending another day with them – or starting all over again with a new group the following year.

All of those conflicting emotions – plus some expert advocacy by my mother – led to a very different second half of the year.  In May I interviewed with my father’s boss for a position at the federal contractor he’s worked for since 2002.  Two weeks after school ended, I started as a Senior Business Analyst at the company – and it’s been great.  My day to day interactions are with the two VPs, the COO, and my father, and the entire leadership team has been shockingly open to my (many, many) ideas, suggestions, and initiatives.  I’ve been able to define my scope of responsibilities as we go, taking on projects I find exciting and that make a difference to the company.  In early fall, I led a recruitment process that added two new people to our team, making me a supervisor after just four months on the job.

It’s pretty different from teaching.

The new job brought a lot of other new things, including a new car, new apartment, new work wardrobe, new furniture, new commute.  I love my little red Prius, with my first-ever vanity plates, and its crazy-good gas mileage makes my marathon commute a little easier to deal with.  (Literally, it’s a marathon – 26.2 miles door to door.)  After spending all of August with my very patient mom and dad, I moved into a gorgeous one-bedroom apartment in September and spent most of September and October furnishing and stocking it.  (It turns out that after 5+ years of downsizing apartments, I had no tables, no dishes, no glasses…)

And running through the entire year, of course, was trapeze.  It’s grown from an important hobby that provided me with a sense of community to a defining part of who I am and a huge part of my social life.  I spent March through October intensely focused on building my trampoline skills (until my coach ran off to join the circus), and since September my flying has moved forward in leaps and bounds.  In the last few months I’ve taken multiple tricks and skills out of safety lines, which means I’m taking more and more responsibility for what I do in the air.  And it’s exhilarating. I’ve always been a confident person, but as I’ve progressed in trapeze, I’ve gained a completely different sense of confidence, one that’s rooted both in a better knowledge of my body and what I can do with it, but also in constantly, and successfully, pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone.  When I’m feeling uncertain at work or in a new social situation, there’s something very powerful about remembering, hey, I can do a back 1.25 tuck, drop safely from 23 feet in the air, or grab a return bar and go all the way back to the board.  If I can do those things, surely the day-to-day challenges of life are manageable.

All in all, it’s been a very good year, and there’s a lot more to look forward to in the year to come.

Celebration

April 19, 2012 2 comments

One year ago today I took my first flying trapeze class, and today, I took my first swing out of safety lines.

I’ve been working towards this milestone for months, passing conditioning requirements, trampoline skills requirements, and trapeze safety requirements.  I’ve stressed about getting to it, very nearly cried about not getting there fast enough, and worried I’d be too scared to do it once I was allowed.  But then today the instructors watched my first turns, signed off on all the required forms, I took the bar without safety lines and flew – and it felt great.  Not scary, not stressful, just right.  Everything my body’s learned how to do over the last year I did today without thinking or worrying, and it was exhilarating.

Doing trapeze for the last year has changed how my body looks and how I relate to it.  I’m incredibly strong now, and getting stronger, and I have become so much more aware of and in control of my body’s movements.  I’m still not graceful (or flexible), by any means, but I’ve become connected to my body in a way I never expected to be.

Earning out of lines status is a big milestone, to be sure, but I expect I’ll look back on this as just the beginning of my trapeze journey.  Each time I learn a new trick, twist my body in a new way, or figure out how to tense a muscle I’d never known I had I get hooked all over again, and I know there’s a whole lot left to learn.

The benefit of confidence (and experience)

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Part of the reason I love trapeze is because the teachers there are really, really good at teaching.  They provide constant, individual feedback that is almost always at the student’s exact developmental level.  While almost all the teachers are strong, a handful stand out from the crowd.  I’ve realized that the classes where I really move my skills forward and try new, unexpected things are the classes with the most experienced, confident teachers.  They’re the ones who ask, “have you done [skill] yet?  No?  Okay, you’re going to learn that right now.”  Or, like tonight, they see a skill I’ve been working on for months and say, “the reason that’s so hard is because your flying is more advanced than that skill.  I’m going to teach you the harder way, you’ll do it next time up, and it’s going to feel easier.”

Making a call like that takes confidence that you know what you’re doing and have the right to do it.  Dozens of instructors have helped me with this skill, but tonight’s teacher was the only one to say “wait, why are you doing that at all?”

I think about how this trapeze experience applies to my own teaching.  One of the big changes this year is the confidence I have in moving my students forward.  Last year I didn’t really know what was coming, and didn’t know what students should look like to get there, so I kind of tip-toed everyone forward, uncertain.  This year I know where we all need to be and I’m often dragging my kids forward, more confident now that I know what they should be doing.  Having experience lets me do more than coach them where they are – like the best of my trapeze instructors, I’m learning to question why we’re there, and make a confident decision about where we should be instead.

Know when to stop

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve taken a trapeze class each of the last two nights.  While that’s considered intense most of the time, it’s been particularly intense because I’ve been working on a very physically demanding new skill.  My arms, shoulders, back, and abs have been feeling the effects the last two days.  I almost signed up for a third class tonight, but at the last minute decided it would be better to rest.

Then instead of resting, I tried to practice the V-ups (like sit ups, but lifting your legs up, too) that I’ll need to pass the trapeze fitness test next month.  I laid on my back on the floor, engaged my abs, breathed in, and gave my muscles the signal to lift my upper body and legs.  My legs came up and my upper body…stayed flat on the floor.  I gave the signal again…and my back remained glued to the floor, my muscles too tired to even try to obey.  In the end, all I could do was lay on the floor and laugh at myself.  Good thing I passed on class tonight.

Categories: Choices, Hobbies Tags: , ,

Positive feedback

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Today felt like a breakthrough trapeze class, but not because I learned a new trick or mastered a new skill.  In fact, the goodness of today came from me NOT learning something new.

I’ve been struggling with the same skill (lingo warming: adding a force-out to my swing) for many, many classes.  It’s getting better, but it’s still not great, and since it’s the foundation of almost everything cool in trapeze, I keep plugging away.  The instructors were giving me feedback on it near the beginning of class and I must have looked a little frustrated, because one said to me “almost everything you’ve done in trapeze has come easily for you.  It’s okay if this very tricky skill is tricky for you to learn.”

On my next turn I was chatting with the same instructor as she clipped me into my safety lines and I told her that I’m completely willing to work on the force-out until I get it right, even if I sometimes get frustrated with myself.  She laughed and said “and that’s why we love working with you.”

So that’s two happy things.  First, that someone actually thinks trapeze has come easily for me.  I sort of feel like it has, compared to other people I watch (and especially considering I have no dance or gymnastics background), but it’s nice to hear an instructor say so.  Second, that they like working with me — or that they have any opinion of me whatsoever, really.  I think I’m a pretty easy person to work with, but I’d say it’s probably true that I am more willing than most of the students I know to put in the time and train endlessly on the skills that are really important.  I don’t want to rush to check off boxes, I’m in this for the long-haul.  It’s nice that the instructors see that, too.

Reading the signs

June 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m getting to know my trapeze instructors pretty well.  Not necessarily about their lives, but quite a bit about their personalities and tendencies.  My favorite instructor is a very positive, tough-but-gentle woman whom I’ve only heard speak well of other people, but I’m starting to be able to tell when she’s at the end of her rope.  The catcher today was clearly pushing her to her polite-and-supportive limit.  While he caught me both times, he still screwed up both catches, dropping me down about 6 inches on the first catch and hitting me in the face on the second catch.  When I came down from the first one, she told me, “You did everything right.  We’re going to adjust the timing on the calls.”  After the second one she told me, “Thank you for helping him learn.”

It might not seem like much, but in the 30-odd hours I’ve spent with her, “thank you for helping him learn” is hands-down the meanest thing I’ve heard her say about someone, yet if I’d been a newer student I don’t think I would have even realized she was upset.  I admire that she can keep such a cool exterior even when she’s angry at a colleague; I’ve always considered it one of the marks of a true professional, but most people struggle to put it into action.

Cataloging the aches and pains

May 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Thanks to a series of uncoordinated choices, I ended up taking 3 trapeze classes in 4 days this week.  It probably would have worked out if I’d done it earlier in my progression, or if I’d stalled on the pullover shoot.  Instead, I’ve spent 2 of the 3 days doing the most physically and mentally intensive work yet, and my body is feeling the effects.

Starting at toes and going up:

  • My shin hurts if it touches something or if I walk quickly.
  • The abrasion on my shin hasn’t started to scab, which is starting to worry me.
  • My quads flinch when I walk.
  • The abrasion on my hip is healing, but hurts if I bend or twist.
  • My back is a single knot of tension and pain.
  • My shoulders and upper arms are sore in a “I might not be able to move them in the morning” kind of way.
  • My hands are so covered in fast-developing blisters that I can only grip with my fingertips.
And yet I still can’t wait to go back on Monday.
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