applying to grad school has taken over my life

If you read this blog with any regularity, I don’t see how you’ve missed this memo, but just in case: I am applying to graduate school for a Masters in Ecology, and it has sort of taken over my life.

If you’ve ever applied to grad school, you know it’s a lot of work. The good news? Applications will be turned in December 1st, so I really only have a month left. The bad news? I only have a month left. Like, a single month to finish everything.

Things I have accomplished:

  • I have secured two recommendation letters (out of three).
  • I have started 2/3 applications, and a fourth I will have to complete after Lindy Focus.
  • I am making good progress on my Statement of Purpose, which is one of the most challenging things I’ve had to work on yet.

Things I still need to do:

  • I am retaking the GRE, which sucks. However, it is the weakest part of my application, and if I have the chance to do something about that, then I should.
  • I have to talk to a third person about writing a recommendation letter. This person is hard to sit down and talk with, though. Hopefully I can find him tomorrow.
  • Finish applications. Duh.

Other things I have accomplished in the last month (just so you know):

  • I can do 21 push ups in a row, thanks to the hundred-pushup challenge. I am stuck on Week 4, Day 2. It’s a really difficult set for me, but I think I can make some progress this week.
  • I have finished re-typing an entire manuscript for a dear friend of mine. It was incredibly long, but also very worthwhile.

Things I will be (or need to be) accomplishing this month:

  • I will be teaching the Tranky Doo in Atlanta! I AM REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS. If you’re from Atlanta, you need to come learn this!!!
  • I need some part-time holiday work. Any suggestions? I guess I could go try Banana Republic (insert ominous music here).
  • I will not be spending any money. The end. Groceries and Gas are my only luxuries.

Finally: updates for the month of November will be sporadic at best. I mean, this past week, I barely posted anything, so I’m not sure anyone will notice. However, when I am able to post or when I can finally resume writing regularly, I know what my plan of attack is, and I have some good blog posts planned.

I want to hold myself to posting about a few of these topics, so here are some of the ones I’ve been itching to write about:

  • Revelations on what makes me happy in dancing, and how I can encourage that happiness.
  • Consequently, some thoughts on what also makes me unhappy in dancing, and ideas on how to discourage that negative train of thoughts.
  • Thoughts on when and how to ask someone to dance (also known as “Why a flow chart isn’t a very efficient way to decide whether or not to ask another person to dance.”)
  • Some thoughts on how to take compliments (both in the dance world and in real life), and how our natural inclination to “explain away” a compliment can be detrimental to both our friends and ourselves.
  • Our ingrained consumerism, and why it doesn’t have to be this way. Also a note on how much shit I want to give away, but I don’t really know where to start.

family photos

I was going to post something thoughtful and interesting about my recent thoughts about dancing and how it makes me happy, but I got distracted with family photos. Since some of them are pretty fantastic, I’ve decided to share instead. I can post about dancing any time — but these photos are truly awesome. Also, my mom is an incredible photographer, as she’s taken four of the photos below.

My first rafting trip ever. Can you spot me? I’m the little yellow helmet you can see peeking over the bow of the boat — I was five years old. My dad is the raft guide, and my mom is the woman in the back left (as you’re looking at the photo).

You can see I developed my sense of fashion early in life. I particularly love the striped T-shirt under the patterned dress, and the knee-high socks with the patent leather shoes. Great combos there.

I just love the background and joy in this photo. Clearly, I loved what I was doing and who I was with!

All right. Cutest picture of my little brother, ever. I love his red bow tie. You can totally read his mind: “I am SOOO handsome.”

My Dad and my little brother at my birthday party.

My Dad and I at my birthday party. I had it in a Library, of course. What can I say? I had good taste. Also, my mom is an amazing photographer.

This is my favorite photo of the whole bunch — my Grandma and Grandpa on my Mom’s side of the family. They are such a handsome couple — and I just love her sense of style! I love how happy they look! This photo was likely taken in the 50s, or so, around when my grandparents were getting married. It’s a gorgeous photo, and I love the character of all the creases and wrinkles.

some thoughts on being in a “dance funk”

Over the course of AVS, I have been experiencing a moderate amount of “dance funk” – but instead of riding the waves and suffering through the lows, I’ve been trying to find the triggers which cause me to be frustrated, unhappy, or upset when dancing. While I don’t think I’ve found the solution, I have identified a few of the problems moments.

Some examples of situations which stress me out:

  • During competitions, especially in the spotlight.
  • Dancing with amazing dancers – especially to particularly fast music with people I do not know well or have not danced with before (if you’re not good at reading between the lines: this generally refers to dancing with instructors)
  • Performing a choreography.
  • Struggling with certain technical concepts as a follow (there are a few right now).
  • What I feel is unjust praise for my dancing (usually after comps).

However, I’ve also noticed that certain similar situations are no challenge, and are often extremely enjoyable:

  • Silly competitions, like the Jill and Jill in which I danced with the lovely Emma.
  • Jam circles. Especially the absurd ones, like the impromptu jam circle in which everyone danced on one foot, and I swiveled like a flamingo. Think about it.
  • Dancing with amazing dancers who are friends, no matter how fast the music.
  • Performing the Tranky Doo (even if everyone is watching me ‘cause they don’t know it).
  • Leading and solo movement.

I think the theme here is a certain amount of pressure I am putting on my own dancing to “be awesome.” I am aware that a large portion of this is in my own head. Now, if I only got upset after competitions, I would smack myself upside the head and tell my stupid ego to suck it up, because I am well aware I have a long way to go before I am ever the amazing dancer I want to be. Being unsuccessful in comps is a good reality check, and I love the feedback I’ve gotten from the comps at AVS.

No – far more concerning is the stress I have felt when receiving praise for my dancing. I am not sure what about this praise should make me so upset, as it should be a positive experience. Regardless, every time I receive a “Great job!” or “I love watching you dance!” after an experience in which I feel I could have done better, I feel an overwhelming and terrifying weight sitting on my chest. I often have to find a curtain behind which to hide, or corner in which to sit alone for a few minutes.

The good news is that I do not hate dancing; in fact, quite the opposite. I have immensely enjoyed taking classes as a lead this week, and the solo jazz class with Mikey absolutely blew my mind. And any situation in which the pressure is low is incredible – especially dancing with friends or doing absurd things.

As a result of these realizations, I am going to take a short break from dancing, starting after Hot Jam tomorrow (gotta tell Michelle I won’t be around for a bit to teach lessons & all). I am going to step back and remind myself that there is no pressure to be amazing – the goal is to have fun, and I can only do myself a disservice if I get stressed about “being awesome.” This is something I tell each and every beginner I teach, yet it is advice which I am struggling very hard to take myself.

When I come back, I’m going to focus on the aspects of dancing which I truly enjoy. I think that enjoying being a follow and enjoying the aspect of putting work into my following will follow naturally when I’m ready.

dance depression

I am struggling to enjoy dancing right now. In the last two weeks, I have actually avoided dancing, which I have absolutely never done before. In fact, dancing is usually what I turn to when I need to pick my spirits up – it has never dragged my spirits down before.

I understand that many dancers go through periods where dancing is significantly less enjoyable than it has been in the past. What is troublesome is how sudden the transition was. It’s not like I lost interest over the course of six months or a year. At ILHC in August, I was so excited and pumped about dancing that I could barely wait for the next thing; but by Jubilee Jazz Revival, approximately three weeks later, I was so depressed about dancing that I could barely convince myself to even attend the Sunday afternoon dance.

A few people have asked what’s wrong, but I have stoutly avoided addressing my sudden change of attitude. Part of this is that I vehemently want to avoid certain conversations with overly-enthused dancers who can’t see the other side (often beginners and intermediates):

  • The Person who Associates Skill with Happiness: “But you’re so good!  How could you not like it?” (Well, first off, I’m not that good; second off, my ability to swing out has little to do with my enjoyment of the action.)
  • The Perky “I’ll Always Love Dancing” Dancer: “How could you not like dancing? It’s so fun and enjoyable and amazing! I will never stop liking dancing.” (Yeah, good luck with that. In fact, that was me about a month ago. What I’ve realized is that for some people, dance is not their thing; and while it is my thing as far as I can tell, that doesn’t mean I love it right now.)
  • The Person Who Places Blame Elsewhere: “It’s probably just that you’re stressed with work / life / whatever. Just get out there and dance – you’ll feel so much better!” (Actually, this is relatively valid, with some recent non-dance-related events. Regardless, I think the issue is a bit more deeply rooted.)

And more importantly, I want to avoid telling all my friends and peers in the dance world, because I’m afraid they won’t understand. Or, they will understand, but they’ll write it off as a non-issue. Or even, I’m afraid of being judged – of being seen as unhappy with dancing for the wrong reasons, if that’s even possible.

I didn’t say my fears were logical – but logic does not change how I feel.

And if I’m honest to my fears, I also don’t want to talk about this because I don’t really understand where my change in attitude is coming from. Dancing has always cheered me up, even in the worst attitudes…so what do I do when dancing is what’s getting me down? The unsettling lack of understanding is causing even further distress, and thus I’ve avoided thinking about it as long as I could.

But I think this all needs to change. I need to analyze what about dancing is causing distress. I know that this depression will not end in me forgoing dancing – I love the community and the activity itself far too much. However, I want to know the source of my frustration so that I can properly nip it in the bud and enjoy swinging out again. Like, now – because honestly, it’s AVS, and there are too many awesome people here to not enjoy dancing.

congratulations to the AVS scholarship winners!

There’s been a lot of talk about community development in the lindy-blogosphere lately, whether it’s tools we can use to better our scene or about the important differences between beg/int and advanced classes — both are articles you should read! With that in mind, I’d like to bring to your attention one of the absolute coolest community-building endeavors that I’ve seen over the last few years: scholarships.

The Atlanta Varsity Showdown, in case you’ve never heard of it, is a mid-size workshop event held in Atlanta every year. It started as a workshop oriented towards college students who didn’t necessarily have the money or time to learn to swing out on their own schedule; it’s an affordable workshop, and it will teach you everything you need to know to swingout in a single weekend.

It’s also a great introduction into the swing scene for new dancers – not only do you learn to dance, but you meet so many people who dance from all over the southeast, and it’s incredibly exciting. Add into that the competitions – it’s stunning for new dancers.

Still, the event is a big commitment, especially when you’re a new dancer. As per the economy, the cost has (of course) gone up. And while the event often falls on fall break for students, spending an entire weekend learning to dance can be intimidating; new dancers are often skeptical that it’s worth the money.

This year, the Emory Swing Club donated money to pay for the registration for five students to attend AVS. This is incredibly exciting to me because it takes the cost out of attending; this way, five students can attend a workshop. In all likelihood they will bring what they learn back to their school and spread the love, which of course helps the community grow even stronger. It also gets them excited about other workshops and events, and even sets them up to start traveling.

I would love to see the use of scholarships more when it comes to workshops – especially workshops on a regional scale. I know that it is common to win a pass to an event through competitions, and I do think one’s skill to be a worthy reason to garner free admission to a great workshop. However, it would be incredibly worthwhile, I believe, to also offer scholarships based on a dancer’s enthusiasm; that dancer might not be incredible in comps, but they are excited, and they are going to spread that excitement back to their home scenes – to other college students, to small scenes, and to people who might not yet have the opportunity to spend a weekend at a workshop with internationally renowned instructors.

Granted, a student could attend nearly any event they wanted if they have the foresight to ask to volunteer.  Volunteering is great, too, because it engenders a sense of community and togetherness which you often miss out on. However, I also see the benefits of rewarding the particularly excited and self-motivated students – especially because it engenders so much pride and excitement.

This is a good way to grow our scene. It’s not possible for every event, I know, but it’s still a good way to grow our scene, and it’s really incredible, I think, that Atlanta Varsity Showdown is giving this opportunity to college students.

In conclusion, congratulations to the winners of the 2012 AVS Scholarship! I would list your names, but this is the internet, and I didn’t ask your permission. Regardless, I’m so excited for all of you and your impending adventures in swing dancing!

my parents are pretty bad-ass

For no particular reason, I would just like to take a moment to appreciate my parents.

My mom bought me these flowers. Aren’t they gorgeous? More importantly, though, she also bought me nearly $200 worth of groceries, including various medicines and a cinnamon broomstick which is making the house smell incredible. She is possibly the wisest person I’ve known in my life.

My dad taught me to love to read. Not just do it to expand my vocabulary, but do it to expand my brain. This reading has taught me to use my brain and be an intelligent person, and when I have great and intelligent conversations using literary references like I have today, and when I kick ass at trivia like I’ve had recently, I appreciate his passion for learning in ways I can’t quite actually explain.

I love my mom and dad dearly. It seemed worth sharing.