As a dancer, trying to work through an injury is never easy. Not only is your passion put on hold, but you don’t know the long-term effects of this break from the business. This is the longest I’ve gone without a theater job in my entire professional career, and not only does it bruise the ego a bit, but it causes issues like not gaining enough equity work weeks, therefore resulting in my loss of affordable, union healthcare. Though the bumps on this journey towards recovery have been very difficult to get over, I’ve found more patience, trust, and acceptance in my process.
There are three key things that I’ve learned in talking to friends, mentors, other performers, my boyfriend, and family. Trust me, I’m still trying to practice what I’m about to preach. Our well-being and stability will always be a work in progress. These three things could be considered common sense for some, but sometimes it takes a certain person, or hearing/reading things a certain way, for any guidance to really resonate with us. It’s not always easy to focus on the positive. We all have our days where the concept of positive thinking is easier than others, but these three ideas are tools that have allowed me to hop back on a brighter bandwagon after a darker day.
1. Run your body like you would run your business.
Pretend you’re a manager at a frozen yogurt shop. If the frozen yogurt machines crash, and everything is melting, would you just leave the machines broken? No. Everything would spoil, it would be a waste of money, and you would lose business. When it comes to your body and getting the help you need to recover, take every step you need to take to get your machine running again. If you have a difficult time with an insurance company, a doctors office, whoever says they will help you and your livelihood, stay on top of them until the job is done. The squeaky wheel truly does get greased up. Fight for your right to heal because it IS your right. If they drop the ball, what will you do to pick that ball back up and score? Your body is your business, so don’t let anyone else let you forget that.
In addition, you have to listen to your body. If you’ve been in the gym working on the other half of your body that isn’t injured, and everything is feeling a bit fatigued, do not be ashamed of giving your body that much needed rest day, or even two! If your injuries are flared, and you realize you haven’t done any strengthening exercises for your injury, set aside the time to do so, whether it be at the gym or at home. Research more at-home exercise for your specific injury if need be. If you don’t have the time, the means, or the support in order to seek treatment, research what specific foods will nurture and aid in healing the ligaments, bones, muscles, etc. And if all of this is just a bit too much at the end of the night, and you just need a glass of wine and a personal pizza, do it! Don’t be ashamed. Listen to your body like you would listen to a concerned employee. Together (your mind and body) will find the solution towards having your body up and running at full capacity. Things may not be up and running as soon as you want it to be, but sometimes businesses take more time to develop. You must have patience in the process.
2. Find a positive outlet outside of your craft.
When I got injured, my initial reaction was to focus this downtime from dancing on acting and singing. I got into two acting studios I’ve been dying to study at, and I began taking voice lessons/ working with vocal coaches. I thought that would be fulfilling enough, but I started to feel depressed. I no longer felt like I was working towards being a complete triple threat. Being out of work in the industry for so long caused me to lose confidence in any talent I may have. I needed something outside of acting, singing, and dancing in order to have some sort of fulfillment. Writing became a great outlet. Starting this blog not only helped me work on my writing skills, but I heard from other people that found inspiration in hearing my story. Though I am thankful for, and still study my craft and writing, I needed to find other positive activities that had nothing to do with ANYTHING performing arts. I realized I needed to take myself on dates, read more, go shopping, meditate, and anything else that would help me define my version of #selfcare. As New Yorkers, we’re taught to hustle and fight for what is ours. Constantly fighting to fix your body, career, relationships, etc. can leave you feeling emptier than ever. Find the things that fill your tank in the meantime.
3. Surround yourself with people that help you glow and add an extra shine around your halo.
As performers, we are fortunate enough to work with many different people from all over the world. Some of those people become family for life. Whether you talk to those forever friends everyday, every week, or every few months, they are the ones that know how to lift you up without just saying things they know you want to hear. They will embrace the reality, but remind you of the amazing qualities you have that prove you're stronger than your current situation. If it’s been a while since you’ve caught up with those friends, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. When you go out for drinks with these friends, are they constantly drowning in the negative, or do they vent and talk through issues until you can find a solution together? Do you feel inspired by their conversations? Are you laughing more than crying? Do they give you the tough love you know you need in order to get through this difficult time in your life? Do they actually listen when you need someone to talk to, and are you actively listening to them in return? Is the effort and the love reciprocated? These are very important questions to ask yourself, because if you find the average answer I no, then you will leave yourself feeling empty again. Your relationships, whether it be with a friend, partner, or family, need to fill you in order for you to keep giving back. There has to be a mutual love and respect in order for everyone to keep shining.
Ultimately, these are things I’m actively working through on a daily basis. It’s grown to be more habitual over time, but again, we embrace the bad days with the good, and continue to learn the best ways for us to move forward. When those bad days want to take over, or like me, you wake up feeling anxious sometimes for no particular reason, ask yourself these three questions: Am I listening/actively giving my body what it needs? Have I done anything in the last fews days that are just fun activities that lift my spirits? Have I spent quality time with positive people that love me as much as I love them? If you can get to a point where you’re answering yes to all of these questions, then you are on the right track, even if it doesn’t immediately feel that way. If you are able to answer yes, then you have a lot more to be thankful for than you may recognize day to day. If you can answer yes, then I’m proud of you.