26. Some Magic in the World

I found my favorite definition of a lawyer today. Lawyers are faeries because they can’t legally lie, but they trade in half-truths and misleading language, they’re obsessed with contracts, they’re required to follow the letter (but not the spirit) of the law, they’re really good at exploiting loopholes, they range range from semi-helpful to openly malevolent, and they do their main business at “courts”. I am ridiculously delighted to find out that I am a faerie-in-training.

One major thing I think the world is greatly missing out on is an element of magic. Children have such a way of seeing the world through different eyes, eyes that see magic everywhere they look. Once we grow into adulthood, I think most of us tend to lose this magical view. We don’t see magic around every corner, on every leaf of every tree, or in the skies. We generally don’t see magic in people’s daily jobs. Hence my absolute delight in finding out that lawyers are faeries.

I don’t think we necessarily have to lose our sense of magic completely. Many of us do, but personally I try to hang onto as much magic as I can. And I think there are definitely ways that we can incorporate a touch more magic in our daily lives.

I recently developed this theory that our personal forms of magic are those things that make us happy in our careers and our lives. In my theory, those things we pursue and are passionate about are the things we find magical, even if we don’t necessarily think about it in those terms. That magical quality is exactly why we pursue that passion.

Personally, I have two things in daily life that I find magical beyond belief. The first of these is getting to transform for a short time into some fairytale character while performing a ballet. The second thing in life I find beyond magical is the ocean: every swimming creature within its depths flies through the water, and the organisms at all levels are magical and alien and so incredibly different from any organisms in our terrestrial environment. When I started thinking about this theory, it didn’t surprise me at all to figure out that the two main prongs of my life consist of (1) ballet, and (2) law school in preparation for a career in ocean conservation. Those are the two things I find truly magical.

I’ve seen similar things happen with other people I know. My dad got his undergraduate degree in chemistry because he thought chemistry was like magic. He is definitely more of an alchemist. Ricardo loves philosophy because, to him, the questions of metaphysics – what is being, what is essence? – are magical. Generally, when I see passion in an individual for something, that passion is so inspiring and you can tell, at least to a small degree, how that individual views that thing. I think we can all learn from others’ passions and ways of seeing the world. By doing so, it adds little sparks of magic to our own world that maybe we didn’t get to see before.

I don’t want to devalue the magic of the little things in life, either. The first leaf to change color in autumn, the first sip of a particularly delicious tea, or the first page read of a new book are all equally magical in their own ways. Those little bits of magic should be given full credit for their places in our lives. And maybe if we start seeing those little bits of magic surrounding us and pair those with the bigger magics of our chosen passions, then maybe the world will be a little more magical.

25. Information Integration and the Ability to Change Our Habits

I’m coming to believe more and more that our choices each and every day are affected greatly by the availability of information and our ability to process it. At least for me personally, the more specific information I have on issues that are important to me, the more likely I am to act on that information.

I was just reading an article about seafood and this one man’s attempt to start a technology revolution that would actually track where your seafood comes from. Seafood sourcing and labelling is infamously terrible. Estimates show that potentially 1/3 – 33% – of the seafood we eat is mislabeled. Much of the time, this is no accident. Business flows to where the money is. If people are paying for fish, then importers will provide it. These importers might not include with the fish information about where that fish comes from, what species of fish it actually is (there is a lot of fish forgery), or the conditions of the fishermen who caught the fish (human trafficking is leading to fishermen essentially enslaved on their ships is a substantial and growing problem).

Now, would you eat quite so much seafood if you knew about this? Would you eat quite so much seafood if you knew how the oceans are increasingly depleted of fish and how many high-demand species are getting driven towards extinction? Or that fisheries are killing sea turtles, dolphins, and other well-loved marine species simply because those animals get caught in their fishing nets and then are simply disposed of and labelled as bycatch? I haven’t been able to. I love seafood as much as the next person, but the more information I attain about the current sate of the oceans, the less seafood I consciously consume. I have now mostly avoided seafood altogether. I say mostly because I will still order a seafood plate if it seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so. (See: ordering lobster ravioli in Malta during one of my two nights there.)

I think this same type of reasoning and information availability applies to just about any issue you can think of. At first, we aren’t aware of the effects we, as consumers, cause. We aren’t aware of the full range of implications of our choices. Then, maybe, at some point, we slowly start gathering information about that issue. If we choose to, we can then begin to assimilate that information into our stream of consciousness. This is the point where we can then begin to consciously analyze our decisions before we make them because we are finally aware that the true implications of our individual actions are far larger than we ever imagined they could be.

Of course, if we all thought this way about every issue of every moment of every day, it would be completely and fundamentally overwhelming. Instead, I think the trick is to incorporate small decisions over time. That conscious thinking about, say, not ordering fish starts getting built into neurological muscle memory. Give it enough thought and enough practice, and eventually you won’t even have to think about avoiding seafood, or whatever activity you are focused on. Eventually, you will consciously have to override what has become habit in your thinking if you want to go back to your old ways of thinking and doing.

Once that one conscious thing you have decided to focus on becomes habit, your brain and consciousness become open again to new sets of information and another opportunity for changing thinking habits. Give it enough time, and you can integrate all the information you choose to integrate into your life.

Yes, you have to to work at it. Yes, you are going to struggle at first. No matter if it’s adopting certain diets, walking or taking public transportation to work more often, buying less non-recyclable goods, or reading a little more on your given topic every day, it will become easier. I promise. Changing our habits with information little by little is not the easiest thing to do, but it will be worth it. If enough of us engage in this direct grappling with issues and topics near and dear to us, I believe this is how we can save the world.

24. The Malta Chronicles: Prologue, Traveling, and Initial Impressions

As many of you may have seen on my social media over the past couple of days, I just spent those past several days in Malta. It was an incredibly beautiful place. Why Malta, you may ask? And why only for two days in the middle of October during the middle of the week? I left so soon I really never even got a chance to sightsee other than walking around to find dinner both free evenings.

The answer is the ocean. Or, to be more precise, the Our Ocean conference.

Prologue
To give a background to this story, back last October I found out through Georgetown that there was going to be an event at main campus called Our Oceans, One Future, an event where John Kerry, then Secretary of State, and Adrian Grenier, actor and co-founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation, would be speaking. So I, along with one of my classmates, missed Bargain (Contracts + Torts) that morning in order to go to main campus and attend this amazing event. It was so inspiring to sit there and listen to the head speakers talk about the current issues facing the oceans and the slow upwelling of commitment towards figuring out a way to save them. Heads of states, including ministers from Europe and South America, also talked at a panel at that time about their different states’ commitments and achievements over the past year.

Then, in March, I was a liaison between Georgetown Law’s Chapter of the UN Association and Georgetown main campus’ Sustainable Ocean Alliance, or the SOA. The SOA was started a few years ago by an undergraduate student at Georgetown to help bring youth voices into the ocean discussion. So in March, the SOA had their annual summit at main campus and I went and attended and tabled a table promoting Georgetown Law during the lunch break.

Fast-forward a couple of months and I get an email from the SOA announcing they were then taking applications for the Our Ocean Youth Leadership conference in Malta in October. I looked at the application, figured I would qualify since a) I was a “youth”, and b) I’m planning on going into ocean conservation and want to be involved in as many ocean-related things as possible. So I applied and got accepted. I booked my ticket for Malta. A few weeks later I booked a spot at a hostel that multiple other people attending the conference were staying at. And otherwise I tried to brush it out of my mind that somehow I would be going to Malta against all expectations in October.

Traveling & Initial Impressions
Monday night, I packed a small carryon suitcase of business professional clothes and books to take along in my book bag. I slept only 4 hours that night because of last-minute homework assignments and work early the next morning. I went to the morning portion of a hearing on dumping of solar cells and solar panels from other countries at the International Trade Commission, ran back to the EPA to tell my supervisor about it, and then ran home, showered, kissed Ricardo and Rumple goodbye, and drove to Dulles airport.

My plane left from D.C. at 6:00pm. I arrived in London Heathrow at around 6:00am. I ate at Pret, camped out for a few hours, and then flew to Malta. I arrived in Malta very motion sick around 3:00pm and proceeded to half-consciously ride a bus for an hour all the way to the hostel I was staying at. I’m still mad at myself for being so motion sick, because that hour-long bus ride was probably the best view of the city as a whole that I would get during the daytime, but I was so miserable I could barely keep my eyes open. I finally found Boho Hostel after taking two wrong turns and wheeling/carrying my little roller suitcase up a series of steep stairs and narrow sidewalks.

The thing about Malta roads is the sidewalks are barely wide enough for one person for the most part and there are very rarely crosswalks anywhere. So you just have to run across the street and hope you don’t get hit. I could never be a driver in Malta; I would be far too terrified to run into people or cars parked on the sides of the roads or the sides of buildings, since the streets are so narrow. However, I will admit I love the architectural style. For the most part, most of the buildings are made out of this yellow stone that I assume is abundant all across the island. The buildings are all square – almost cubical – with their chief adornments and character created by the railings, balconies, and windows that are attached to these cubical structures. It’s very economical and efficient, I think. The cubical structures mean all the buildings use the most amount of space possible in a very space-limited region; after all, Malta is an island surrounded by the Mediterranean on all sides.

Back to Boho. I’ve never stayed at a hostel before, so I didn’t really know what to expect, other than the fact that I knew several other youth delegates were also staying there. The whole hostel is a hippy little world tucked right in the middle of a neighborhood, with hammocks and palm trees and little Buddha statutes in the yard and walls painted with maps of the world and inspirational boho-style quotes about traveling making one rich. The staircase leading up to the bedrooms (3 bunk beds to a room) was decorated entirely by shoes hanging all over the railing. There was a little female cat there that had similar colorings to Rumple but definitely had an island-y look about her.

I checked in and right as I was doing so, a group of younger people all dressed professionally were assembling. I assumed they were about to head out to pick up their badges for the conference and from there go straight to the reception. (It was 5:30pm by then and the badge office supposedly closed by 7:00pm, which is also when the reception for us youth delegates started.) I was right, and they were all kind enough to wait for me to change really fast so I could head out with them. We walked for a good 20 minutes and during that time found our way to the coast of Malta. Saint Julian’s was this magnificent church we passed that was right on the bay and the waves crashed upon its base in a glorious display. We snaked our way around the marina, where picturesque boats all floated tied up in the water. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a picturesque place in my life as that marina. The boats were all brightly painted, the buildings around the marina were beautiful pastels, and the clouds and the ocean were all this glorious harmonization of greys and purples and blues.

We met up with some other youth conference members at the inside edge of the marina and everyone took some time meeting one another and taking photos. While walking to the marina, I met two friends from Paris, France, a girl from Germany, and a girl from Spain. (I’m not going to put names here for privacy’s sake.) Very early on into the evening, it became impossible to learn any new names or remember where everyone you met had come from or how exactly they were working on or wanted to work on ocean issues. Regardless, all 100 of us selected were passionate about the oceans; the oceans were what brought us all together. I cannot tell you how amazing it was to be surrounded on all sides by fellow ocean lovers from such diverse backgrounds and places of origin who all came together for a common cause. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

The original Boho group ran up to the Hilton and got our badges after going through security. We then joined outside to take photos in front of the #OurOcean sign in the fountain and the Our Ocean illustrations everywhere. We then made our way across the hotel to a bar that was more reminiscent of the inside of a ship than a bar for the opening reception for the conference. The room was round and had the zodiac illustrated as if a night sky on the ceiling. On the walls were mirrors and inlays of ship motifs, while the floor was a giant marble compass rose.

We all got a drink, ate hors d’oeuvres (which there were not nearly enough of), and just spent the evening mingling and getting to know people. It was fantastic. People were from all different countries. There were a lot of Europeans, which makes sense because it was much easier for them to get a plane ticket to Malta: see Spanish, French, German, Danish, Serbian, Italian, British, Scottish, etc. There were a few Americans, mainly from D.C., California, and Duke University, to be specific. And there were also people from Thailand, Peru, and Brazil, among others. It was an incredibly diverse group of people.

Some individuals were still finishing their undergraduate degrees. Many had masters or were currently in the middle of pursuing masters in oceanography, marine biology, marine law and governance, and policy work. There was an economist, a few budding and full attorneys, and some engineers. Overall, the amount of diversity was one of the most inspiring things about the entire trip for me. Also, there was a freedom to follow one’s dreams, whether that meant moving to another country or learning another language or pursuing a completely different type of degree.

I realized that night at the reception that Americans tend to be close-minded about living in other places. I don’t know if close-minded is the right term, but Americans just don’t think about actually moving abroad and staying there for a number of years. It seems to me that many other countries, especially in the European Union (to be fair though, it is easier since their citizenship automatically enables them to work or go to school in any other EU country outside of their own), have a bigger sense of freedom about exploration. During this conference, I’ve met more people than I can count who have actually lived in more than two countries. To be fair, the individuals who attend an ocean conference in Malta are probably some of the most exploratory and open-minded individuals, so the conference definitely did have a demographic bias. Nonetheless, I have been so inspired.

The Boho group left back to our hostel shortly after 9:00pm. We were all exhausted and had to be up at 5:45 the next morning in order to make it to the conference in time. And thus, we walked back to the hostel, said goodnight, and fell immediately asleep.

 

23. Only Human

We’re all only human.

We all have our own failings and short-sights and triumphs. We have our personal moments of greatness and of downfalls. There’s only so much each and everyone one of us can do within the limitations of time and space and possibilities. I’ve seen a few different people recently struggle with what to do with their lives given the parameters of their backgrounds, abilities, career goals, and passions, among other factors. I myself feel the different tugs and pulls of different fields and interests day from day.

So how do we do the most with our time and our energy? How do we manage to do as much as we can while staying sane?

I went to an interview for a legal internship for the Summer of 2018 this past week. It was an interview for what is essentially my dream job. I’m not going to say where it was, in case I don’t get it. Needless to say, I’ve been working towards this particular interview or something very similar to it for the past six years of my life. At the end of the interview when my interviewer was walking me out the door, I asked her if there were any classes I should be taking or anything I should be doing differently for this career path. She replied that I was actually doing everything exactly right and to stick with it.

I delegated my time in college very carefully for getting a bachelor degree in biology with a minor in economics. Apparently that worked. And now that I’m in law school, the classes I’m taking this semester all feed perfectly into doing ocean-related work: environmental, maritime, international law, and international trade law. These were the classes that I wanted to take more than any others and the ones I thought would do the most amount of good for trying to get where I want to go. And these were the same classes that really stuck out to those interviewing me and said I was the perfect candidate for their work because of these classes.

So on one hand, I think I’m doing a fairly decent job of striving towards my legal career goals of working on ocean-related issues. I only have so many law school classes and internships I can fit in.

On the other hand, I think the balance of ballet in my life is starting to figure itself out as well. This semester, I can only take ballet classes Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, because I’m either in law school classes, working at the EPA, or teaching at all other times during the week when ballet class is available. However, that still means I can fit in three ballet classes a week, which is what I was going last year. This year, I’m actually finding ways to rehearse and perform beyond just taking weekly ballet classes.

Firstly, I’m rehearsing for party parent for Adagio’s Nutcracker. Since they’re doing a restructuring of their Nutcracker this year, actual adults are coming in to play party parents. Ricardo was amazing enough to agree to do party parent with me, and it’s such a joy to get to dance next to him in rehearsals. All my students were darling and told me this week in class that he dances very well and he has a very nice face for being on stage. That just about made my heart burst.

Secondly, a few weeks back I saw that one of the dancers I’ve become friends with at Washington Ballet (she’s amazing and danced professionally for many years before graduating from Georgetown Law a few years back) was going to a small company audition. I asked her about it and if she thinks it would be something that I could do while in law school. She replied in the affirmative and so I went and auditioned for this group. This past week we had our first two rehearsals for their annual show they do in March. I came home from both rehearsals simply glowing with a new-found purpose that I haven’t felt since I was last dancing at BRT.

The group, called Classical Repertory Dance Ensemble, is a local group in DC comprised of all adults with over 20 years of ballet experience. (I think I might actually be the baby of the group since I just have 20 years, and most of them have between 20 and 30 years.) This is the first time since I was probably 12 or 13 that I have gotten the opportunity to dance in a group of all adults. It’s amazing. Both pieces we rehearsed for this week – one was Paquita (which I’ve never had the opportunity to do before) and the other a contemporary piece – were on pointe. It’s been so long since I’ve been in a room full of non-student dancers all on pointe and all working together towards a common choreographic goal. It’s amazing. I have seriously missed it so much. I am so grateful and happy to have found CRDE and I’m so excited to get to dance with them, hopefully for years to come.

I’m working within my limitations as best I can. I finally feel like I’m getting to a place where I am starting to balance everything together in such a way that I can actually pursue both my passions. It’s the first time I feel like I’ve actually been able to do so since I moved to DC. I feel complete in a way I haven’t since leaving Albuquerque behind. But in a way, I feel more complete now. I’m closer than ever to my long-term career goals. I feel like I’m so close to actually beginning to make a difference in the world.

This doesn’t mean I’m doing everything I want to be able to do. There are far too many limitations for that. If I could be doing everything I want to be doing, I would be getting scuba diving certified, I would be actively learning Spanish, and I would be writing, to name a few. But we’re all only human. So we’ve got to do what we can with the time we are given and hope that it all works out. We have to seize the opportunities we find and actively work towards our goals with the most information we can. We’ve got to keep in mind our goals that we actually want to meet and complete and keep sight of the path it takes to get there. We’ve got to follow that path, even if it means we zig and zag to eventually get to the signposts that tell us we’re doing right. And somehow we’ll make it, even if we’re only human.

 

22. Multiple Lives Syndrome

Do you ever feel like one life is too little to live? Do you ever have the desire to live a completely different life than the one you have? Or to live multiple lives all at one time, branching out in an infinity of possibilities towards all the outer reaches of the universe? I feel it all the time.

Most of the time, I’m pretty darn content to live this life I have. I have so much to live for and I love it all. Between teaching ballet, dancing, and performing on one hand and all my academic experiences leading into legal experiences all subsidized by anything to work on conservation, I do live a wide and varied life and am very grateful for that. But nonetheless, there are certain times like tonight when all I want to do is run away from everything (or almost everything), move somewhere completely different, and do something with my life so completely different than what I am doing now.

Of course one of those lives would be dancing in a professional company. If you know me at all, you know I would absolutely love the chance to do so. But that’s a different life that is still close enough to my own reality that it doesn’t have quite the same amount of wanderlust yearning that other lives do.

For example, I would absolutely love the chance to go travel and be a National Geographic photographer or reporter, especially if the work was on wildlife. I would adore being able to view these amazing creatures in their natural habitats up close. Then again, I know people who do so for their careers face every kind of hardship, from braving sub-zero temperatures at the polar regions to facing down deadly predators. Still, they get to see things that hardly anyone else on this planet gets to see.

I believe we each start off with unlimited potential. That’s not to say that everyone is born with the same privileges or internal or external factors. But I think the more you grow, the more you cultivate yourself in one direction. Those other branches of interest don’t get quite the same amount of nourishment as the ones you focus on. So over time, those branches don’t give you quite as many opportunities as they might have done previously had you taken the time to nurture those branches as well. However, the branches that you have cultivated and cared for over time continue to branch out in possibilities within that specific field or area of interest or passion.

Now I think the trick is finding out how to cultivate as many of these branches as possible by entwining them with your other branches of passions. If you can successfully do so, you will grow all the stronger for it. You will have more options within those passions than you did before.

But still, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have infinite possibilities at all times?

I suppose limitations are a large part of being human. If we didn’t have limitations and we could be infinite, what could we create and accomplish? What whole worlds would open up to us that we didn’t have access to before? I would love to explore some of those other worlds that currently are not being cultivated. I would love to live in some of those branches as well. I’ve never heard of a name for this, but I think it should be called Multiple Lives Syndrome.

The desire to live many lives is deep within us all, I think. All of us at one time or another feels trapped by the path we have laid out for ourselves. And that’s not to say that that path is insufficient or lacking in any way. No, hopefully that path is a wonderful path that you do really and truly care about following and going down. I feel that way about my own path. But still, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to live multiple lives at one time?

21. Updates on a New Academic Year

Law school classes, externships at the EPA, ballet classes, and teaching have all finally started up and I finally feel like the semester has officially started. So here’s an update on what this semester is looking like for me!

Law School
Today technically marks the end of the second week of law school classes for the semester, but since we didn’t have Monday classes for labor day, it doesn’t quite feel like two full weeks have passed. This semester, I only have classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Most of my classes are late afternoon or evening classes and my earliest class starts at 11:10am.

I’m taking Environmental Law, Maritime Law, International Law, International Trade and Regulations, and an Externship Seminar. I really like all of my classes this semester because these are all subjects I am actually interested in and feel are very important for hopefully doing some kind of law relating to ocean conservation in the future. I think Environmental Law might be my favorite class, although to be honest it is hard to choose between my different classes.

On Mondays, I have Environmental Law in the morning and then a break from 12:30-3:30. Then, if I’m unlucky, I have three classes in a row from 3:30-9:55pm at night. If I’m lucky and don’t have my externship seminar (it’s only every other week), then I have class from 3:30-7:45. Those will be very nice Mondays. On Wednesdays, I just have Environmental Law in the mornings and then International Law from 5:45-8:45. Luckily I have lots of time to go home and eat and study between my classes in the afternoon.

Externship
So this semester I’m externing (it’s the exact same thing as interning, just during the semester) at the Environmental Protection Agency, more colloquially as the EPA. I have to work there 15 hours a week to get three credits for it and am working 9-5 there Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ve only gone for two days so far, but the place is great. I’m nervous to work there just because I don’t really know what kinds of tasks or projects I’ll get assigned every day. But it will be a very good experience and I’m glad I get the opportunity to work there.

Bonus points: the main staircase at the EPA looks like something right out of the wizarding world. There’s even a time-turner-like chandelier hanging down in the middle of the staircase.

Teaching
Last night was my first night back teaching at Adagio Ballet and the first day of classes for the school year. I missed being there. It’s such a wonderful group of teachings and students. The girls are all so sweet and hard working. Last year I was only teaching two nights a week – Tuesdays and Thursdays – there, but this year I’m teaching those two nights at the same time and then also two additional classes Friday evenings. I feel like I really lucked out with finding an amazing place to teach and I really am thrilled to be back.

In past years, Adagio’s Nutcracker was essentially their winter recital for all the classes. So my class last year was Spanish, the class next door was Chinese, etc. This year, they completely redid the structure of it so everyone who wanted to dance in the Nutcracker had to audition back during the summer. They also needed some party parents from the faculty and interested adults, so Ricardo and I will both be party parents this year! I’m so excited. I’ve never gotten to dance on stage with my significant other before. He’s going to be just fantastic. I’ll also be rehearsing another role I’ll be performing for their Nutcracker. Hint: there will most likely be a tutu involved.

Ballet Class
I haven’t been able to go take ballet class since I got back into town because my car decided to die on me two days after we got back. Thus, I haven’t had a way to actually drive to ballet class and it’s a bit too far away by public transportation or uber. My car finally got fixed two days ago, though, so this morning was my first morning back in ballet class. I actually get to take class every weekend now, as well as Fridays and possibly on Monday and Wednesday mornings before darting off to Environmental Law. Either way, it feels so great to be back. There are some things that I feel rusty with, but overall I’m amazed that I haven’t gotten too out of shape over the course of the summer. I feel good and motivated now and being back in the school context just helped me get back into ballet class mood as well.

Other
So I think those are my main responsibilities that occur every week! On top of that, all I have to worry about are job applications and interviews for a legal job next summer, possibly auditioning for and rehearsing for the upcoming Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society musical, and other items that may or may not pop up.

But every night I am lucky enough to get to go home to my amazing boyfriend and amazing little cloud being of a cat. My life would not be the same without them and I am so infinitely grateful for their places in my life. Neither Ricardo nor I would know what do without Rumple. He’s such a sweet, crazy little cat. He loves playing. He’s become so vocal that he will just meow and meowl at us for apparently no reason whatsoever sometimes. But we love him and I’m pretty darn sure he loves us back.

Now that things are settling down, I’m going to get back to regular blog writing. So thank you for reading!

20. The Need to Prove Yourself

When I went back to Albuquerque two weeks ago, I took class at my home studio of Ballet Repertory Theatre of New Mexico (BRT) every day that I could. It was automatically my priority. I felt so at home and so comfortable there even though it had been more than a month since I’d taken ballet class and was incredibly out of shape. Nonetheless, I went to ballet class every day and within three or four days felt back in shape (with the exception that I wasn’t turning as consistently or as much as I’m used to.)

I finally returned back home to D.C. last night and took class today at the Washington Ballet’s adult program, where I’ve been taking class for the past year since I moved to D.C. I didn’t feel the same kind of soul or fire or motivation to take class here as I did back in Albuquerque a mere week ago. And I think I figured out why.

Back in Albuquerque, at BRT, everyone knows me. I grew up there. I spent almost 20 years of my life there. When I moved to D.C., the only person who had been at BRT longer than me was the director herself. I haven’t felt like I’ve had to prove myself in years upon years at BRT. I’ve proved who I am as a dancer over and over again over the years and I don’t have a need to show that I’m better than anyone there. For me, dancing at BRT just allows me to truly dance and be free.

In D.C., no one knows me. I’m one of dozens, if not hundreds, of dancers who move to D.C. for school or work or some other reason and still take class to try to stay in shape and because we love it. The problem, I’ve realized, with my mentality here, is that I feel that I’m constantly trying to prove myself in every class. It’s rare for me to take a ballet class without me trying to prove my worth as a dancer to the teacher or to my fellow students or to myself. Here, it’s been very difficult to just let go and dance.

There are many incredible dancers that I am lucky enough to take class with. For instance, just today there was a girl I’ve only seen around once or twice before. She just moved here from Arizona. And she was absolutely lovely. It’s inspiring to be around so many amazing dancers every day, but it’s also difficult because I’m constantly comparing myself to them. It’s been almost ten years since I have systematically compared myself to other dancers; I’ve compared myself to myself since I was a young teenager. But now, I think it’s different for me because I do feel this pressure to show that I’m good enough to dance in a company. That I am good enough to dance at Washington Ballet if I got the chance and gave it such commitment.

The most difficult part is that I have chosen law school and a legal career instead of a career in ballet. So right now, all of my attempts to prove myself are my attempts to live out that “what if” I had really put my entire heart and soul into trying to dance in a full-time company. They are my attempts to prove to myself that I am as good as those around me and that the past many years of my life – the blood and sweat and tears – haven’t all been for naught.

It took me going back to Albuquerque and dancing at BRT every day for a week to realize what it is that I’m missing here in D.C. And what I’m missing is the absolute freedom and joy in just dancing for myself and myself alone. Of course I still love taking class while I’m here, but the past several months I’ve felt such trepidation at even just showing up at the studio to take class. Tonight I finally realized it’s because I’m growing anxious about having to prove myself day after day.

I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to be able to compare my own dancing with my own dancing and with no one else’s. That’s how you improve. That’s how you excel. That is the way to really, truly enjoy the work you put into something that you love. And that’s what I’m going to try to get back to from here on out.