Monday, February 20, 2017

Afterward...Finding my value

Well, Gentle Reader, I thought I'd better write a follow-up to my last blog post. I have many, many thoughts on what I need to discuss next, and I have no idea how I'm going to appropriately touch on each point that has been raised, but I will do my best.

To start, let me say how amazing my friends are. When you write a personal post like my previous one, you never know how people are going to respond. I wrote it with the sole purpose of explaining my feelings--mostly so I could work things through for myself. I didn't expect to be trolled, but I didn't know if anyone would read it, let alone respond. My friends did respond (on Facebook), in force.

Many friends reminded me I'm not alone in struggling with my sense of value, and thanked me for sharing my feelings:
"I think value is something anyone with a good sense of self scrutinizes often. I know I do. Thank you for sharing."
Some friends shared their similar experiences of setting aside a normal/more lucrative career for something their passionate about:
"I also have been feeling this- part of why I have stuck around in [my profession] so long is because I have an ingrained assumption that it is somehow more valuable to society than my other endeavors...even though I KNOW this to be untrue."
"As someone who went from gainfully employed to [an artist]... I HEAR YOU. All I can say is, the arts are IMPORTANT and motherhood is IMPORTANT. Don't feel like you're somehow worth less because you're not earning as many actual dollars as you were before. It's hard, though. I still struggle with it..."
Some friends shared their reactions to when they meet/hear of someone who has an alternative career:
"It is hard to accept the fact that you have worked so many years and are moving down instead of 'up' like your friends/peers...As for your work seeming frivolous, I ask you to remember peoples' reactions when they meet a yoga or dance instructor. Usually it is with awe and jealousy. "Man, I wish I could do that for a living!"." 
"There is one thing I ask myself that helps me in this situation: what would I think of someone else doing this? I don't know about you, but I admire people who find a way to do what they really love, whether they get paid for it or not. Including you!"
A fellow instructor shared her experience of how teaching Pole has changed her students lives:
"When I first starting teaching pole I thought it was just a fun job to do to keep me busy and fit. The first time I had a student come up to me and tell me about how pole and the studio community had helped them feel more confident in themselves and that they were taking steps to end an abusive relationship, I thought it was a fluke. The second time it happened, I thought it was an odd coincidence. The third time it happened I realized there was a lot more going on than I had ever realized.
Progressing in pole or aerial and being able to do things you thought you would never be able to do in a million years is such an incredible confidence booster, and confident people can go on to make incredible changes in their lives and the world around them.
As a fellow higher education nerd/"career woman", I can absolutely understand how you may feel less valuable now, but you're definitely not!"
And finally, someone I see as a successful business person who is also someone I admire, wrote this:
 "You are not alone. And if many/all of us can feel this then "value" cannot possibly be based in the job of the moment. It's somewhere else inside us -- elusive at times -- subconscious until one renders it otherwise by having the courage to explore it out loud. I am willing to speculate that you are overlooking the many elements which compose the aggregate value of who you are."
to borrow from someone much wiser (authorship in dispute)
"No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in the present little instant. Take peace! ... Life is so full of meaning and of purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find that earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage, then to claim it: that is all! But courage you have.."
Yes ... you have wonderful courage and that in and of itself has a value that cannot be compared to a traditional job. Good luck on your journey of thinking and discovery. Your willingness to say things out loud helps me -- and it seems many others."
I feel all the positive comments sent my way has helped to bolster my courage. I am still uncertain about my future path, but I feel a little better about my current footsteps. Hopefully, I can find a internal compass or a map to help me find my way. As a first step in orienting myself, I'm going to work on a series of blog posts to explore my feelings and experiences around becoming a professional aeralist, and what that means for my personal value.



As a final note:

I hope no one at home was worried that I was on the verge of harming myself. It occurred to me after the fact, that some of my readers may have been worried about my mental health. Let me assure you, I am OK. Not fine, obviously, but although I at times don't love my life, I do love the people in my life far too much, to ever consider harming myself.

Friday, February 10, 2017

What is the value of 1 Andrea?

Well, this blog has been silent for sometime. Not intentionally so, writing simply hasn't been high on my priority list. It's been high on my wish list perhaps, but when it comes to my currently lifestyle I run out of time for blogging.

I have been struggling sometime, Gentle Reader, with my sense of Value, and it is this struggle that is now motivating me to post. As I haven't blogged in many, many months, I need to explain.

In May of 2016, I became an aerial instructor, while my other sources of contract employment ended. I went from being involved in a variety of research projects, which relied on my many years of experience in medical research, evaluating medical studies, critical thinking, etc., to teaching people how to climb two pieces of fabric rigged to a ceiling. I went from highly paid work which, if not related to my Masters, at least benefited from my advanced education, to taking a hobby to the next level. I went from a real job to a...well, still a real job, but a not so..I don't you get what I'm saying?

I may be over-simplifying, or perhaps over-dramatizing my situation, but I am doing so to demonstrating my feelings. I am struggling to understand the Value of 1 S. Andrea Milne in the world today.

Not long after I started doing aerials I thought it might be fun to teach. At the time it hadn't occurred to me that it could be a career choice. I took a 40-hour workshop on Teaching Aerials at the New England Center for Circus Arts in February of 2014, but I still didn't imagine that teaching might one day be my sole source of income. I took the course so I might one day teach a couple of classes because I thought it might be something I might like to do.

What changed?

Many things. Part of it is, I became a mother--something I wasn't sure I wanted to be for many years. Even stranger still, I found I wanted to be at home with Ruth more than what I could be with a full time job. Throw in wanting to continue my aerial training and I wasn't sure how I would balance a hobby, a job, and a daughter. Another part was that Andrew and I returned to Waterloo, Ontario, our home territory, and Andrew was no longer a student. With Andrew making decent money, I didn't actually have to work full-time to help support our little family. All the while I was assisting Aradia Kitchener in becoming Brass Butterflies, Kitchener-Waterloo's home for pole fitness and aerial arts.

So, now I teach approximately seven classes a week, plus help with whatever administrative duties I can around the studio--a far cry from a once fully employed Research Librarian I was when we still lived in Edmonton. Was I happy then, either? I think if you look back over my blog you'll find that was in question as well.

Here's this question of happiness again, or what I've termed in this blog post as Value. I think my current struggle has more to do with my sense of Value than it has to do with my sense of Happiness.

I feel I have less value because my current occupation might seem rather frivolous to someone who is struggling to put food on their table each night, or is struggling to achieve mental or physical health, or is struggling against discrimination, etc.

I feel I have less value because I am earning a lot less than I used to.

I feel I have less value because I'm never quite sure how to answer the question of what I do for a living, and although I'm not necessarily embarrassed to tell people I teach aerial silks for a living, I feel like other people don't see what I do as a 'real job.'

I feel I have less value as an aerial instructor because I do not believe I'm as good as many of the instructors I've had in the past.

I feel I have less value as an aerial performer because I do not believe I'm as good as other aerialist I have known (both fellow students and instructors).

Less value than what? I don't know. Less value than my husband who teaches at the University of Waterloo, helping students to become useful members of society? Less value than other friends with PhDs who not only teach, but activity participate in protests against the present administration in the United States? Less value than family members who I know participate in charitable works in the community?

Yeah, less valuable than all those people. And more who I don't know.

This is my struggle. I don't have a good answer, or plan, or anything for how to proceed. I have to, that much I know. I have to for my daughter, for Ruth. At the very least I want her to know that we (Andrew and I) don't value her for her accomplishments, but that we value her for her. And she is Amazing, and worth valuing for the hard-working, adorable, caring little girl that she is.

I value my daughter, and I want her to value me.

Until next time.