If you were to ask me one year ago to outline my ideal life design it would have looked pretty darn close to what I’m living now. A flexible work schedule that allows time to develop creative projects? Check. Jobs in the dance field that don’t induce physical exhaustion (thus preserving the longevity of my body)? Check. An income that frees my creativity from needing to pay my bills? Check. An easy commute? So much check (I walk to work and/or work from home so basically a lottery-win for LA). A comfortable home to share with a loving partner capable of hosting a collection of amazing friends? Check, check, check. However, now a few months into it, I am learning the one flaw in this otherwise successful lifestyle design: I’ve neglected to include opportunity for meeting new people.
A typical week will include seeing my boyfriend, my students, some colleagues in passing, and a friend or two on the weekend, generally traveling no further than a 3 block radius. Any additional correspondence is happening virtually, through email or social media. The issue with this is as the scale of my projects grow and my leadership responsibilities in work increase the more important it is for me to expand my network. And I don’t mean this is the smarmy pitch-myself-to-everyone-I-meet kind of way. Rather, in the build-more-deeply-invested-and-authentic connections kind of way. In my work with LEAP, I genuinely aim to provide an educational opportunity to dancers, which requires intimately knowing and understanding their professional and academic goals. In my creative work, I’m looking to activate artistic collaborations with the goal of making something that could only be created from the pooling of minds and talents.
In short, my real job is to meet artists.
So therein lies the problem.
Of course, the first step to solving any problem is identifying it. Except for me, the problem isn’t only that I need to meet more people, it’s that my meeting-new-people skill set is extremely weak. For the past several years, I’ve worked mostly as a solo artist. I’ve been my own performer, choreographer, producer, marketer, costumer, prop designer, fundraiser, and so on. If I wanted something done, there was no need for deliberation, I just took care of it. Before that, every new person I ever met was introduced to me through a highly controlled environment - a dance company, a dorm hall, a public high school. Pair these circumstances with formative years spent behind AOL Instant Messenger and you’ll get a person completely ill-equipped to meet folks out in the wild. This isn’t to say I’m debilitatingly shy or introverted, just that my socialization hasn’t best prepared me for this next phase. Or maybe, making new friends is just always a feat - equal parts rewarding and challenging. Thankfully, I’ve developed a comfort for stepping outside my comfort zone.
So here’s a proposal - let’s be liberal with our connections. The next opportunity I have to introduce a new relationship I’ll jump at the chance. And the next time you see me out at a party or performance, introduce me to one of your friends. I’m looking forward to meeting them.