My First Class
Throughout my life, it has always seemed like the right opportunity came at the right time. Whenever I’ve needed, TRULY needed a job, or a change, I’ve found my way into it. Maybe part of it is letting yourself be receptive to listening to the signs around you; maybe it’s a matter of just holding the right door open to let opportunity come through. Maybe it’s just dumb luck. But it’s also how I found pole dancing.
A few years back, a few years out of college, I thought I had managed to land the perfect job. I was working in online marketing just like I had studied in school, and I was working at the kind of dot com company that had a projection screen gaming system in the employee lounge, ping pong tables, a dog-friendly environment, and completely flexible hours, as long as you got your work done. I was surrounded by incredibly intelligent, motivated people, and given as much leeway as I needed or wanted to take further educational classes, or add to and explore my job description as I saw fit. I had endless opportunity to increase responsibility and learn.
And it was in this—the perfect working environment—that I realized that I actually, honestly, just hated the work. I didn’t feel like what I was doing was helpful, or good, or productive, in any larger sense. In college I loved learning about consumer behavior, and marketing principles. But what I came to realize was that the “doing” was very different. So, disenchanted, I quit my job. With no plans. All I knew was that I operated best under pressure, and the only way to force myself to really think about what I should be doing, was to give myself no other options or safety net except to think.
After some deep soul searching, I found myself applying to grad school in clinical psychology. When I was growing up, I had a really close friend who was bulimic, anorexic, self-harming, a cutter, drug addicted, promiscuous, and an amazing, loving person. It was only after years of knowing her, and hurting for her, that I realized that I couldn’t help her. A little bit of that helplessness always stuck with me, and so I intended to study drug addiction in my MA program. Maybe, I would be able to help someone else, given the right tools and information. And maybe, a part of me thought that by being able to help others, I could do some self-healing too.
To pay for my expenses while in school, I took an administrative/executive assistant position that offered flexible hours. I worked with mostly men, in a high stress job, and then went to school and studied high-stress problems and complex situations. It was a really emotionally taxing time. In my personal life, I was in a stable relationship, but there was a lot of instability around me: two of my closest friends were having issues with family or work, and we were all staying out late on weekends and partying pretty hard. Every weekend there were four or five people, including my boyfriend, and my newly-adopted (and pretty crazy at the time) dog swirling around me in a one-bedroom apartment. I never could keep orange juice in the house, my clothes were constantly being “borrowed,” I never knew where anything was, and my electricity bill was through the roof because while I was at work, one jobless friend or another was at my place soaking up the AC in the hot NYC summer. Sigh.
In retrospect, it seems obvious: I needed a place to go, a sanctuary, an outlet to deal with my frustrations because life was moving so fast that I couldn’t take a breath and keep my head above water. Money was always a worry, but when a friend suggested I try a pole dancing class, I plunked down the cash to take an intro, immediately. And because of my need to do something for just me—I didn’t tell anyone I was going. I went by myself. From the very first spin, it was love at first flight… I was completely hooked. And it felt weightless. And awesome. The teacher talked about giving yourself a safe place to play and just be. At the end of the intro, I signed up for more classes on the spot.
Pole came to me at a moment when I needed therapy. I needed time to shut the world out and just dance. I needed to reach deep into frustration and release it and let it out. I needed to take my mind off my life and focus on something else entirely—maybe the physical challenge of inverting, or an assignment that the instructor gave us. I needed a group of women who didn’t know me, didn’t know anything about me, and supported me anyway. At that time in my life, when so much was changing, and so much was crazy, I needed a weekly class I could go to once a week where I knew, I KNEW, that outside things didn’t matter.
I came to pole at a time that I needed therapy. Things have moved and shifted—class groups have come together and moved apart, I have swung on poles in different zip codes, and the job, boyfriend, and school have all seen some transformations. But the one thing that hasn’t changed, over the years that I’ve been going to classes and teaching, is my deep respect for the reasons why a person might walk into that door, and what they might be carrying on their shoulders. To me, pole has always represented, and will always represent, a place of safety.
I can’t imagine not having pole in my life. It’s tempting to say that in an alternate world, maybe I would never have taken that class… because you can never really guess how the paths not traveled might diverge from where you are today. But I’d like to think that all signs pointed me there, that the world was pushing me in that direction, and that in every other possible world, there are Amys twirling too.
Monday’s post: 5 Things…