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Status Anxiety – I am just a lindy hopper

August 14, 2012 by Jo

This summer has been a tough summer of questions. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about my future and what I want it to look like, and frankly, I’m a little lost. I know I have a great life – and for that I am grateful – and I am content with what I am doing, but I am now facing significantly more questions than I have answer and it makes me … anxious and uncertain.

One of the “issues” I have been contemplating recently – and regularly – is in regards to my status. As many of you know, I currently work in a field where I am arguably in the top 10% and this makes me feel as if I should be immune to the feelings of “status anxiety”. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Am I proud to call myself a lindy hopper? Yes. Am I proud of my accomplishment? Yes, absolutely. Do I get a sense of fulfillment working with the lindy hop community? Yes. Is there any other job I would like to be doing rather than the one I have? At the moment, no not at all. Do I feel like my opinion is valued? You bet. So what’s the problem?

I remember when I started traveling a few years ago, I was on a plane heading back to Pittsburgh and I somehow fell into conversation with the other two passengers in my row. They politely asked if I was headed home, was I from Pittsburgh, what did I do for a living, and so on. After the couple was finished inquiring about my life, I asked them the same questions. Low and behold, Janet* was a psychologist and her husband Mark* was in banking. Janet talked to me about a number of studies she was doing and I drew comparisons to a number of the ones I remembered from my time in uni. After a very fun conversation, Janet looked at me and told me something to the effect: “Wow, you’re really smart. I assumed when you said you were a dancer that you didn’t have an education. I’m pleasantly surprised! But I must ask, if you have a degree, why aren’t you using it?”

I wish I could say I was shocked, but in all honesty I wasn’t. I think at the time, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a “professional lindy hopper” so I wasn’t offended – I was still trying on the idea. Keep in mind, this was also at the time where, I believe, my parents thought I was going through a phase and was eventually going to move on and get “a real job.” (In fairness to them, I assume the way I spoke about being a full-time lindy hopper left them wondering.) So…..I told Janet something along the lines of: these are the years to chase my dreams, I’ll go back to school later, I’ll eventually get a “real job”, blah blah blah….

Here’s what that moment did for me: the seeds of “status anxiety” had been planted long before and that particular comment had just watered them! The seeds had been planted by the community I grew up in. I came from a community where many of my peers went to ivy league schools; they became doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, and bankers; they drove BMW in high school. It was a community where parents didn’t dream of their kids becoming “dance teachers”, but powerful, high-earning members of society. I remember growing up thinking I’d be an accountant, or at a minimum be on a five-year, six-figure earning path. Clearly, that is not the path I followed.

In a way, one could say my fears had been confirmed that day on the plane – being a dance teacher wasn’t as prestigious as being anything that directly used my degree. I kind of felt like I had failed, like I had made the wrong choice, that I was choosing a lesser life. “Holy shit,” I thought to myself, “even an outside source, one that is in no way connected to me or my life, has just invalidating me being a dance teacher. Now what?” I don’t believe that is what Janet was intending, but that is the message I took away from that encounter. I felt like it would have made sense to her that I would be a dancer because I didn’t have an education, but since I had a BA, she was surprised that I chose to dance.

Fast forward to tonight. Here is a snippet from the article I was reading on Big Think about Status Anxiety:

One of the main social/psychological ills Alain de Botton, author of Religion for Atheists and The Consolations of Philosophy is seeking to remedy is what he calls “status anxiety.” In capitalist cultures, he says, [...] the first thing we ask someone is “what do you do [for a living].” It’s like that sniffing ritual when two dogs meet: “Sniff. Sniff. Aha. Gotcha.”

Typically, says de Botton, depending on the response to the job question, our interest in the other person rises or drops sharply off. This, he points out, is terribly sad, misleading, and productive of all kinds of harmful social division and personal suffering. Why should we be tribalized or ostracized on the basis of one (admittedly time-consuming) aspect of our lives, our deeper (and, de Botton argues, more important) human traits invisible until/unless we’ve passed the sniff test?

Ok, so now that you have some context, watch the video.

“Job snobbery – what is on your business card determines your identity.” Well, shit. This finally helps me put words to the feelings/fears I’ve had surrounding this issue.n But how do I fix this?

Why do I care what non-artist think about me? Do I see myself being a “professional lindy hopper” when I’m 38? If so, what will that look like? If not, what do I want to do instead? Will I have a family? If so, what I am doing to work towards having a life that supports having a “traditional family?” Do I want to have a “traditional family?” And so on….

Clearly this is an internal struggle I have to deal with. At some core level, I question the prestige connected to being a dance teacher. I further wonder at what age do I think that degree of prestige – assuming I think there some – levels off or bottoms out? Do I really feel that way, or is what society has told me? If I am happy with my life, who gives a shit what “society” told me? What makes you happy (or is this the wrong question to be asking)?

How about you – have you experienced this? When you tell someone about what you do for a job, do you feel like you’ve been judged? Do you care? If you used to care but now don’t, what changed?

Ahhhh, yes, the game of question. :D I’m pretty sure I’ve had these questions for sometime now, but I’m finally brave enough to think about them and try to address them.

*Names have been created for sake of the story.


15 Comments »

  1. Hounddog says:

    I find this problem, not when I ask someone what I do for a living, but when I travel, and people ask where I’m from. (Dayton, OH). Dayton has a rap as being a pretty ruddy city–it’s not, (It’s like Pittsburgh circa the 80s, early 90s, when it was still making its comeback) but it’s not nearly as glamorous as someplace like Chicago, Seattle, San Fran, etc.

    Like you, people ask me all the time why I chose to stay in Dayton. And like you, with your neighborhood of Ivy League students, I know a large amount of people who graduated and moved to Chicago. I only stayed because the economy was tanking, and I found an extremely well paying job that I wasn’t going to pass up.

    For a while, I was sad that I wasn’t going to move to California (my original college goal). But one day, I realized I was focusing on the woulda-coulda-shouldas and not paying attention to my life right now. I have a well paying job, and a large rental property that I pay pennies for. I am dating a beautiful woman. The swing scene is a tad small for me, but it means I get to contribute without getting lost in the crowd. Would I really give this all up for California, or Chicago, or New York? I don’t think so.

    So what if people think I’m from the middle of no where, and that I’m going to get mugged outside my front gate (once again, not the case, but it’s the Dayton reputation…). I know that my life is the life I want to be living, and it doesn’t matter what others think of me.

    And if I become unhappy with some aspect of my life? Then I’ll change it. But for now, I’m happy, and I’m not going to let other people’s opinions affect that. Screw society. I’m going dancing.

  2. Sara says:

    I also find it very hard not to compare myself with people that I have shared any of my life stages with, i.e. current or old workmates, friends from school, the people I went to uni with, or even other parts of my family.

    I see myself as ahead of or behind them, or comparing what I consider to be my place in society to what I think their place is, or where I was when I was their age, or whether I think I’ve got to where they got to when they were my age.

    It’s stupid and destructive but I think it’s hard not to be competitive and trying to get ahead. Dog-eat-dog etc.

    What I have done is experienced several different jobs in several different places and explored some avenues beyond what I might have done had I been that career-woman I might have been. I’ve had some less fun times but they’ve TOTALLY helped me appreciate the happy happy fun times :)

    It helps to remember that there is a balance, career-people sacrifice a lot of life for their career, life-livers sacrifice the money and big houses.

    The Levellers helped me out with this one with “One Way”:

    “Then all my friends on the starting line their wages off to chase
    Yes and all my friends and all their jobs and all the bloody waste
    There’s only one way of life
    And that’s your own, your own, your own
    There’s only one way of life
    And that’s your own, that’s your own, that’s your own”

  3. Lindyspice says:

    Just wanted to say that I sympathize, and that I suspect that feeling is a hardwired part of American culture. My most recent career move from biotech to the arts often leaves me with this kind of anxiety; I enjoy the work and creative freedom, but it doesn’t pay as well and feels less respected socially. As a result, I frequently feel out of place within my same group of (science and tech employed) friends these days. The most effective way I’ve found to quell status anxiety is to think about everything I’ve accomplished so far and how much I enjoy what I’ve currently got- basically, to live in the moment. Reminds me of a quote attributed to Roosevelt, that comparison is the thief of joy… Anyway, if you ever feel like talking about it, chat me up at WNH sometime. :)
    -Margot

  4. Cari says:

    I’m in a bit of a different fix, but I feel very similar. I recently graduated from Emory University — well, a year and a half now. I have since been struggling to find a stable job — let alone one I feel proud to announce. I feel judged when I say “I work in retail” or “I’m a temp,” and I find myself fudging a little. The most recent one is “I work in a Library.” But that’s just as a temp, and my job runs out at the end of October, but I’m not going to share that with everyone.

    On the other hand, my father always said that he was most proud of the fact that he always did something he loved, rather than working a job just to work a job. He currently coaches a national-level women’s volleyball team — and though he’s overworked, he loves his job. And before that, he was a whitewater raft guide. He has a Bachelor’s from FSU, and he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, but he chooses to do what he loves regardless of what others think. I really respect him, and I hope I can one day have the same confidence and contentment that he has now.

  5. Breanna says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this with us, Jo. It’s an intimate subject, and (as evidenced by the comments here), many, many people face this kind of self-comparing/self-questioning dilemma in their lives. I, like so many other people, am on one end of the issue, too. Ultimately, we can all only make decisions and live with them, right?

    You, by the way, are more than “just a lindy hopper”. I’m excited to see what other amazing things you decide to do with your life!

  6. Hannah says:

    This hit home really hard. I’ve been fighting a very similar set of insecurities, doubts, and questions. I made the decision to go back to school this year after five years in the professional ballet world, but I still haven’t found the kind of self-pride that I’m looking for. I think that a lot of people who find themselves called to the arts unexpectedly wrangle with these issues, and it’s inspiring to hear someone tackling them so honestly and eloquently.

  7. Jim says:

    Hey Jo,

    So, there’s a few facets to this thought-provoking, courageous thing you wrote. Two jump out at me:
    1. of course, the status anxiety piece, and
    2. the “what comes next” conundrum.

    I’m sure you’re not writing about the status anxiety thing in order to seek validation, but fuck it, I’m gonna throw my support at you anyway. First, my appreciation for what you’re doing to support the arts. What you do is incredibly valuable to the world, likely in ways that you yourself will never fully grasp. In an age when state and local governments (at least in our country) are gutting pretty much every art and music program across the land, you stand among a proud pantheon of artists who are bringing the love of their craft to the masses, quite literally worldwide. In case anyone hasn’t told you lately…you, and what you do, are fucking IMPORTANT. The myriad people who may not fully grasp that fact can go suck an egg, as far as I’m concerned.

    I don’t know how different you were, those few years ago on that plane with Janet* and Mark*, but I’m gonna venture a guess that you were quite similar to the person you are today: smart, funny, quick-witted, with more than a little of that east-coast directness. Those first 30 seconds, at least in my experience, are where you shine. It seems like Janet* caught onto that, and that’s exactly why she was surprised: you, in your infinite YOUness, took her pre-conceived notions and turned them on their ear. Sure, your interpretation of the exchange is valid…it made you feel a certain way, and that stuck with you. But I, here, now, upon hearing the story, see it differently: you changed that woman’s mind, Jo. Do you see it? Because I sure as hell do.

    The other part, the “what comes next”, is, I think, the harder issue to address. And of course I can’t be much help (and again, I don’t think you were asking for help). I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to travel as much as you do; to be praised and accepted as widely as you are; to be so deep into something you love. But I do know that all of it — the travel, the hard work, the accolades, the peripatetic lifestyle — is such a crazy/awesome thing, it’ll always stick with you for the rest of your life. You may decide to settle down, have kids, put down roots, and you’ll always be thankful for the decision to chase that dream. It’s hard to know how, and what, and when to do it…but that’s why you’re thinking about this shit. You’ll find it. And you’ll kick ass at that too. I don’t even know you well, but I know that that’s true.

    –Jim

  8. Angelica says:

    Hey Jo, been reading your blog for a while and you were one of my main influences when I started dancing just 3 years ago, I normally like to lay low in regards to commenting on blogs, but I do want to put my input on this topic since it hits right to home. I went to school and got my degree for Fashion Design, granted it’s not a B.A. or Masters, but it’s no joke that the work I do is tough, the hours are long, and everyone else involved is affected the same way. I jumped into college just two weeks after finishing high school with no break and got my full time career just six months after graduating college.

    I did this all because I had the pressure or should I say idea that I had to do all of these steps along with the typical future that society has placed in our minds that eventually I would get promoted steadily by working ridiculous hours and putting up with catty women all day and brown-nosing the bosses, try to finish up getting a bachelors, get a house, get married, have kids, and essential work a 9-5 job for the rest of my life until I retire when I’m 60 (probably 70 or later due to the crapy economy).

    I love to Lindy Hop, but my other passion is long-distance hiking which can also translate to indie traveling. This all started coincidentally by my former boyfriend/dance partner who I had met just recently after he had finished a long distance hike that lasted 5 1/2 months through the western states. I had heard about this whole different culture of people, not just granola eaters, hipsters, or nature freaks, but people that understand that society’s idea of life is not how we should live. Instead of going about our box lives, we’re not afraid to take off to live in the woods for half a year, drop our responsibilities, and only walk. Some of us quit our jobs, start anew or return back to our jobs, but bottom line we are “doing it all wrong”.

    I had huge differences in people’s reactions when I told them I was quitting my promising job to go walk for months. Some thought it was amazing and stated their jealousy to do something similar, but I also got the reaction, particularly from my parents that I was throwing my life away. Once I left to go and hike, people’s perception changed because they saw that I had a different outlook on life, I saw so many things that people normally don’t see because they don’t go in the backcountry, I discovered there is hope for strangers in my fellow hikers that I befriended or the people who let me into their home to shower, or those that picked me up when I needed a resupply in town.

    I know I’ve wrote a lot about my life, but the bottom line is that you are struggling with your status anxiety. I had the same problem when I was working full time and while I came back home and didn’t have my real career back. If anything it was slightly worse since people would bring up my promising career and instead I had just experienced a crazy adventure in the mountains of California including summiting Mt. Whitney and all I could say was that I was working two retail jobs, a server job, and a personal assistant.

    Since then I got my job back, but when people ask me what I do, I tell them I have a full-time job, but I spend most of my time going on my own adventures. And if they ask me what I’m going to do about retirement, house, kids, car, etc, I let them know that I don’t have a need or desire for those things in my near future and if I do end up needed them, I’ll take care of it when the time comes, but in the meantime, I’m going to see the world and cross things off my bucket list without the restriction of old age or the annual two week vacation. Not to mention, I want to break away from the clothing industry and work with the Peace Corps, ESL Teaching, and Conservation Corps. Yes, I know I sound like a hippie, but let’s not go there. :)

    I’m not saying to drop what you do and do what I have done, but you really shouldn’t have this anxiety. I think what you do is terrific. It may not be an accountant, but bottom line, you’re enjoying life. That DOES NOT need to stop when you get older, you do it as long as you want to. Dancing is where you are meant to be, and it’s definitely prestigious, especially to those you have taught, entertained, and collaborated with. When you decide if you want to be married and have kids, you’ll get to that point. I think we will always have the internal struggle on what to do with our lives or what course we should take, but it’s good to hear other people with the same problem. All we have to do is embrace it in any way we can.

  9. Baltimore says:

    If it wasn’t for money, no one would work a day job. We’d all be living our passions. Instead, we’re stuck in a 9 to 5, pushing paper or keyboards, trying to make ends meet. Or, in Janet’s case, sitting in a chair listening to other people’s problems all day. If it wasn’t for money, no one would do that. Those of us who made this choice sit at work are actually thinking about what it would be like to have more time for dancing while listening to 40′s hits on the iPod and stealing a few minutes of break time to watch Lindy videos on YouTube. While you’re contemplating becoming one of us, we think you’re lucky to be you. You’ve taken a great risk to fulfill your passion, and in turn, you’ve entertained millions. This has inspired others to want to be like you. In fact, you’re in such demand, that people all over the world hire you just to have you for a couple of hours, hoping that you will show them what it takes to make them better. Next time talk to another Janet, don’t tell her your a dancer, tell her you’re an entertainer, a historian, an inspiration and people seek you out to learn what you know so they can share this passion with others as well. And, if some day, your passion changes lanes, go with it. When you’re retired, we’ll call you back to the circuit, we promise. -Baltimore

  10. Monica Andrade says:

    Hey Jo,
    After reading your blog I did some thinking about some of the issues with which you are dealing and thought about my own personal experiences concerned with the status anxiety question: “How about you – have you experienced this? When you tell someone about what you do for a job, do you feel like you’ve been judged? Do you care? If you used to care but now don’t, what changed?”
    I am older than you, but not necessarily wiser, and have already dealt with life-changing events which influenced the direction of my professional career. To sum it up, I was a former pre-med student who, due to less than satisfactory grades, went on to grad school to bring up her grades and then pursue, what I thought at the time was, my life-long dream of becoming a doctor (M.D. to be more specific since Ph. D’s are also referred to as doctors in the academic circles)
    Unlike you, I did not come from a well off neighborhood and had to work hard since high school to help me along the way. Unfortunately, life happened and I had to put grad school on hold before finishing it. I worked full time in retail for several years and, even then, had many people wondering what I was doing there since I had a BA in Biology. I liked working in a store and only thought of it as a temporary job which was paying my current bills. I became contented working there even though it did not pay much. I did this for a few years until the harsh reality of my student loans brought me back to reality.
    I finally finished grad school part-time and got my degree. By this time, medical school was out of the question so I went into biomedical research instead now that I had a M.S. degree. Once I got my first job in an academic environment, I got to see how the other half lives, i.e. M.D.’s and Ph. D.’s. I got an up close look at what is really like being a doctor and, honestly, was not sorry I did not follow that path. After speaking to my colleagues who had those degrees, I realized being a doctor was not as glamorous and lucrative as it’s made out to be. I’m happy being a research technician, even though is not considered as prestigious as being an M.D. or Ph. D. in the scientific community, because it keeps me close to science, which I love, and it pays my bills.
    I think we will always be judged by others when we tell them what we do for a living. No matter how much we have accomplished, it would never be enough for some people. Job snobbery is not going away. It is unfortunate that people make assumptions about you based solely on what you do, without giving you the benefit of the doubt.
    I read the comments to your post and I agree with Jim 0. You are NOT just a dance teacher. You are a very talented, funny, thoughtful, smart artist and a beautiful person. I gathered this much about you without really knowing you well. You are an inspiration to students of all ages because you love what you do and it shows in your craft. You bring joy to people around you and get to travel around the world to spread your magic.
    Regarding what the future may bring, that it’s a hard thing to predict. You are young, I’m guessing around 28, and you can accomplish anything you want because you are a smart woman. Only time can tell which route you will take, but I’m sure it will be a smart choice, and I’m pretty sure you will shine as well.
    Buena suerte!
    Monica

  11. Virginia says:

    Uh, Jo, you are bringing something unique to the world. Many people who drive nice cars, earn a nice paycheck and think of themselves as very important and successful are, in actuality, filling a slot. The slot may say “stockbroker” or “psychiatrist” or “lawyer”, but those who fill it don’t have much say in how the slot is built.

    I understand your “success” anxiety and feel it often, for different reasons (I left a pretty successful slot to stay at home for ten years with a special needs child). But not too many people can reflect that their work and contribution is uniquely their own and that they are making that contribution in a way that no one else on earth can do.

    What that says about your future I don’t know. But, as a new dancer and Jo Hoffberg fan girl, I want to say that I have tremendous respect for the career you’ve built for yourself.

  12. Kadie Pangburn says:

    Thanks so much for posting this Jo!

    I’m in the same place as you and totally get it. My husband works in logistics and we are constantly surrounded by people with PHD’s. When we go to a party and people ask what I do and I tell them “I’m an artist” they just look at me like I have three heads, or like they are sorry for me, or like something I said just doesn’t compute in their brain. It’s really hard to not feel like a lesser person.

    But then a friend helped me realize that just because what I am contributing to this world is different doesn’t make it any less worthy or valid. I know just as much about my craft and I have done just as much studying in my area as they have done in theirs. While mine may not make rocket ships take off it does still contribute to my society in a big way.

    For instance lets take dance and psychology since we’re on that topic. If I went to school to be a psychologist, yes I’d have a degree and be helping people. But on the same hand how many people do you get to help as a dance instructor on a daily basis? Studies are coming out all the time about the benefits of movement and exercise and creativity in people’s lives and you are giving them that, so it what way is how you are helping people any less valid and worthy?

    Its just so hard with the way our society tells us that certain jobs are better than others, when really we all work just as hard and contribute just as much in different unique ways.

    Still trying to actually get my heart to agree with my head on this whole issue… but I’m working on it…

    That’s just my two cents. :)

    Thank you again so much for sharing!

  13. ZMalone says:

    To put things simply, the perception of status is like the perception of beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder(Even if we tend to tag social norms to them). On the most basic level if you are not comfortable in the status you have for yourself, then you should actively seek to improve it.

    However the complexity of what can be done to make that happen is quite mind boggling. It would be advisable to ponder a few things in moving forward with your life and goals.
    1) As you mentioned and many will attest to, your notoriety in the Lindy Hop world is very high, and that carries a lot of admiration and idolizing from a large number people that love and enjoy the dance and what you bring to it. This can be a boon and a curse, I am sure.
    2) Growth can be found in many different ways, you can start a whole new track of professionalism, branch into different dances, try to develop new trends in this dance, and so on.
    3) When are you most happy? (Trying to ask what makes you happy is a chasm that you can easily get lost in, but searching against the feelings that make you most happy is much easier for quantify)
    4) What standards do you hold for yourself, and what is the intended merit of meeting these standards? Does the merit substantiate the arduousness of the standard? Can you adjust them up or down to better yourself?

    Also it is natural to move forward in your life, and finding a new pursuit can be quite fulfilling, whether it completely uproots your past activities or just takes them out of the direct focus that you apply. This reminds me of an online comic in dealing with this same type of thing.
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2722

    While I have not met you beyond the role of being a student at some of the workshops you have taught at, I would wish that you find happiness in whatever activities you pursue. Even if it means the Lindy world would lose such a wonderful person, if you come to despise what your life has become, then much more loss can come to all those that might be touched by the spite.

    All this being said, every time I have watched your performances, or been a student I am highly impressed with the level of knowledge, enthusiasm, and joy the radiates out from you, and appreciate all the time and effort you have given to expand the joy of this dance to some many other people.

  14. R H says:

    *GUSH ALERT*
    A couple years ago I took a workshop class from you and got a teeny dance crush because in addition to dancing confidently and expressively, you taught clearly with clever and sarcastic comments.
    Now I am delighted to find your blog, which has captured my past two hours and reminded me about de Botton (if you haven’t read Status Anxiety in its entirety, it’s worth it).
    If you stop teaching dancing, I hope you find an avenue where your sharp wit is appreciated and where people can benefit from your insight.

  15. Jamie says:

    Hi Jo. Some context – I live in Australia, which I believe is a relatively low status-consciousness country.

    Sometimes things are what one makes of them.

    I studied at an aerials workshop taught by you and Kevin in Sydney last year, and it was an inspiring and empowering experience.

    You’re not just a lindy hopper. You’re not just a dancer. You’re someone who uses the medium of dance and dance instruction to change people’s lives.

    You ask :
    “When you tell someone about what you do for a job, do you feel like you’ve been judged? Do you care? If you used to care but now don’t, what changed?”

    I have a degree with majors in physics and computer science. Sometimes when I meet people they ask what I do for a living, and I usually reply “I design large scale computer systems, which is way more interesting than it sounds.”

    Despite having somewhat rigorous degrees, and working in a well paying field, I don’t feel that any particular status attaches to me or what I do. From the outside looking in, it’s just a job. For me personally, it’s a really interesting field, and I’m still learning after 30 years working in it.

    So, no status. Or, perhaps it’s that the people I hang around with don’t particularly care about job-related status? I don’t care, and the people I want to be with don’t care either.

    Here’s a little story.

    Outside work, I used to teach a martial arts course. I helped teach one of my wonderful wonderful students through to black belt level (hi Catherine!). One day when we were practicing a sword exercise, I could see that Catherine was starting to lose focus. As she attacked I slipped inside her guard and stopped with my sword an inch from her head.

    She looked at me. She said “You killed me, didn’t you?”. I nodded. She said “Because I lost concentration?” I nodded. She said “You’ve always taught me that when we’re doing sword work I have to be totally focussed.”

    I replied “That’s why we only do it for short periods. You have to stay focussed, or you die. When doing sword work, nothing else matters. Not pain or sweat or hunger or tiredness or lost loves. Only the sword matters. We train with that intensity with the sword, so that you know how you’re capable of focussing and can use that knowledge in your normal life. Many people never understand that lesson.”

    A week later Catherine said to me “I want to thank you so much for last week’s lesson. I’ve spent the past week trying to explain to people what a profound realisation about life you showed me when you killed me, but no-one understands.”

    And that’s what I value, not all the time I’ve spent working designing computer systems, but that memory of changing someone’s life.

    Don’t compare yourself with bankers. Not one of them can do what you’ve done.

    Imagine yourself lying in a chair on a cruise liner taking a holiday when you eventually retire. The guy next to you asks “What did you used to work as, madam?”

    You reply to him “I spent my life travelling the world, teaching and inspiring people and changing their lives by helping them master their fears and build their confidence and creativity through dance. I had hundreds of students tell me that their lives would have been less full without my help. I worked with some amazingly creative and inspiring teaching partners. I collaborated with the best dancers in the world to expand the boundaries of the field. I performed for thousands of students and showed them what was possible, so they could set their goals for personal development high. It was amazing.”

    He looks at you self importantly. “I,” he says “was a banker.”

    You knock back your martini. “Well, I guess someone had to do that”.

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