Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Doing What You Love Isn't Always Warm and Fuzzy

The common romantic belief about following one's bliss is that the life you lead will be full and filled with goodness. I embarked on my journey three years ago and its been quite a ride.To start, I planned on a few months of just doing nothing in particular. (By the way, doing nothing in particular is a LOT of fun and I highly recommend it.) Certain unforeseen events got me side-tracked for two years after that. I then had some re-adjusting to do and now finally, I'm back on the follow-my-bliss path: more or less.

You know what they say about the best laid plans going astray? Well, it turns out, even plans that are barely laid out do the same.

I've been leaning and growing and reviewing my accomplishments to date. I realized that none of what I achieved was what I had originally planned on. When I found Kizomba, I was already deep into dance and I wanted to use dance as a way to get people more connected with themselves and each other. Kizomba fits in really nicely with that. I also wanted to pursue teaching and coaching as part of my bliss. I had these ideas of building a Creative Lab Space for adults: much like what children have after school - filled with arts and so many other activities that are fun, engaging and something that one might not typically do as an adult because things like careers, school, family and life in general just gets in the way.

A midst the unforeseen circumstances, one such by-product is that I've been instrumental in building a small and still thriving dance scene simply because I wanted more people to dance with. I already invest a lot of time in dancing so I set out to find out more about the dance myself so I could teach others. Instead of travelling the world to learn, I brought some really wonderful instructors here to Seattle instead. So while I haven't really gotten that close to what  I thought I was going to do, I'm still happy with where things are. My experiences have been very rich: both good and bad.

These past few months however, I suffered from a crisis of faith in the pursuit of my bliss. My thoughts aren't all that cohesive yet but at least I'm motivated to write about it. I thought it would be good to share some of my insights into this thing people call "following your bliss".

 1) A Brave New World
Since I started to call myself "fun-employed" I've discovered that there are parts of me that are still learning about what I truly want from life. Its been interesting to separate the things that I thought I wanted from the things I truly want. There's not always a one to one ratio for that either. When I discover that something I thought I wanted or needed was really not mine - mostly like something I learned from my parents or the culture I grew up in - its not like there is a corresponding "OK, this is what I do want" that pops up immediately. Most of the time, I have to figure that out. So all that figuring out can be tiring and taxing and disappointing.

Doing something fun is not necessarily the same thing as doing something you are passionate about. I find a LOT of things fun and sifting through those fun things to figure out what really drives me isn't  easy.

 About 20 years ago, I worked with a career coach to find that thing that I could be passionate about and focus on since I found myself unhappy with the job that I was in. He concluded that I have a rare challenge. He said that because I am good at many things, I don't have one thing that drives me. As a consequence, traditional jobs will not satisfy me and to be truly happy, I will eventually have to craft my own job. Its an exciting prospect, but there isn't really anyone to follow or a template that I can use to give me guidance on where to start or even a measurement of whether I've achieved success or not. That's the price of making something up. The good thing is also the bad thing: there's no one to say what's right or wrong except for myself.

 2) Doing What You Love Might Become Overbearing
I am engaged in teaching and learning dance because dance has helped me in so many ways and I believe it can help others just as much. I get feedback that I am helping others all the time. But, recently, I've also realized that, in the sea of people that I know, I sometimes feel all alone.

I made it a practice to be actively grateful and this has been invaluable for me (I highly recommend it). There are times though, when the challenges I face and the people around me are simply too much to deal with. At their worst, I want to just hide in a shell or wish everything bad to go away or dream that someone will just make all those worries go away.

I do know that that someone is me (with some support from friends and family).

This is not the same thing as getting sick and tired of something and that doing what I do for fun as a job has made it less fun. I still love what I do. Its just when its consumes me both good and bad, its quite a lot to deal with. Which brings me to my next point: Support System and Balance

3) Support System and Balance
Somehow, my mind concluded that if I were pursuing my bliss, there would be no need to pay attention to balance because I would be blissful right? Well, not entirely.

The execution and day to day workings of all of the above take its toll and I do have to think about balance and support. I am blessed to have family and friends that I can count on. They love me and accept me for exactly what I am and they don't pull punches. They know when to just be there and they know how to push me forward if I need it.

 I'm also blessed to have encountered people that have given me inspiration, new ideas and encouragement in the most unexpected ways. I think of it as validation from the universe that I'm doing well.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that even though I'm doing what most people might only dream of trying, it still takes energy and it still requires a support system and balance. Definitely. Don't go at it alone and always find ways to recharge and stay excited about what you do.

4) And the Money Just Follows
No, not really.

 There's work to be done unless you're a trust fund baby, unexpectedly win the lottery, find a sugar-person that just wants to fund you as you live your life... you get my drift. I'm still working on defining my product and what I have to offer. Then, there's finding the audience that will compensate me for it and building the message to attract them and keep them with me.

While these things are common sense, they take time: trial and error, a little bit of luck and good timing.

5) Get To Know You
In the end, it boils down to me. Whether I'm doing that traditional career path that I learned from my upbringing or following my bliss, the buck stops here, with me.

When setting on the path to finding your bliss, it helps to have some awareness of you who are. Its not just about knowing what's fun and what makes you happy. Its also knowing what you value, what you stand for, what you can live with, what makes you feel joy and what you just don't want in your  life.

I had a pretty good idea of all these things when I started but the experiences I've had over the last three years have definitely tested the conviction behind my beliefs and actions. There are things that I have done to the best of my abilities that did not have a pretty ending. Imagine a scenario that tests your values and you don't even know what they are. Its takes time to figure out what you value and then time to put it through the wringer. Doing both at the same time can be exhausting.

So before you embark on your path to bliss, just make sure you do some homework about yourself.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Looking Forward to Meeting You

I'm miss you and I'm not sure if I've met you yet. I know you're out there because I feel you around me all the time.

Sometimes I wake up and it feels like you were just there with me.

I get the sense that you're near when I am with my friends. The people with whom I can just be myself. The ones that still care for me whether I'm happy or sad; scared or brave; angry or crazy; at my worst or at my best. 

I think about how much fun we'll have with my sister and her family: playing with my niece and nephew, eating, making jokes about poop, drawing ninjas, watching movies, trying the zipline, doing all sorts of things with them for the first time. I can't wait for you to meet my family.

I laugh with you when I laugh with my friends: at the silly jokes, or the funny stories or even when a laugh is needed to lighten the mood. I love your sarcastic wit and how we both appreciate irony when we see it. I love that you sometimes make me go "hmmmm" without making me feel less than myself. 

I connect to you when I dance: when I move in unison with someone, to the music, free to express myself within the framework of what is led. Even though we might not hear the same things in the music, I listen to your voice and you hear mine and we work through things together so seamlessly. its as if we already know the music even though we've only heard it for the first time.

I hear your support for what I do through the stories that are shared by the people I've touched. I feel you there, cheering for me when I'm tired and letting me vent when I'm too tired to filter out the noise. I hear your voice echoed in voices of my friends and family when they encourage me to continue, acknowledge my strengths, recognize my worth, ask me for help and take what is offered and hug me all the time.

I imagine you somewhere nearby, in the quiet moments that pop up where I can enjoy the beauty of what's around me from the sun setting over the bay, to the fog that shrouds the streets or to the some remote beach somewhere I haven't been yet.

I look forward to all the new things we'll discover together or the things you'll show me and I can share with you. I look forward to geeking out with you over the things you care about, the things I get all silly crazy excited about and even better, the things we both find so cool.

I know you'll be there for me no matter what. You know you can rely on me to be there for you. We'll be each other's support while still challenging each other to do something different and refreshing. You listen when I just vent and every now and again you'll vent along with me just to show your support. When I need a slap upside the head, you'll bring me back to center.

I feel like I'm with you when I'm with the different people I already know. I see you in that charming, hunky guy that I have a crush on, the artsy guy I admire, the leads I love dancing with and the friends who are always there for me. You love and appreciate me just as I am. I know you're out there somewhere and I can't wait to be with you. I can't wait to be home. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Sometimes, people just want to make me scream!

And then something happens to restore my faith.

Don't you love how that works out?

I do!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Some Thoughts About A Growing Community

I've been lucky enough to be blessed to be a part of Seattle's growing kizomba community from the beginning. I started out as student of the dance and as I continue to learn and grow, I have also become teacher, event promoter and friend to many of the people I have met and introduced this dance to.

I remember when my only opportunity to dance kizomba was once a week (if that) and with less than ten people at the most. Back then our little group was special because we were learning and growing together and figuring out this dance that we knew people would also enjoy, waiting for the chance to share it with everyone else.

A year later I started to explore learning from other teachers and had the pleasure to meet Eddy Vents and Petchu.  Within that year, I was given the chance to start teaching a weekly series at the Century Ballroom and through a combination of luck and a lot of love, Century Ballroom decided to also host a monthly dance every first Friday of the month. I was worried about a DJ and then some people stepped up to bat. This dance started out with barely ten loyal couples and now after after two years, there is an average attendance of 65 people with over 100 at its best. I've seen the community grow and have had the privilege to meet many dancers just as enthusiastic about dancing as I am. My dream of having more people to dance with has come true.

We've come a long way: we now have an event every week and even multiple events on the same day. How cool is that?

Why then are some people complaining or worried? There have been a few people concerned that too many events, especially on the same day, will dilute and split the community.

My short answer is that it might but I don't think so. Events where people have fun will continue to do well and events that are not fun will eventually stop. I've been a part of other communities that grow and change and evolve over time and none of them have gone away, all of them still thrive today tho I am no longer as involved in some of them.

Communities continue to grow as more people join and become involved in continuing what they love about the community. As we grow smaller groups form within and sometimes, there are shifts and changes but overall, in order for a community to thrive, it has to have growth and it has to have members that are willing to give back and support the community.

I don't think kizomba is a temporary phenomenon here in Seattle. I don't know if we will ever become as big a community as say London: London is one of the top ten largest cities in the world after all. I do know that this dance brings people together in a way that I haven't seen because of the intimacy and sense of caring that you feel when you're dancing in someone's embrace.

I started to share this dance for selfish reasons: I wanted more people to dance with and I wanted to bring the instructors and experts here to Seattle to learn from them. In the course of doing so, I discovered much joy in sharing dance and decided to develop and forge a path for myself that is intricately tied to dancing and sharing that joy in dance with as many people as I can.

I believe in the power of free will and choice. We are all free to choose what we do and where we go and how we want to spend our spare time to enjoy something we love to do.

When I host events, I do so with the thought of bringing together as many people as possible to have a great time. For me, that means having everyone at the same party and here in Seattle, that's very possible because we are not so big that we wouldn't all fit in one place to dance the night away. I do my best to accommodate the community we have. The larger our community grows, the more diverse the requirements are for having a party everyone can go to so its not that simple any more.

I can only hope that others who put together events and bring people together around kizomba, take a little care and attention to find out what else is going on in order to ensure that people know what opportunities they have AND that we can all be at the same party together.

If there are multiple events on the same day, then a choice has to made and that is a good problem to have every now and again.

Spontaneity is a great thing and its possible in a small community such as we have today. I think its awesome that someone can post on the wall and say "Let's go dance somewhere." and there are enough people to respond to make it happen. On the other hand, spontaneity can lead to creating factions within us: those that are "in the know" versus not. To be invited to a spontaneous event, one has to know or be connected to or be friends with the spontaneous people.

All together these situations: multiple events on the same day and spontaneous events that occur on off the cuff; are things that happen as a result of growing communities. What matters more is what the members of the community choose to value and how they operate within the community.

I'm told that whether I like it or not, I'm seen as a leader in the community. My actions can be interpreted in ways I don't intend. Its an interesting position to say the least. I'm not you're typical "life of the party". I love what I do, I love the people I meet and I care that the events that I produce, the classes that I teach and the people I work with, and interact with get the best possible experience they can.

So if I have any clout at all to pull, then here are some things I'd like to share for everyone to consider.

Ask yourself why you love this dance and let that guide you in your actions and words. If idealogy about economics or cultural pride drives you, then perhaps dancing is not the forum for you to express that. Dance is for everyone and we all come to it and need it for many reasons: to think that can be controlled is a bit unrealistic. Making a living through dance and dancing as a hobby are equally important. When the dance is presented, one hopes that people are open to learning about its origins and history but that is not a requirement. I love this dance because it brings me a sense of intimacy that I think is missing in many or our every day interactions. I love this dance because it has taught me so much about myself and other people. I love what I do because I get to enrich other people's lives and help them discover themselves through their love of the dance. I value what I have to offer and appreciate that there are others who support me and find value in what I do.

We are still growing and there is enough for everyone to reap benefits from. If we grow the larger pie together then our slices will grow accordingly. Slicing up a small pie results in small pieces. When we grow kizomba so big that having five events on the same day doesn't matter, then we all win.

Never take one person's word about something, even if it is someone you trust. There are always multiple sides to any story and I can tell you from experience, even coming from the parties directly involved, the stories can come out like they weren't even about the same incident. Everyone deserves a second chance and I for one would appreciate them since I too make mistakes. Your experience first hand is the most important experience so taking someone's word about something takes that away from you.

Consider giving back in some way to something that has given you joy. Part of the joy in experiencing something is in giving back what you receive: just like paying it forward. Thanks to those of you that do, it makes for a better and kinder place and its one of the reasons why our Seattle Kizomba community is warm and welcoming.

Operating from fear, bolstering your own ego and self preservation is not the most pleasant way to live your life. I practice everyday to spend more energy in appreciating what I have and not falling into the "why not me?" sink hole. I don't have the perfect relationships with everyone but I do treasure the ones that I have that sustain me. I do my best to celebrate the successes of others, including my own. I believe one should acknowledge what is already here in front of you even as you make your mark. The world goes on with or without us and even though some people take actions that I would not, they still have their free will and there is nothing I can do to control it. What I can do is be true to who I am, find a good friend or two who can let me vent when I need to and treat everyone else with respect. I try my best to operate from a place of generosity and joy which is not always easy when I feel like being snarky or when I feel like I've been disregarded or undervalued. I think, if we choose what we love over what we fear, then we get what we love.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tales from My Travel Adventures: Impressions of Japan

I'm writing this in reverse order a bit. I've recently been to Mexico City and then Japan with no real time to write and reflect in between so in the wee morning hour of my slightly modified schedule, I decided to a least write about my most recent visit to Japan.

I finally made it to Japan! This is a country I've dreamed about visiting since I first read manga. I've wanted to see this place that I've imagined after reading about geisha, ninja, samurai and all the countless manga that captured my imagination.

After arriving at Haneda airport close to midnight, we took the train to Shibuya where we were met by our airbnb host. Stepping out of the Shibuya train station, I was immediately reminded of BladeRunner (starring Harrison Ford) with towering buildings peppered with neon signs and larger than life video displays of Japanese advertising. When we arrived at Shibuya, it was almost midnight and it was still busy and a bit overwhelming. I thought I had been to big city before but this sprawling train station (one of the biggest in Japan) was nothing compared to what I had been to before.

Here's the thing that was a wonder for me. Here I was: in a foreign place, late at night, not quite being able to navigate my way around and : it still felt safe. Such a stark contrast to my first time arriving in New York City when I took the Amtrak Train.

Everything in Japan has some sort of cuteness, even the adult sections that I saw still had this level of cute that is just pervasive here. I totally get it!

Japan (at least from what I've seen) is an interesting juxtaposition of newness and tradition. Shibuya is a modern metropolis: the city itself seems alive with all its lights and sounds. Yet the people here that go to work or school wear what look like uniforms. Then there are a few that I can only describe as Japan punk: colored hair, stylized ward robe and outrageous shoes. There is food and shopping everywhere and its open very late (my kind of place).

From there I went to Kyoto: land of temples and shrines and geisha. The city is huge an the station even more enormous! You could spend a full day just exploring and shopping in the station.  There is part of Kyoto that is modern and then the part of Kyoto that I imagined from tales of samurai, ninja and geisha. The shrines are beautiful monuments of architecture, simplicity and majesty surrounded by the peace of nature, tho at the time we were there, often interrupted by the raucous tourists and school children that came to visit as well. It was jarring at times - being in such a quiet reflective place and then having all the people and noise.

I took a short visit to an onsen to get a taste for the hot baths out somewhere scenic. It was such a beautiful day to go and even tho I only spent a few hours, it was well worth the visit. Kurama is a small town, still very much a rural Japanese town located alongside mountains with breathtaking views. It was magical.

The train system is crazy! Its like the lifeline for the bustling metropolis. Seas of people navigating through it every day all the time. Stations that have 35 or more exits. It gets you everywhere.

The food is just amazing. I didn't even try everything that I wanted to.

One of my best days was spent in Ueno Park when it was nice and quiet. We were in search of cherry blossoms and only found a few trees but it was so much fun to walk through the place, eat soft ice cream, watch my niece and nephew play with their newly bought Totoro plush toys and explore the nearby market. That evening I made some new friends when I connected with someone through a mutual friend. I was able to teach kizomba and even though it was a small class, we had so much fun and I got to meet several people who share the same mind set as I do about dance and how it can break boundaries and cross music genres.

These are just a few of my impressions from my one week stay. I left feeling like there was so much more to do an I will definitely be back. In the meantime, I am back in Seattle, in the comfort of my own bed, dreaming of all my wonderful experience and looking forward to more.

Took a TON of pictures in my facebook album: Adventures in Japan.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tango on a Monday Morning

I recently discovered a Daylight Tango Practica that runs from 11:00am to 2:00pm. Its the second time I've gone and each time has proven to be filled with wonderful surprises. I would like to write a longer piece but here, I'll try to capture some random moments instead:

  • A woman married many many years to her childhood friend going through a divorce
  • A lovely brunch with 2 women and a hunk of a waiter to flirt with
  • Lessons on boleos (apparently I've been wound up too tight)
  • A playful dance that lasted for many songs
  • Conversations about a range of topics starting with Depeche Mode - so refreshing!
  • Still shocked that someone would think that I'm twenty-something
  • Tango exercises (its hard to get the kizomba out of me now)
  • Its good to change up your routine 
  • Depeche Mode as a tango Enjoy the Silence Tanghetto (sweet!)
  • Its lovely to start off the dance when someone says "I was hoping you would still be here to dance with you"
  • Further refinement of the tango hold
  • Freshly baked sourdough bread
  • Berretin - an obsession
  • I wonder what I would feel like if ever I passed on an opportunity to make millions
  • More free parking in Capitol Hill

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Randomness on a Rainy Day

Every now and again, my brain flies from thought to thought without much rhyme or reason - at least none that I can figure. I thought I'd just put them to writing and see what happens.

My thoughts.... they swirl .... going all over the map.

I hear a podcast about how someone was inspired and saved by dance while I'm writing my book outline and I think I need to connect to this person because he's an example of what I'm writing about how dance changes people.

I'm trying to capture my philosophy on dancing so that if someone were to ask about me and my teaching for dance, it would reflect that. I want to build on the layers and layers of fun, awareness, growth and joy that comes from dancing.

A message about plans for later tonight: looking forward to catching up with someone that's a long time coming.

Looking at the time: dear lord! its already 3pm and wait, we loose an hour which means more daylight - hurrah!

Looking at the pile of socks I've accumulated to make sock animals...boy that's a lot of socks. Reflecting back on my crafting day with a friend and realizing the older version of dream I considered and wondering why I never pursued it. Perhaps I should.

Listening to kizomba music and thinking about the new series of posts I'm writing on balance, posture and tension. So many images in my head, I wish I could find a way to animate it all. Dance is so dynamic and I see it in colors and swirls of light. With kizomba there's a warmth and intimacy that I don't feel with any other dance. This is why its drew me in and captured me. This is why I want to help other see what it can be like to dance in another's embrace, very close, from the outside moving as if one but really communicating so flawlessly through touch.

I think it would be wonderful to find a partner in that same way. Someone that feels like home. Someone I can just be myself with. Like the dance, someone that draws me in, captivates and holds me in a comforting embrace.

Looking forward to time with my sister and her family for dinner and maybe bringing my sock animals over to share with the kiddos. Hmmmm, maybe I should just make more sock animals.

Rats - I forgot to drink more water again! Wait, just remembered another idea for my write.. gotta add pictures and diagrams.

ok.. now I AM going to make another sock animal.... brb

AND that's done... oh my! Its time to head out now but I thought I'd share my new sock creation. He's a fish.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

And Then... It Just Clicked

In the last few months, I've learned a lot about myself and my relationships with family and friends. I've been processing and settling down from all the new information so it was difficult to write a post. I had started many drafts and now, finally, I'm able to share.

The end of 2013 was punctuated by these major events: an emergency at home, a realization that a significant relationship in my life had some serious issues and a lot of uncertainty about what would be happening in 2014. These events along with many others have helped me grow in a way I hadn't really anticipated.

In the last months in 2013 through early 2014, I was not my happy, positive self. I was worried, uncertain, hurt, heartbroken and confused. For someone like me, these feelings feel alien. I do not like feeling this way, in fact I work hard to get out of these states as quickly as I can. To have them all at once made me fell like I was undersiege and navigating through unknown territory. I also spent the last six weeks of 2013 in the Philippines to be with my mom and dad. This kept me from my usual activities and avenues of support. I wasn't sleeping well, I wan't dancing and I was holding tension in my body all the time. I was totally off kilter.

Thankfully, there were bright joyful moments in the mix. These moments brought palpable relief - I am so grateful for all of it. I met my adorable, almost 1 year old niece for the first time. She is friendly and so expressive: her smile just melted my heart. I was also able to catch up with high school friends: learning about their lives and new ventures was so much fun. It was wonderful to see how happy my father was with all three generations of our family being together for Christmas and New Year's.

So, here I was, felling battered and bruised and because I was trying so hard to keep from getting sucked into the negative void, I ended up creating a barrier that kept me from relaxing back into the lighter side of life.  I found myself more critical, very guarded and not at all joyful. I mean I had moments of  joy but the joy was so temporary.

I thought when I got back from the Philippines, I would re-center myself. I went to a weekend long dance festival to get some joy back. There certainly was that: it was such a joy to dance again and to get hugs and "we missed you!" from friends. I also had a chance to impact some people in a meaningful way by helping them to learn about kizomba. Their feedback on how I was able to make a difference was heartwarming.

Despite all this there was still something missing. I fell sick with the flu for about a week and then I'm not really sure what exactly happened, but something clicked.

Maybe the fever took with it some of the heaviness in my state of being. I finally was able to see that I was operating from a place that I didn't want to be in. I was interpreting everything based on not wanting to be hurt, not wanting to be confused and not wanting to be disappointed. In the end, I know something clicked when my friend made a suggestion that I could finally hear and absorb. The suggestion was to envision a future - no holds barred - of something that I wanted that would make me feel joyful again.

They say that you reflect back the fears that you have in your heart. If you approach something being fearful of getting hurt, you only see the hurt because you're watching out for it so carefully. I was stuck in this state and because I felt so "battered" I ended up curling into a ball and I couldn't see past where I was. Being in that moment was not the answer. So now, I'm finally able to let go of the hurt, disappointment and turn down my defensive mode so I can focus on stepping into an open canvas to start expressing my own truth and helping others find their happy path (with dancing feet whenever possible).