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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell, 2008

I've been sitting here for awhile thinking about what to write on the last night of 2008. I wanted to write something profound, something reflective, but of course, as any writer knows, as soon as you sit down with too specific an agenda, the words don't flow.

One of my friends likes to ask people on their birthdays what they learned over the last year. I never have good answers for her because she catches me on the spot and I'm usually in the middle of celebratory birthday shenanigans, so reflective thinking eludes me. But I have been thinking about the answers to that question all day today. So here's my list.

A handful of things I learned in 2008...

* I learned how important it is to constantly, diligently work at your craft so you don't become stagnant. I think all artists know this inherently, but sometimes we need a good kick in the butt to remind us... like returning to school in the fall after not doing much to train and stay in shape over the summer, and then being s-o-r-e for weeks because you took the phrase "lazy summer days" too literally.

* While it is important to continually train and learn and grow, it's also just as important to take breaks. For dancers, breaks and rest are necessary to maintain strength and agility, as well as to prevent injury. Creating new work isn't possible, either, if you're burned out. You can't restock the well if you go-go-go all the time.

* In the second half of the year, I slowly began to feel more comfortable labeling myself as an "artist." I always shied away from this, thinking that to justify giving myself such a title I had to have some kind of huge, published work that was bringing in the cash, or be famous in my field. Well, baloney, I say. I write, I choreograph... I'm an artist. And the more I think of myself as such, the more confident I become in my dance training, in my choreographic ideas, in writing projects, etc.

* Saying "no" doesn't make you a bad person. Doing things you don't really want to do is just a recipe for unhappiness and resentment. I experienced this over the summer with a certain obligation I made that my heart wasn't 100% committed to. No more of that business.

* The biggest and hardest lesson I've had to learn this year is that I'm not the center of the universe. When you're mired in the middle of such a destructive, self-centered idea, you become blind to the hurt you're causing others in your orbit. Sometimes that hurt becomes too much and your world explodes. My world exploded and someone in my orbit, someone I loved very much, someone I hoped to be my future, careened away from me. Since November, everything has been a nebulous confusion of heartache and uncertainty. Yes, it takes two to tango. No, it's not all my fault. But I can only take responsibility for myself. I still cry at night when I go to sleep, I still get knots in my stomach. I still have an empty, dull ache in my heart and there are days when I can't focus on much of anything. I still pray that God forgives me and that he would heal the damage that I caused. But I know that I have the choice to either use this to learn and grow, or to wallow in self-pity and spiral into cynicism. I choose growth, as hard as the growing pains are right now.

So, my 2008 exits on a, well, bittersweet note. To be honest, I'll be very relieved when I wake up tomorrow and it's January 1. The holidays and my birthday were hard, and I don't mean to sound bah-humbug about them, I just want this year to be done. Not that I think that life will suddenly be filled with sunshine and unicorns and rainbows and glitter as our calendars change from 2008 to 2009. I just really look forward to the fresh page of a new year and a new chapter.

With my lips glossed, my hair curled, and my cute new red purse on my shoulder, I bid thee farewell, 2008. I raise a glass of champagne and welcome in 2009 with one supafly dance party.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Simple pleasures

Being at home.


A glass of pinot grigio.

Cheese and onion quiche lorraine.

Putting together my 2009 planner.

Thumbing through my new cookbook.

Nibbling on jelly bellies.

Reading my new book.

Sleeping in my own bed.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Winter Song

This is my winter song.
December never felt so wrong,
cause you're not where you belong;
inside my arms.

This is my winter song to you.
The storm is coming soon
it rolls in from the sea.

My love a beacon in the night.
My words will be your light
to carry you to me.
(lyrics by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson)

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'll take that to go please!

Yowza, it's been a long day.

I'm finally home, showered, and in my woobie - it is now 10:15 p.m.

Oh and I'm finally eating dinner... if you consider toast and half an avocado dinner. Some days just go like this. "Meals" are the most portable foods I can grab while sprinting out the door. Breakfast this morning was leftovers from last night's fish-n-chips dinner, which I scarfed while driving to class. Breakfast of champions, baby! As for "dinner" tonight, I got home so late that I didn't want to eat too much so close to bedtime, but I needed to eat something or the beast will rear it's head raging in the middle of the night - feeeeeeeeed me, Jessi!!!

I'm a bit foggy as to when I last prepared myself a real meal... another reason (of several) I'm counting down the days until break.

And since I'm squinting while writing this, I think it's time to brush the teeth and collapse into bed.

Nighty nite!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Counting down

I'm down to one week left of the semester. I'm getting more and more restless for Christmas break to get here and the things that I hope to do over break. But first I still have some things to take care of on my to-do list:

1. Modern movement exam on Thursday.
2. Ballet movement exam on Friday.
3. Finish choreographing the mask duet with my partner for our Choreography final, which is next Monday.
4. Review for and take my written Ballet final next Tuesday.

That's it! Of course this all entails work and preparation, and it is taking quite a lot of energy to stay focused on the tasks at hand. I was ready for the semester to be done the week before Thanksgiving, and coming back for a few more weeks has been difficult. I'm worn out, and not just physically. I need a mental and emotional break more than anything. My batteries need recharging! Only seven more days...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Birthday wish

My 30th birthday is coming to a close. I made a wish...

But I can't tell or it won't come true!

Where the gin is cold and the piano's HOT

Omigod, omigod, I just received an email that Chicago is coming to Denver in February!!!! I H-E-A-R-T this musical with my body and soul. If I could sing, and had started my dance training when I was 9 instead of 29, you can bet your bottom dollar that all my training would be for this fabulous, glorious musical. Now, whether or not I actually get to see the show when it's in D-town is another story, but you never know, a miracle could happen...

The 2002 movie version can't touch the theatre performances, but it was fun nonetheless.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Boots were made for walkin'... the snow!

I need me some snow boots, ya'll. My blue suede Pumas, as fly as they are, just aren't cutting it in the six inches (and counting!) of snow that's out there.

I know what I like and I've seen pairs out there that I'd like to buy, but my teensy budget is making a snow boot acquisition a little challenging. Maybe I'll get some birthday money that will help me get some boots... (yep, yours truly is entering a new decade come next Monday...)

Um, have I mentioned how much I'm loving the winter wonderland of goodness out there?? Whouda thought snow is the secret ingredient to help me feel a little happier and to rock the Christmas spirit a little bit...?!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Yes, ladies and gents, my prayers for snow were finally answered!! My friend and I did a little happy snow dance tonight as we left rehearsal, snow falling softly on our heads.

This is my favorite kind of snow fall, soft and light and airy. I love it at night, when all the sounds are muffled and softened by it. It's so peaceful, like the whole world is resting.

Snow, glorious snow...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

All the pretty lights

I had to run an errand tonight after work that brought me along different streets in town. I drove through older neighborhoods in the northern part of town. Lots of houses had their Christmas lights up, which surprised me, and it was all very pretty! Now if it really snows tonight, like they are telling us it will, all those lights will be even prettier! If it does snow, I just might have to drive around town a bit and check out the twinkle and sparkle...

I'm rollin' with it... or trying

I'm declaring today as my Monday. I'm all out of sorts like it's a Monday. Cranky, tired, the whole bit. My head is just not in the game today.

Let's start with some things from yesterday... I didn't get to teach my Pedagogy final yesterday, as there were scheduling issues, so I got rescheduled to next Monday. No biggie, just irritating more than anything (I spent a lot of time Sunday working on that). I would have really liked to have that out of the way. Oh well.

Oh! (mad face) After class yesterday, I arrived at my car to find a parking ticket on the windshield. Seriously?! I've been parking in that lot since the first day of the semester, and as far as I know, there aren't any restrictions. Most everyone that parks there is a student and I'm confident that no one has a faculty parking permit. I looked around at some of my friends' cars, and I was the only one with a ticket. LAME. I'll be calling CSU Parking and contesting that bad boy.

Now today... I had a very hard time waking up this morning. Maybe because I went to bed post-midnight. (That may not be late for some, but I turn into a pumpkin by 11:30 at the latest most nights.) It was the typical rush around like a headless chicken kind of morning, getting me to work late.

I did get my modern final paper finished, along with my mask. But that didn't make classes go well. Our modern professor was pretty annoyed with us all because we weren't remembering combinations very well, and our dancing was definitely not to his liking. We got several "this-is-your-major-and-career" lectures. He also teaches my choreography class, and no one had movement prepared like he asked, so that annoyed him further. Good times. On the plus side, he did like our masks. Glass is half full, right?

I still have quite the to-do list for the rest of the day... tuck and roll, Jessi, tuck and roll!

Now I'm at work and nursing a caramel macchiato, hoping it cures the headache I developed at some point today. I'm counting the hours until I get to go home, get out of these grumpy pants, and into my comfy pants and into bed... oy!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Concert week

The Senior Dance Concert is this week!

We had a short rehearsal tonight, our tech rehearsal is Wednesday, full dress rehearsal with the entire cast and tech people Thursday night, and then it's show time Friday and Saturday. I'm a little nervous, but looking forward to performing. The piece I'm in is very abstract - I portray a sound wave, an optic nerve, and the sense of touch at different times during the piece. Ahh, abstract modern dance.

On top of all of this, I still have all the end-of-semester biz that I've mentioned before, so it will be a busy week, but I'm okay with that - it will fly by! I'm counting down the days until I'm done... 15 days!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oh, and P.S...

It snowed all over Colorado today except Fort Collins!!! Down where my grandma lives, just south of Denver, they got, oh, 8-10 inches. Parts of Colorado Springs got a foot. The interstate from here north to Wyoming was closed because of ice - um, hello, that's just east of town!! It went around us, completely - hmph! (*pouting*) This is mutiny!

Buzz, buzz, buzz

That's me, a busy little bee today.

I started my day attending church with some friends. Haven't done that for awhile. My soul and heart need some TLC right now, so it was good.

I drove over to the UCA to practice my pedagogy lesson that I'm supposed to teach tomorrow, but the studios were locked. I was getting hungry anyway, so I drove home and ate lunch instead. My stomach never lets me down.

Then I took care of some domestic duties while lunch digested - groceries, laundry and dishes.

While waiting on laundry to dry, I sat down and knocked out a draft of my modern final paper. I'll revise and finish that tomorrow night.

Practiced my pedagogy lesson in my room.

Ate a snack and caught the Broncos' halftime report - they were up against the NY Jets 27-14 (they ended up winning 34-17).

More Pedagogy practice and then I typed up the lesson to turn in to my teacher. That freakin' took forever, ugh.

Got hungry again, so I practiced more Pedagogy in the kitchen while I cooked and ate. Ahh, multitasking!

Then the fun began - I got in touch with my inner arts-and-crafts-kid and starting making my mask. I love art projects! I didn't finish, but I will tomorrow night. It looks pretty sweet, methinks. Half is now covered in ivy leaves and tomorrow I'll cover the other half in twigs and other dead foliage I find outside (the theme is the duality of nature, or the opposite seasons of summer and winter - yay for abstract art!). Watched/listened to Lord of the Rings: Return of the King while I played with hot glue and plastic ivy leaves.

After Frodo saved Middle Earth and returned to the Shire, I talked with my best friend on the phone for over an hour. And now here I am, posting this rambling blog and winding down for the evening. I think I'll do some bedtime yoga and journaling before I go to sleep.

My week of laziness has come to an end, *sigh*. Time to return to my crammed schedule of work, senior concert week, end-of-the-semester projects, and finals. Giddy up...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Getting things done

I've been busy all day taking care of things on the to-do list. I sent out a couple emails. Bought a mask and supplies for my mask/duet project. Spent three hours at the Wild Boar (my current fave coffee shop) working on my Choreography journal. I just took a yoga/meditation break, and now back to work. Items remaining on today's list: write a blog post (check!), revise my mask sketch, find a song for the duet, and maybe write a little more on my Modern paper. We'll see what I get through by bedtime...

Friday, November 28, 2008


Terrible things are happening right now in India. My heart goes out to the people who have lost loved ones in the attacks, people who are injured, the people still being held hostage... this is no good, people, no good.

I just saw coverage on CNN that a young rabbi and his wife were recently killed, orphaning their toddler son (who escaped to safety with the help of a nanny, thank goodness). From what I understand, the attacks are being specifically directed at the Jewish community. No matter what the terrorists' agenda is, no matter how much they "justify" their actions, it's all wrong. These attacks are against humanity and all that is good. I am truly saddened by how human beings treat other human beings.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Merci, gracias, danke, grazie...

I had Thanksgiving dinner at my dad's house today with him and my two brothers. It was just the four of us, which was just right. I wasn't really in the mood for a big dinner with lots of people. The food was great and it was nice to spend quality time with my family. We had some really good heart-to-heart discussions, which we haven't had in a long time.

Today was bittersweet, though. Life has thrown me another curve ball that I'm trying to figure out how to swing at. And to be quite honest, my heart just isn't into the holidays. I broke down at dinner, much to my dismay because I didn't want to be the rain on the parade. But my dad and brothers were so great - they surrounded me in one big embrace and just let me cry. It felt so good to be supported because some days I am so tired and I don't feel like I can support myself anymore.

I considered making a list of things I'm grateful for for today's post. The list would contain the typical things - my family, friends, dance, my job, a roof over my head, my health - all of which I truly am grateful, but that general list felt trite. That list would have made me feel like I was just going through the motions but not really feeling it in my heart. I wanted something real, something specific. My family's honest love and support is what did it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dream On

This is one of my all-time favorite songs. iTunes doesn't have the original 1973 recording, so I will have to find an alternative (good ol' fashioned CD, perhaps?).

It's one of my life anthems, if you will, and someday I'd like to choreograph something to it. Enjoy...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What day is it??

Thanks to being on Fall Break, I'm in a total time warp. This morning I was convinced that today is Wednesday, and yesterday I thought it was Saturday.

I have a ton of school work to do this week - two projects, a paper, and a journal - all due when I return next week. Have I started any of these yet? Nope. I panicked about that this morning, thanks to thinking it was Wednesday - "Omigod, it's Wednesday and I haven't started working on anything!!" So, when I get home from work this afternoon, it's go time.

Having papers and projects to do over over break is not ideal and negates the idea of a break, but I'm totally fine with it this year because it means I will have less to worry about come Finals Week. A couple of the things mentioned above were moved from finals week to next week by my teachers, and I was very happy about it. This means I should be done with finals before noon on Tuesday of that week - totally worth it!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oopsy daisy

I forgot to post something yesterday! I was going to last night when I got home from hip hop, but got distracted and forgot. Oh well.

Hip hop was a little different than usual last night. My teacher, D, was out of town promoting a friend's hip hop documentary. The original sub teacher he had lined up was unavailable (L from the Bronx), so instead, we had a capoeirista come from Canto do Galo, one of the Capoeira schools in Denver.

I HEART capoeira. I wish to the dance gods that a school existed in Fort Collins, but no such luck. I would most definitely train if one did.

Lately I've been thinking ahead to next semester's Studio Night concert, the student-produced dance concert we put on each semester. I've been thinking about choreographing a piece that involves capoeira and African movement. This would be rather challenging, and when I think about it, I get overwhelmed because I'm thinking so big (in typical Jessi fashion). While I know some capoeira, my "training" is only the itty bitty tip of the iceberg. And I would never want to disrespect the art by pretending I know more about it than I really do. I will have to keep thinking on this, and talk to D about it, see what he thinks.

In the meantime, maybe I could make it down to Denver some Saturday for Canto do Galo's free intro class. Another opportunity to learn just a little bit more never hurts.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Short & sweet

It's just an ordinary day, nothing much to report. I slept in, I'm cleaning up the apartment, hopefully I will get some work hours in, and then dinner at my mom's tonight. Just taking care of me.

Friday, November 21, 2008

At last


The week has been long and hard. I feel beat up and very tired. Now all I have to do is make it through this afternoon, and then I can do what I've really wanted to do all week: sleep for days and days...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A little dance, a little not

I know this blog is to share my adventures as a dance major, but some days I don't have anything new to say. Let's see, what can I come up with?

Modern went great today, although my poor feet and knees are still consistently getting beat up. Long gone are the days of pretty feet, ya'll. Doing a pedicure is pointless - the paint gets chipped and rubbed off, my toenails often crack and break... The most I ever do is keep the nails short and lotion my feet up so they don't crack and split, which has happened and hurts quite a bit. Lovely image, yes? :P Choreography was a little tough, only because Professor C wanted us to do all sorts of improv, but none of us had the energy or creative juices. We're all tired and ready for break! One more day - I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

The weather outside is cold and wintry. Surprisingly, I love it! I'm not usually a cold weather fan, but people change moods, I guess. Itty bitty snowflakes keep falling, and I keep begging the clouds to just release them all on us! I want to go up to the mountains and go snowshoeing or sledding or something, then come home for something warm in my tummy... which brings me to the fact that the cold puts me in the mood to cook like crazy. I would totally love to make a batch of my winter minestrone, but I don't have the groceries or the funds to do it right now. Payday tomorrow, whew!

The weather also puts me in the holiday spirit... kinda hard to catch the spirit when it's 75 degrees out there, like it was yesterday. It's November and I live in Colorado, for pete's sake. Today I've wanted to cook, bake, listen to holiday music, go Christmas shopping, the whole bit. I should calm down - Thanksgiving first, Jessi.

I'm at work, so I guess I should get back to it. Ciao for now...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A little ahead of myself here

It's never good when you think it's Friday when it's only Wednesday... holy shmoley, I've had the Friday feeling all day today: after class, when I left work, on my home from rehearsal... no bueno.

But the day is over now, thank goodness. It's been a long one and I'm pooped. Last night wasn't so great for sleep - couldn't fall asleep, and when I finally did I had bad dreams all night, the whole bit. I'm hoping the sleep gods have mercy on me tonight. I've appeased them with sacrifices, so I have hope... nighty nite!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A little TLC

You know, I've been struggling lately with motivation and confidence in my dancing. It started about a month ago. I'm not really sure why or how, but I've been experiencing some serious self-doubt.

In a couple weeks, the three seniors who are graduating this semester will have their senior dance concert (the equivalent of a senior thesis or project). I'm dancing in one of the ensembles, and tonight we had a tech rehearsal for the dance faculty.

After the group I'm dancing with finished, one of my friends who had been watching said, "Jezzebel" (his nickname for me), "I just love watching you dance." It was so sweet and unexpected, I got all flustered! I thanked him and sat down really quickly - I think I was blushing because everyone else was sitting around and heard it. When they all had gone to get ready for their ensemble, I gave him a hug, thanked him, and told him how his compliment made my heart grow just a little bit bigger. It's the little things...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dance = joy

Today I watched students in the "Understanding Dance" class perform their big semester choreography project. The class is for non-dance majors (although some dance majors do take it). It was so much fun to watch what they created. Some students were very timid and others completely hammed it up, but either way all of us dance majors who watched cheered them on and hopefully encouraged them to just have fun. I think they all did a great job!

Their professor, Mr. T, said something that I strongly believe to be true: no matter an individual's skill level or "expertise" with dance, dance touches something within us that brings us unadulterated joy. And this joy is universal, bridging gender, race, culture, sexes, generations, etc.

I experience this joy when I'm doing hip hop, swing, and African. I feel it from time to time in modern, but ballet hasn't yet touched this part of me. A big contributing factor is the music - if there is a drumbeat or some kind of hard-hitting rhythmic percussion, it moves me from within. It's like the music is my heartbeat and I can't help but move.

The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, summed it up well: "Get up offa that thing - dance and you'll feel better!"

Sunday, November 16, 2008


For some people, Sundays are church days. (Disclaimer to any non-Christian-tradition readers out there: I realize there are religions that observe the sabbath on different days, in different ways. This is from my Christian perspective background, so please bear with me.) I grew up attending church on Sunday mornings myself, but things have since changed for various reasons. I won't discuss my religious and spiritual evolution over the years - that's a long blog in and of itself - but I want to comment on what church means to me now.

I've come to believe church to be a place where an individual seeks and attains spiritual fulfillment. For some that may be a traditional church building with pews and a pulpit. For others it can mean a walk along the beach, sitting atop a mountain or simply just taking a walk. My church? Hip hop on Sunday nights.


Yes, hip hop. I've been attending Sunday evening hip hop classes in Denver for a little over 2 years now, and each and every time has been church for me. It purges bad moods, bad attitudes, and anything else I may be harboring. It's cathartic. It fills up my well. I can leave for Denver in a bad mood, not wanting to make the drive down there, but each and every time I come home in high spirits.

I didn't make it down today. Darn school deadlines...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My day off

Saturdays are my designated day off from dancing and physical activity. My body needs rest and time to repair so it can keep going strong week to week. I might do some light stretching, but not much beyond that.

My Saturdays typically entail working a few hours, tackling some schoolwork if I'm motivated and disciplined (which isn't often, actually), and hanging out (which does happen often).

This weekend is quieter than normal, which is nice for a change. Most the time my schedule is jam-packed. I'm so busy throughout the week that I think I have all this time over the weekend, so I fill my schedule with all sorts of to-do's, so it just ends up like my week! And this includes social activities. I tend to forget to allot downtime for myself. Saying yes to everything is a hard habit to break, and it doesn't help that I'm such a busy-body-social-butterfly type. If I don't have much going on, I tend to feel guilty about it, thinking "Oh my god, I shouldn't just sit here and relax, there are things to do!!" It tends to be a recipe for burnout. I guess I just need to learn to allow myself downtime sans guilt. It's a learning process, that's for sure.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Little gifts

Today I was given a little gift in the form of normal ballet class being cancelled for a floor barre day, which just means a special stretch day. It was exactly what I needed.

Funny how God/the universe/fill-in-your-higher-power-here just knows what you need, and if you ask, there's a darn good chance you'll get it. I haven't had the best week. Really, I haven't had the best past couple of weeks, thanks to a li'l personal matter. I'm definitely not my usual happy, spunky self these days. Today was no exception. As I was driving to ballet, trying to keep it together so I didn't show up to class with puffy, red eyes, I sent up a little prayer to please just help me make it through the next couple of hours without a glitch. I needed ballet to take it easy on me today.

I got there, started gearing up in my tights and leotard when I overheard something wonderful: "Today is a stretch day. Professor Ballet said so yesterday." Really?? Music to my ears and relief for my body and mind! Stretching felt so good. It was meditative, and I can honestly say I felt a teensy bit better as I drove back to work. At least the knot in my stomach is gone for now, and no overwhelming urge to start sobbing.

Oh, and my knee started bothering me yesterday, too, which has me worried. So the stretch day gift was two-fold for Long Legs here. Thank you!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just checking in...

Man, I am a bad, bad blogger... I read other people's blogs daily, and if my regulars don't post daily, I get impatient waiting for their next installment. I'm such a blogging hypocrite! (Okay, so this makes it seem like I'm bonafide spazzing out about this, but really, I'm just being dramatic in true Jessi fashion).

It's not like I don't have anything to say or talk about. Blog-worthy things happen everyday in my li'l dance world... classes, rehearsals, choreography, projects, professors who are really starting to tick me off. But for some reason, I just don't sit down at my computer and write it down. Isn't this blog supposed to be a chronicle of my adventures as a dance major??

Well, it's NaBloPoMo, a.k.a. National Blog Posting Month. While November is almost half over and I've missed 12 days worth of posting, I will join up in the spirit of my blog - better late than never!

Here's to my attempt to post something everyday for the rest of the month! Wheeeeeeeee!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Focus and trust

I've learned a lot from Diavolo in the past week, and I didn't even dance with them! But their presence really impacted me as far as re-evaluating and thinking about what I want to do with my dancing, what it will take to get there, short and long-term goals, my attitudes, etc.

First off, watching rehearsals with the dancers that did make it into Diavolo's piece made me realize how much focus is involved with a company of that caliber. They do some incredibly high-energy, acrobatic, borderline dangerous stuff, and if you aren't focused 100% all the time, you could cause an injury to yourself and the other dancers. Everyone in the piece talked about how intense rehearsals were, and they had the bruises and very sore muscles to prove it.

At the end of class one day, our pedagogy teacher commented on everyone's focus at these rehearsals. In a nutshell she was saying how our focus is something to access when necessary, but she doesn't believe in always "living in the moment" and constantly being engaged in that way. Turn the focus on when in class, at rehearsal, choreographing, off when doing the everyday things like driving to work, cleaning the house, doing laundry. Shifting to autopilot for the everyday tasks reserves our focus for what feeds us. I thought this perspective was incredibly insightful. And helpful. Why expend energy on things that don't matter that much? I only have so much energy and focus to use in the first place, so why not use it efficiently?

The other little nugget of wisdom I took from Diavolo was the idea of trust. After the performance last night, the cast did a Q&A with the audience. Several people asked Diavolo about how they are mentally able to dance and turn and jump off of the huge structures they use in their pieces (check out the huge boat in their "Trajectoire" piece - One girl said it comes down to trusting yourself. She said that when she got on the boat for the very first time, her reaction was to stiffen up. But then she remembered that her body will instinctually know what to do, and she relaxed and was fine. She trusted herself. She trusted her body.

Wow, that really hit home for me. I thought about things I struggle with and get so frustrated about - balancing on my left foot, maintaining correct posture when turning, just to name a couple - and a huge light-bulb flashed! All of my struggles are related to trust. I struggle with things because I don't trust my body like I should. I clench, tense, hold my breath... no good. I think "I can't do this", which just manifests itself in my body. If I think that, then, well, I'm not going to do it. I just set myself up for failure.

These little epiphanies have renewed my dedication to busting my ass and getting things done. No more fretting, no more destructive self-talk, no more excuses. Trust your body. Focus your energy on what's important. "Just fucking do it" Jacques kept saying to the dancers all week. Oui, Jacques, I will just fucking do it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Two days ago I auditioned with Diavolo Dance Theater, who are the guest artists performing at CSU's University Center for the Arts Grand Opening next week.

Before we started dancing, Jacques Heim, Diavolo's artistic director, gave us a little pep talk. Essentially, he talked about sacrifice and what it means to make sacrifices as an artist. Or rather, an artist who makes their art their career.

I listened with rapt attention. What he said resonated in me. He articulated what I feel inside my heart when I think about my life and future as a dancer.

He told us that as artists, we will make all kinds of sacrifices for our craft. These sacrifices may center around money, time, relationships and a slew of other things. We will struggle with money, as most artistic careers are not accompanied by tons of cash, except for the lucky few. Weekends or days off become non-existent. We may put certain relationships on hold (I think of marriage here) in order to pursue our art. And while those around us may think us crazy, self-centered, delusional, etc., for making such sacrifices, he said that any sacrifices we make are worth the world and more to those of us called by art. We need our art to live, to breathe, to experience life at its fullest.

I wanted to yell out "amen!", but held back in order to not draw attention to myself.

I'm no exception to making sacrifices to pursue this life. I sacrifice money (see my previous "Money Matters" posts). I sacrifice time to myself, time with friends and family, time to sleep, cook, shop, read, watch TV, write, etc. I've sacrificed forging ahead to Married-Land so I can focus on school and my career.

(Sidenote: I used to be the typical late-twenties gal who would freak out about meeting Mr. Right, settling down, and having kiddos. Since I've embarked on this dance career adventure, I've since tossed those ridiculous fears out the window. And honestly? I'd rather do what I'm doing and wait a little longer to have a hubby and kids. I LOVE my life.)

So yes, I make sacrifices everyday, and based on what Jacques said, I will continue to do so as long as I decide to keep riding the train that I'm on. I might as well get comfortable because my stop won't arrive for awhile yet.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The countdown begins

Forget March Madness. What about October Madness?!? October is not typically nutso, but this one is crazy! I have midterm exams, a solo to choreograph, papers to write, a grand opening at our new performing arts building, performances to go see, master classes to take... all this squeezed into an already crammed schedule of regular classes, rehearsals and work.

When I get home from work in the evenings, usually around 6 o'clock or so, I have about an hour to two hours to kill before I have to head off to some rehearsal. I can't tell you how much I want to join my roommate on the couch to catch all the new fall shows. Or cook dinner! I miss cooking. Cooking these days doesn't go much beyond grilled cheese, instant soup, or bulls-eye toast (the toast with a hole cut out of the middle where you fry an egg). No time for TV or cooking shenanigans, no ma'am! I fry up my egg or heat my soup and march myself to my bedroom to scarf dinner while working on some paper or assigned reading. What a good li'l student I am, eh?

Ah well. The song and dance of a college student. At least I love what I'm doing in school! (That's probably what gets me in front of my computer or in the studio in the first place, instead of parking it on the couch.)

Oh! On top of it all, its HALLOWEEN!! I have 30 days to figure out what I'm going to be and get a costume together. This is serious business, folks. Halloween is in the top 5 of my fave holidays, and it just might trump Christmas. One friend sent me a link to an Olive Oyl costume (from Popeye). Not sure about that one, unless I had someone to be Popeye. But JBF doesn't do dress-up. (I love JBF, but c'mon, where's his sense of fun and adventure and make-believe?? So lame.) I can't be a zombie a la "Thriller" because I've been there, done that. I've also been and done an angel, a gypsy and a pirate. Think, think...!

Anyone have any cool, fun, easy and cheap suggestions?? We're working with a small budget, very little time and very few sewing/crafting skills here, but there's got to be something cool despite the limitations.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Money Matters, Part 2

A few days ago, I vented my frustrations about being unable to afford the types of groceries I should be eating. Today I will add the next installation to the Money Matters two-part series...

Today I shall bitch about the quasi-needs and wants that don't fit well (if at all) into my meager budget. I'll start with the quasi-needs...

"Quasi-needs" are things that I need but won't literally die without. They are needs because they're everyday necessities to keep hygienic and healthy. I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is when I'm doing acrobatics in the bathroom to squeeze out the last bits of toothpaste because I'm concerned about spending the money on a new tube. On toothpaste! The quasi-needs list is extensive: toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, sunscreen, chapstick, tampons, shampoo, body wash, tylenol or ibuprofen, bandaids, athletic tape, laundry detergent, dish soap, housecold cleaners, tissues, toilet paper... you get the idea.

The wants are extensive, too. They range from makeup to clothes to dance gear to gas in my car to dinner out.

"But Jessi, you don't need makeup!" Please. I know I won't die without it, but I like makeup and I'm going to wear it. Even on the most basic makeup days, I don't like leaving the house without mascara, base, blush and some kind of lip goop. I look washed-out and tired without makeup. Once upon a time, I started buying all my makeup and skincare stuff at The Body Shop. They are organic, fair-trade, and probably most important to me, no animal testing. BUT, like good, whole food, I can't afford it. So I swallow the guilt of not following my principles and use the cheap stuff.

Needing new socks or undies isn't just a matter of running out and grabbing what I need anymore. I'm poking holes through my ballet slippers and have one leotard that rotates between several classes - it isn't long before that leotard is in bad need of washing. Tights. Sports bras. Workout/dance clothes. Gas in my car to get to school, work, and rehearsals because taking the bus or riding my bike are not always viable options. An oil change. I don't even want to know what other kind of maintenance work my poor car needs, as its been way too long since the last check-up on it. And while dinner out or a movie are pretty much last on the priority lists, it gets old and embarrassing telling people "thank you, but I can't afford it" time and time again.

I know my present circumstances are a result of choices I've made. And in no way do I regret going back to school. I knew I would have to make sacrifices by doing so. That doesn't mean I'm not frustrated as hell. And tired. I mean seriously... stressing out about buying toothpaste and socks?? I never went through this during my first round of college. A change has got to come.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Money Matters, Part 1

I dance about 6 days a week now, ranging from 3-5 hours per day. That doesn't count time I practice on my own, or any other dancing I might do (swing, hip hop). Needless to say, I need to eat A LOT. I had decent metabolism before, but now its like I have the giant venus fly trap from Little Shop of Horrors - "feed me, Jessi, feeeeeeed meeee!!! " - inside my belly.

I need meat. I need veggies and fruits. I need good calories, people! But my budget doesn't support it... My grocery cart gets filled with boxed mac'n'cheese, tuna, canned soup, cheese and bread (all generic store brands, by the way). Oh, and produce includes apples, bananas and potatoes. Grapefruit for occasional variety, when and if they're on sale. Figuring out how to fuel my body on the cheap but healthfully is like trying to do a calculus exam without a calculator. Impossible. "Cheap" and "healthy" cancel each other out.

I hate eating the processed food that I do. I know the calories aren't great quality. I've taken enough nutrition and science classes to know what's going on in those packages, and some things give me the heebie jeebies. And its not just "this could give me cancer someday". I need good calories so my body has quality fuel to run on and repair itself with, boost the immune system, the whole bit. Being a successful dancer for as long as possible means taking care of my body - sleeping enough, dancing smart, eating well... This really bugs me.

So what's the solution?? I can't exactly cut down to one meal a day so I can buy the good stuff... that would be anarchy from the beast within, and bad news for everyone around me. I guess for now I just have to ignore the lab-created bright yellow-orange of my mac'n'cheese and just swallow...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Week 1 Musings

Well, I got through Week 1 of the fall '08 semester in one (sore) piece. Since its been awhile since I last wrote, I figured I'd jot down some thoughts about the week and coming semester...

As expected, I was crazy sore by Friday. And bruised up. That's what happens when you only take ballet once a week during the summer, and then take the two weeks prior to school off completely. I think I'm going to enjoy my classes, albeit they will be challenging. That's a good thing, though - growth doesn't happen without a challenge. I'm taking this Pedagogy class which I'm both excited nervous for... essentially I'm learning how to construct and teach a basic ballet lesson, which is what makes me nervous. It may not seem too difficult at face value, but for one, I still consider myself a ballet novice, and second, my professor is all business. I think it's going to be my toughest class.

Besides classes, we had auditions for the fall senior dance concert. How it works is, three seniors collaborate to put together an entire dance concert as their senior thesis. It includes creating choreography, auditioning dancers, doing all the publicity, and figuring out the entire technical plan for the actual performances. And I have no doubt there's even more work than that. These concerts are a big deal and the seniors put a lot of work into them. I made it into the concert this semester!! I'm rather happy about this... auditioning last year was rough, which wasn't entirely surprising. It was my first year in the program, after all, plus I was recovering from surgery for a broken wrist. I got all kinds of discouraged last year that I would "never" make it into any piece, but lo and behold, I did this time. I'm very grateful for this!

I'm still figuring out my work schedule for this semester, too... I'm hoping (and kinda needing) to work 30 hours a week. I hope I'm not being too optimistic, in typical Jessi fashion, with this goal. In order to make ends meet, though, I need to make it happen. We'll see. I'm still shifting around my schedule and figuring out priorities, trying to find the "perfect" balance between school, work, my swing troupe, a social life, and the ever-elusive me-time. It's always a work in progress...

Friday, August 1, 2008

August 1st - A Bittersweet Day

Today marks the beginning of the dual end-of-summer countdown. One being the last month of summer is upon us (pouty face), making up the bitter half. The other being the countdown to the start of the new school year, which is the sweet half.

School is the sweet half, you cry out?! Yes, I know... Most students mourn the return of the school year, for their lazy summer days are officially over. Yes, this is true... although, since I work full time in the summer and have a tendency to fill up my free time pretty fast, summer's "laziness" is more a state of mind than reality. But I digress...

I like school and I always have. I enjoy learning and I've always been a school-lover. As a kid I would get so excited to go school shopping with my mom and brother for new supplies and clothes. I would make my brother sit with me, while I organized and re-organized my new gear, and "talk about school" - you know, friends, recess, teachers, our fave subjects. I loved the smell of new crayons and new pencils... god, it was great!

Things are a little different now, of course. I don't get to buy new outfits (hard to do living paycheck to paycheck with a college-student's budget) and the new crayons have been replaced by uber-expensive stuff like textbooks and ballet shoes. Regardless, I still get jazzed about the start of a new year. I like new beginnings and the change of seasons. It doesn't hurt that I love what I'm studying in school!

BUT, I still have a few summer things to do before I'm ready to trade my bikini for a leotard... I need to get to the pool a few more times. I need to hit the trails on my bike. I have more hiking to do. And camping, I still need to go camping! In just over a week, JBF and I will be leaving for our roadtrip vacation - Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, the Sand Dunes, the hot springs in Ouray - so plenty of hiking and camping will be had during our trip, thank god. I'm even going to try to squeeze in a 14er hike of Long's Peak.

So, once you're done reading this, get out there and play!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

80's dancing is totally rad

My chums are pretty familiar with the 80's, "Molly Ringwald" dance that I do... Breakfast Club is what started it all for me. Pay particular attention at 0:22-0:27 :)

God, I love this movie!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I may jones for a New York minute...

... but when I see pictures of places like these, I can't help but think I live in the wrong part of the world.

I have fantasized for a long, long time that I will make the Mediterranean my home someday. Who knows? My family may someday receive Christmas cards postmarked from France, Italy, Greece...

Friday, July 25, 2008

I have the secret to making your dreams reality...

While driving home from the grocery store yesterday afternoon, my boyfriend (who will be known as JBF here on out, short for Jessi's BoyFriend) was telling me that he met a life coach while hiking with his friend earlier that day. I asked him to be more specific in regards to "life coach", as that can mean all sorts of things, and he told me that the life coach guy specializes in helping people find and pursue their passions. JBF thought this would interest me considering my own experience with going after my dreams. I joked that since I'm the walking example of Mr. Life Coach's work, I should go into business with him.

Mr. Life Coach: "... take my assistant Jessi, for example... at the age of 28, she decided to forego plans for nursing school, change her major to dance and begin a ballet-and-modern-dance education - with no previous technical training!" (Insert the oohs and ahhs of his future clients here.)

I then said to JBF that the advice I would give people would be short and sweet: just do it.

That sounds trite, but really, that's how its done. Planning and pondering and calculating too much about something prevents it from actually coming to fruition. I know that each of you knows exactly what I'm talking about. We all have things that we fantasize would happen, thinking "I wish" and "if only"... But when you think too much about something, you begin to hyperanalyze and then think up a thousand reasons "why it won't work". And once that happens, forget it, its not going to.

By nature I'm impulsive and impatient. This sometimes gets me into trouble, yes, and I have friends who like to remind me of this (just in case I might forget). Sure, not all my impulsive decisions were the greatest, BUT of the impulsive decisions I've made that I look back on were some of my best. And each one came from a place of what-the-hell-do-I-have-to-lose. This has applied to things small - ignoring the fact that I'm shopping for something else entirely but buy the shoes anyway - and large - such as pursuing a dance career in my late twenties.

So, I probably wouldn't make a very good life coach. Clients would expect there to be some profound, intricate secret to making their dreams come to life that will require months of searching to discover. But then I would have to burst their expectation bubbles with those three little words, and I really hate disappointing people. I would be fired and they would angrily demand refunds.

I'm sorry, but that's all there is to it. Thank you, have a nice day.

Monday, July 7, 2008

There is no such thing as half-empty in my world

You know, even though I'm at a slight disadvantage for starting ballet so late in life, I'm glad that I wasn't a bunhead at an early age. Really. I never had to add pressures to perform or maintain a certain physique to the already awkward preteen and teenage years. I may not have the best turnout, my feet might not point into a perfect little half-moon, nor am I the best pirouetter in the world, but I really, truly enjoy ballet.

I'm not implying that all dancers who started dancing at a young age dislike or hate ballet. But in the short time that I've been in ballet training I've occassionally come across angry, resentful ballerinas who are bitter towards ballet. Take my good friend, for instance. Recently she commented that taking class is pointless for her at this point, because she won't be doing anything with it. "What's the point?" she posed (um, maybe for the joy it brings? how dancing makes you feel empowered, happy, strong...?). She also told me she's disappointed in my choice to study dance, as there's no money it it. Um, thank you, I'm aware of that, and most dancers who are pursuing dance as a career are aware, too. I think it's pretty safe to say that I'm not in this for the money.

That conversation makes me sad for her and anyone else who thinks similarly. Yes, there's a damn good guarantee that I will live paycheck-to-paycheck and that I will most likely have to work extra jobs to make ends meet, but that's how I've lived over the past 10 years and I know how to make it work. I'm not too worried about it. The conversation also makes me incredibly grateful that I didn't join the ballet world until I was 28 years old in that I'm able to be impervious to bitterness and other negative emotions that I don't want corrupting my sunshiney outlook.

This is why being 29 is a blessing in disguise. Some may consider my "advanced age" (I'm speaking in dance years, remember) a handicap as far as my future success in the dance world may go, but I think of it as being a li'l golden nugget my 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old peers aren't yet blessed with. I know what makes my heart and soul tick and this knowledge is what will bring me success because it gives me drive. I believe this is the "moxy" someone once told me I possess.

Glass-is-half-full, baby.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A little reality check never hurts

Class last night was great... it felt so good to be back. I'm definitely sore today, no surprise there, and I'm sure it will continue to get worse as the day goes on thanks to a little thing called "delayed onset muscle soreness" (or DOMS, for the fitness gurus out there). Class was definitely a little reality check as far as the importance of regular training... I've definitely lost some strength, flexibility and balance over the last six weeks. Again, no surprise, but physically being in class hit it home for me. I'm very glad I'm able to take class these three weeks... going back in the fall without any training would be bad.

Being back in class and starting a home conditioning program will help me get back in dance shape. Oh, and no more ice cream, except for special occasions... Ben & Jerry's has become more habit than a special treat lately, and that's gotta change. Rolls in the leotard are not okay.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Back to ballet!

I get to go to ballet tonight! I'm so glad... and nervous, of course. Logically I know it's a beginning adult class, so it's not like I'll be in class with principal dancers, but because I haven't done ballet for over a month and I feel all out of practice, I'm nervous. Sore muscles, here I come... :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A few words on this season's SYTYCD...

I was watching last night's episode of So You Think You Can Dance - yes, I watch and love that show - and there are three couples that keep blowing me away...

"Twitchington" (Twitch and Kherington) makes me laugh out loud. Mark and Chelsie's routine brought tears to my eyes (really!). And I'm just enamored with Joshua and Katee... well, maybe more Joshua than Katee :) but they are a great partnership. As for individual dancers, Will just rocks my socks. There aren't really words to describe what an amazing, phenomenal, talented, beautiful dancer he is... okay, so there are a few words, but I digress...

The quality that make Twitchington, Mark/Chelsie, and Joshua/Katee stand above the rest is they are true entertainers. The other dancers and couples are very good, yes. Very, very good. They wouldn't be on the show if they weren't, and I'm not holding on to any delusions that I'm better than any of them (because I'm not)... BUT, these three couples kick some serious ass because they dance very well and they entertain while they're dancing. They aren't just going through the assigned choreography. Their expression begins in their faces and moves all through their bodies until it reaches into their toes. They just have that entertaining quality, you know?They have it. (You other dancers and performers know exactly what I'm talking about.)

I hope, hope, hope that one of these three couples, plus Will, makes it to the final rounds. It would be a travesty if they don't. I'm wrapped up enough in these dancers after three short weeks that if one of them is cut tonight in the results show, I just might get choked up. Roll your eyes, that's fine - I proudly admit my addiction to this show. There are very few television shows that have this affect on me, especially the more mainstream, pop shows, so I'm allowed to indulge. (I believe SYTYCD is one of the better reality shows in that it is more realistic than, say, coming to live in some huge mansion with 19 other girls while you all compete for some desperate rich-boy's "true" love and affection... please.)

Dance should serve two purposes: to bring joy and to entertain. [Sidenote: Nothing irks me more than some avant-garde kind of "dance" such as butoh (Google it) claiming to be part of the dance world. Yes, I will offend some by saying that but I'm not here to make everyone happy and sugar coat everything I write.] The joy of dance should be for both the dancer and the audience, and with joy comes entertainment. A dancer who feels pure joy can't help but entertain whomever may be watching. It's kind of a cause-and-effect thing, a law of nature. The three couples that I'm rooting for put this law into practice every Wednesday night... so far, anyway. I have a feeling they'll stick around in the coming weeks!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Patiently" waiting, because I have no choice

I am not a patient gal by any stretch of the imagination. It's a virtue that's eluded me since I was conceived. But thanks to my employer's fiscal-year-end-check-withholding business that happens to us student hourly employees every June, I've been getting a lesson in patience this summer.

On the last day of the spring semester, I turned in my ballet written exam to my instructor (yes, we have written exams) and she strongly suggested I take ballet this summer. This was already on my summer agenda, but hearing it from my ballet teacher hit it home that I need as much practice as I can get if I'm going to succeed in the program. I was going to march myself to the local ballet studio and buy myself a punch card and get right to it, just as soon as I got my economic stimulus check from Uncle Sam & Co. and started working full time hours.

Wellllll, as usual, things didn't go quite as planned financially... Uncle Sam's check was less than hoped for because I didn't work enough last year to pay enough taxes (sigh). I couldn't start working full time hours until several weeks later. The money I did have went to other things like groceries, rent, etc. The basics, ya know. Blah blah blah... As far as money went, ballet classes were and are a frivolity.

How infuriating because, ironically, they're not entirely a frivolity. Compared to groceries and rent, yes. Considering they're to prepare me for my future career, no. It's all in the perspective. But every day that passes that I don't take a class just kills me. I just imagine all the technique and strength I built up over the last year is wasting away. Sure, I'm swing dancing, running, biking, hiking, etc., so I know I'm not out of shape generally speaking. But I'm out of dance shape and it bugs the hell out of me. Time is of the essence, since the studio's summer session is only 6 weeks long. This week will be the third week I'm missing.

This patience lesson hasn't been easy for me... but since my circumstances have lended no other choice, I have to just ride it out. I should, hopefully, with all fingers crossed and many prayers uttered, get that punch card next Monday and get myself back into those pink tights. I'll make the most out of the three weeks remaining. I keep telling myself that just because I'm catching the last half of the session doesn't mean all is lost. It's better than doing nothing at all. I'll also see what I can do about finding another studio in town that might offer classes later into the summer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A very necessary evil

Money may be evil, but it sure is necessary to get somewhere in life...

I have no idea how I'm going to pay for school next year and I'm a wee bit concerned. Student loans are no longer an option since I used student loans for my first bachelor's. Since this is my second, the government tells me I'm done. No more loans for you, missy. Scholarships are not working out so well, either. So I'm a little stuck and a little freaked out about it.

The thought of potentially not going back in the fall because I can't pay for it really upsets me. I know this happens and some people take time off to work and save money, going back when they've saved enough. This isn't really an option with dance. Taking a semester off would be detrimental to my training and progress. And it would just be plain stupid. Remember, time is a-tickin' here. I'm not exactly 18 years old anymore.

I've heard of and read stories where some wealthy, middle-aged man or woman is looking to patron the arts, and decides to do so by paying for the education and training of some young, struggling artist. I keep dreaming that this will happen to me. I just got an email from a friend whom this did just happen to! She's transferring to a small private school in Florida this fall, and she, too, was unsure how it would be paid for since funding was not coming in as she expected. Well, a long-time friend of her family's just offered to pay for her education! Seriously?! I almost cried when I read her email.

Okay, when's my miracle going to show up? Money has always been kind of a struggle for me. My family didn't have a lot growing up, and once I moved out on my own I've always lived paycheck to paycheck... but I don't consider myself a victim or anything. I'm not going to whine and bitch that "nothing good ever happens to me" and that the universe is out to get me. I'm plenty blessed with amazing friends, family, and I do have the basic needs covered - a roof over my head, food to eat, etc. But I guess I'm asking for a tad bit more from the universe.

I can't quit. Everything I worked for and fought for last school year would all be a waste if I did. I want this so badly. I truly believe in my heart that this is my calling in life. Do I expect to be a principle dancer in some professional ballet company someday? Of course not. Do I think I'm going to make mucho dinero as a dancer? Please. Do I know that I have to bust my butt every single day, physically and emotionally? Absolutely. Do I still want it, despite all this? Hell yes.

Quitting is not an option. Game on, money!

Friday, June 13, 2008

The first post

Hi. I'm finally joining the masses of bloggers in cyber-journal space.

I'm here to write about my adventures in my pursuit of a career in dance, however that may evolve.

Some people think I'm nuts to start this endeavor so late in life. They're counting in dance years, mind you, not normal human years. Dance years are kinda like doggie years. I'm 29 years old, which in dance years means I should soon be sunsetting my dance career. But oh no, not me. I'm just beginning!

I've never been very good at accepting "no" when I really want something. And, baby, I want this.