It manifests in my memory as us mini-dancers sitting in a circled clump around our fearless – and pretty out-there leader, my first dance director. One of the first times I stepped out of the confines of a high school environment and into the pre-professional world of my dance community. I danced alongside grownups and got some grownup advice, as well as rules. While some of the rules had no chance of sticking in a room full of young adults who share a passion (i.e. – no in company dating, obviously) there was one value that seemed to take precedence between us company members – leave your personal stuff at the door– and come in ready to work.
Since then I’ve carried that notion with me through my days working for other companies, and eventually instilled the same value into my own. Still I have to practice being realistic and self-aware of the practices I apply to myself and pass on. The truth is, the people entering these workspaces, be it the cubicle, dance studio, or recording booth have no choice but to bring their entire selves and energy into every room they enter. If things are tough at the home front, we’re bound to see it reflect in our work, for better or worse. Just the other day I found myself letting my frustrations with the very project I was working on creep into a rehearsal space I’ve worked so hard to keep sacred.
We’re human and the idea of checking our personal lives in a box outside right before entering a space of creative production isn’t realistic for those of us who don’t function on extreme compartmentalization. So, here’s what I really mean when I tell my co-company members “Leave it at the Door.”
Check in With Yourself Before Entering A Shared Space
The amount of blurred personal-to-professional and back again interactions I’ve had in my creative career has reached an embarrassing figure I’m not prepared to share via public forum, or waste the entire day recalling. However, I will say that sometimes the personal follows you into the professional space, meets you after for drinks, and thoroughly betrays your trust about 90 days later. The fact of the matter is though, if there are still another 60 days until your production debuts, what you decided to get into personally certainly should not derail your team’s efforts in the studio. I can recall (because of the sore recentness of it all) a time where I entered an artistic collaboration with someone that shared a pretty rocky history. We let bygones be bygones and exchanged amazing collaborative ideas. What’s more – we brought them to life! We used our power in numbers to combat that famous lack of creative idea follow through. We even started to hang again, reuniting with his weird, sweet friends and workshopping some impromptu Latin dance lessons DJ’ed by the Spotify blaring from his bedroom office. In hindsight, we definitely should’ve restored our respective relationship as born-again friends and collaborators in small pieces, because sudden bouts of jealousy resurfaced and eventual devastation on my end when I found out via social media of his otherwise hidden relationship status (even though I was totally dating people, too… ah, emotions.)
So. what did I do? After clutching my pearls witnessing the surprise surveillance of my new old buddy caking on his new lady, I gave myself a time-specific recovery plan that gave me ample time before our next rehearsal together to fully accept and leave the emotions I was free to process on my own time at – you guessed it, The Door.
Taking Mental Inventory of Yourself Before Professional Interactions
You could say my weekly visit to my parents in the suburbs from the city was a convenient vessel of time for me to access all stages of grief. While I experienced, shock, anger, sadness, and eventually acceptance of what was and what is, I figured I would also access my mindfulness toolbox and help myself to avoid a potentially emotionally charged and awkward rehearsal happening in less than 24 hours.
I asked myself out loud (out of the privacy of my car) “Ok, what is physically manifesting in my body right now?” The answer? A stiffening of my upper chest, shortness of breath, a little nausea. Having the ability to report to myself the physical, very real symptoms my body was flagging allowed me to validate my also very real emotions, so that was next. How was I emotionally? Could I point to my proverbial feelings chart and pick which faces matched the ones etched across my own? In addressing those tough-to-admit emotions – embarrassment, rejection, helplessness, I was able to feel them thoroughly and presently… and eventually be free to feel other things, like how ridiculously joyful I feel when listening to disco divas and funky kings of the 70s and I waack and pop my way to my destination.
If I needed any mental backup (and I did), it was realizing that if I had restored a true friendship with this collaborator of mine, I’d have to hold myself to my own standard of being an excellent and mindful friend, by practicing lovingkindness and simply being happy that he’s happy! So, in my head it went a little something like this:
“I wish you peace
I wish you good health
I wish you joy
I wish you love”
Queue the obviously impending acapella Rachel Yamagata/ Sam Cooke cover I sang to myself, and I was ready to see all the reasons to be happy again. We’re finally doing the thing we talked about way too long ago on our first-meeting-turned-first-date period of admitted distraction – creating something beautiful.
So, What Can We Bring In?
Experiencing less-than-savory emotions is inevitable. From actual family emergencies (not just the thing you say to avoid follow-up questions when you don’t feel like coming to rehearsal…I’m on to you), to breakups, to potential weird in-studio juju, it’s important to remember the power the energy of a space can have. When we enter the creative and productive space, we have the option to contribute a sense of commitment to the process with clarity and positivity. Remember what the function of the space is that you’re entering and commit to fulfilling its purpose – your drama will be right there at The Door waiting for you after you prepare for an amazing production.