Of the many things that I have encountered while under varying degrees of lock-down during a global pandemic, one of the very first things things I found myself having to reckon with was the idea of what exactly it was I was doing with my life.
At the time lock-down started, early March of 2020, what I was literally doing was managing a Yoga/Dance studio that occupied 75% of my brain space (just by virtue of more or less having to be available in varying capacities 24/7), and dedicating the other 25% of my brain to making time to do my own training. At one point I had an art practice (more on that later), but I had accepted the fact that at the moment I didn’t have the luxury of time necessary to indulge in what had at certain points been the most important part of my existence. I had, instead, to be concerned with making money (for I live in the most expensive part of the United States due to an insistent dedication with the weather), and keeping myself in good physical health (good physical health was important because: a, I still couldn’t afford “real” health insurance, and b, when I was physically healthier it allowed me to maintain mental & emotional health easier, which was necessary to deal with the stress of a job that overtook my existence).
There was a point when I had literally written in my pen and paper journal, “You can do this for at least two years. Put in the work. Don’t think about what you don’t have time to do, instead play the role of the ascetic. Do the work so you have time to think about it after.” I’m not sure if I truly believed this was sustainable, but I was busy enough that I didn’t really have time to consider it.
So, then, a pandemic happened. Suddenly I was not as busy. I had, like most of the world,, to enter a period of confusion; a time when I wasn’t sure what was happening, a time when I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, and for how long. I continued in my role as studio manager, though my role drastically shifted, as we weren’t physically open, nor were we offering online classes. My new job became, more or less, helping my boss to figure out what exactly to do next.
And within this consideration, I also spent time thinking about what I wanted to do next. The boundless machinations of late-capitalism continued, but I knew I was burnt out. My boss was burnt out. Almost everyone we knew who ran a fitness studio of some sort was burnt out. It’s not a forgiving industry in the Bay Area, where rents are egregiously higher than they have any right to be, so any ideological or creative idea of what fitness/yoga/dance should be often get steamrolled by pure market-drive.
With new distance, I realized that I was not doing what I wanted to be doing. And I realized, in the face of a global pandemic, that it is ridiculous to not be doing what you want to be doing. That it is unhealthy to actually exert energy telling yourself that something that is stressing you out, burning you out, is something that you have to keep doing because if you stop the world as you understand it will also stop. What the pandemic revealed, what we all saw as soon as the normal operations of late-capitalist society ceased to uphold, was that the world as we understood it did indeed stop, but we all survived. We all started finding new ways to survive. We were able to adapt, we were able to ask questions, some of us were finally able to start considering what role in the world we actually wanted to pursue.
I began to understand that my role working in administrative capacities at yoga/fitness or circus studios, teaching on the side, was not the best use of my time.
If I were to wildly reduce what I find important in my life to the barest reduction, I can point to two individual practices that as my ‘driving forces.’ The first is an artistic practice, which is expansive in terms of medium and tends to regularly shift. The second is a physical practice: training, using my body. The two have always been connected, but I’ve never had the time or space to figure out what it looks like to allow the two to truly coexist. Historically there has had to be hierarchical positioning where one takes precedence over the other depending on what my schedule looked like or what I was trying to accomplish.
So in our brave new world, irreversibly different than it was pre-pandemic, I know that my responsibility to myself is to allow myself to approach these two practices simultaneously. To level the playing field. To allow each to sit simultaneous. I’m tired of fragmenting and compartmentalizing the things that fire me up when I’m talking to different people. There is a coherence that I want to communicate; there is something larger than mere spectacle, something larger than a limited idea of commercial “fitness.” There is something beyond.