inspiration/belief: making it

I’m a disco king. There’s nothing better than a thumping groove and some live instrumentation to get me going. One of my favorites is a groovy jam by David Naughton called “Makin’ It.” The breakdown in the middle eights give me so much life! He sings:

I’m as bad as they come / Number two to no one / I’ve got looks, I’ve got brains
And I’m breakin’ these chains
Make some room now / Dig what you see
Success is mine / I’ve got the key
I’m makin’ it…

Apart from the rhythmic hand claps framing his words, the lyrics here stand out to me. It’s a definite statement that I’m here, and it’s clear – I’m MAKIN’ IT BABY! I’m a CHAMPION! Number 1! KING of the HILL!!! You get it by now, right?! My question is, when do you know you’ve made it? Let’s talk.

The weekend, just minutes off a great performance of “Water Wars” with the Sonia Plumb Dance Company, a friend of mine (who is also in the company) were stretching and discussing the show. We chatted about our performance: our hits, our misses (fortunately, more of the former), and the large turnout we had that night. The audience was filled with friends, family, company supporters, and most notably, a few of our former teachers. I say most notably because for me, the fact that these instructors attended the show gave me an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. They spent their time and money to attend the show not only to support our artist director (who is their colleague) but also support us, their former students.

As our conversation continued and we swapped stories of how teachers recommended us for teaching positions or gave us opportunities not given to others, we began to realize that in the post-tutelage span of time, we had crossed the line from being a “pupil” of theirs to almost a “colleague” of sorts. Their longevity and experience in the field will forever put them FAR ahead of us by industry standards, but they honestly think enough of us to offer and employ us in professional work is such a compliment! It had snuck up on us, but we are living our dreams – teaching and performing in professional organizations and companies, creating movement for a living; we are fortunate enough to be in the ranks of those who have conventionally “made it.” For myself, getting to that level was something that I aspired for, a benchmark for being a working professional in the dance industry. Of course, I always conduct myself as if I am a professional, but it means the world to me that someone I admire does also. It made me ask myself the question, “Have I REALLY made it?”

If you want the black and white answer – no. A better question is “Am I successful?” The black and white answer to that is a resounding YES. Though I am indeed achieving what some consider conventional success as a professional dancer, choreographer, and instructor, I don’t yet feel that I’ve reached the personal pinnacle of my professional career. What that point will be, I honestly have no earthly idea. There’s so much that I’ll still accomplish before I consider myself as officially “made it”. I’ve done well in the concert dance realm, but I have sights on commercial success too. Choreographic prosperity has been mine, but desires for larger-scale projects are on the horizon as well. It’s a matter of one step at a time – opportunity, success, opportunity, success. Of course there may be some challenges or a failure or two in there, but each adds to the list of what we personally consider “making it”. Much like Lora Meredith, Lana Turner’s character from the 1959 adaptation of Imitation of Life, my list is long. In the scene, she’s musing about her blossoming film career and what she’d like to accomplish:

“I want more — everything….maybe too much.”

That sounds good to me. Everything. Once I have everything, that’s when I’ve made it.

What do you think it takes to “make it”? Do you measure it conventionally, or do you take more stock in achieving personal goals to decide whether you’ve reached the top?

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