I think it' s so unfair how people treat you, once you start getting older. It's like any work that you did in your past doesn't matter anymore. And what becomes much harder, as you get older is that your career starts to take a backseat to LIFE, causing setbacks that you never saw coming. So does it mean that the contributions in your career, only mattered when you were younger?
I laugh at my last statement because no one ever knew my age because I hid it. No one even knew that when I first moved to LA, I was already in my late 20s. I didn't know of any "other worlds" existing beyond my small suburban community. And as I was growing up . . . going into the city of Chicago, was always a big deal, so when I started getting opportunities to teach, all around that city - I felt like I was accomplishing something great!
So here's the blunt truth. . . was I the one who decided when my parents would meet, have a kid, then even more candidly . . . was I the one to who decide the date, I would come out of my mom's crouch?!?! We're all adults here. Again, did I get to decide this? My birthdate!
This may seem like an angry, journal entry, but this is my truth. Are you open to hearing it?
Isn't the societal expectation to get into college, find a good job, start a career, build your network, then later get married, have children, give to charities, get awards for our efforts, then retire with your 401K?
Now, many like myself, haven't taken this type of path but what I've accomplished, many (former employers, jobs I've been interviewed for, or emails/messages that I've received) have all stated that my work is "impressive!" But yet, I didn't get that job or I wasn't a "good fit" or another candidate was chosen, OR more upsettingly, after receiving A job . . . I found myself being pushed out! My question was always why? What's wrong with me? Why was my work and credentials always "so impressive," but I always ended up on the disappointing end?
Moreover, in the past 3 years (including 2023) I've found myself stripped from my income, pushed out, let go. There was also a time when HR, wasn't even aware, nor understood my dismissal. To add, I was even asked to have a conversation with an inclusion consultant, who wanted to know about my Google review, of this renown theatre in New Jersey. We discussed how/why the company who hired me multiple times because of my credentials and work, had suddenly had a change of heart about my intended work and direction. I found it was interesting how there was an immediate change of heart after delivering great work and providing a holistic atmosphere, where students could learn and be their authentic selves; I've always had high expectations, but it's always resulted in growth & building my credentials, but not diluting them.
On the contrary, I wanted to write about AGEISM once before, but I feared judgement. Those who think of me as "not being in their league" to even talk of such, unconsciously bias. However, I believe that I started to experience ageism when I put my pride aside, to get 2 minimal wage jobs: One at Target & the other at a boutique retail store in Chicago, as an Assistant Manager. Before receiving this job, I had forgone a stint of deep depression, due to another bout of mistreatment, received at 2 well known Chicago dance studios. So, I had no income. I wasn't looking for jobs. I couldn't. I could barely get out the bed. I barely left my apartment.
On that note:
At that boutique retail job, I soon realized that I was perceived as younger because I appeared younger. I was perceived to be on the "same level" as my colleagues because I would joke around with them or genuinely able to relate to them. More recently, I realized that my skill and leadership qualities triggered insecurities in my manager because I would speak up when things weren't handled correctly; I also had the ability to learn my job responsibilities quickly and didn't need much guidance when doing my job; I was confident in what the job entailed. I understood how to speak with customers because at this point, I had already been a teacher for 17 years.
Being a teacher for years is something that I could never fully disclose, outside of dance, especially working a minimum wage job, but I really needed the money and I knew that I had the leadership skills to do any role, especially as a Target associate or as an Assistant Manager.
Here's a more recent situation that I experienced, here is South Korea. Because I was trying to escape a terrible situation that I was in, back in New York. I, instantaneously took an English teaching job here. Learning later that my race and my AGE was the exact reason why I was let go. Every other instructor didn't have as much experience as I did, nor did they speak up when we were put under overwhelming pressure, even my "head teacher" didn't understand how to be an effective leader nor advocate for staff, she didn't have the skills, and MOST definitely didn't understand the difference between having transparent conversations and disagreements vs. seeing it as confrontation.
This has angered me to the upmost degree because wouldn't you want your teachers to have EXPERIENCE? My positive student engagement and student management, was never taken into account. My work ethic didn't matter. My preparation didn't matter. My transparent communication didn't matter. This clearly shows that younger teachers are preferred because they can be controlled.
This is the main reason why I bring up Ageism because it's become a result of my years of work, my accomplishments.
I never thought that having experience and advocating for myself would "bite me in the ass!" I always thought that if I just worked hard at building my credentials . . it would work in my favor & I would be seen as an asset, rather than dismissed, discriminated against, or let go.
Many fail to understand how experiencing REJECTION, SO many times. . . can really effect our mental health, the ability to see ourselves as valuable or deem ourselves as worthy.
Now, I do understand that there are new/gifted talents out there and I also understand how younger people need and should be presented with "a chance." (Though I didn't grow up in the Gen Z or Alpha generation, I was still given my 1st chance to teach by Claire Bataille, the 1st dancer of Hubbard Street, AFTER I worked with her in college and AFTER I studied dance in college.) Nevertheless, I also wholeheartedly believe that Gen Z/Alpha can sometimes bring in more funds, popularity, & online presence for companies/studios/institutions. Gen Z/Alpha have grown up in a generation where "paying your dues" isn't as important, as they were when I was growing up, as a Millennial.
Popularity is now the only thing that matters and the rest of us WITH education, foundation & LIFE EXPERIENCE seem to get kicked to the curb, especially if we've never had the "track record of popularity," which can be quite upsetting & hurtful.
An example of paying dues would be: I didn't grow up in dance, I didn't start early in my training. I didn't start my official dance training, until college; I majored in Dance. And there, I only learned the Eurocentric forms of dance and theory; what is still seen as the "holy grail" - Ballet and Modern . . . I was always told how it prepared you for the dance world. So, when I stepped into the dance scene, I viewed so many people with more technique and technical abilities than I had.
However, I've learned that college dance pushes you in the direction of concert dance only. The misconception is that college dance is needed in order to succeed in dance, period. In my opinion, that isn't true. College dance is just another way to receive your training and make connections, primarily in concert dance & musical theatre.
There's always been a difference in opinion with whether or not going to college for dance is beneficial. As for me, I only went to college for dance because my mom found a college where I could study it; I personally didn't know a lick about dance. However, knowledge in the field (taking tons of classes, being visible, and showcasing your own talent via choreography or performance) can also assist in building a strong online presence and also pave a way into mainstream entities.
All in all, my initial reasoning for enhancing my credentials (as a dance teacher/choreographer) was to "prove my worth." I wanted others' respect, I wanted others to deem me as valuable, regardless of how late I started, in the game. And as a result, I prematurely felt accomplished because I was once sought after, the one that renown places wanted to hire: I trained & I proved my value with both hard work and ability.
Where do I fit . . . now?
Has 'aging' (whether in the dance scene or professional working world) and not being new on the scene, facing many hardships, being a nomad, not having security, lacking support, losing connections . . . cancelled me out?
Will I be on edge . . . always looking for the ball to drop - for me, to lose that job?
Will I always be IN BETWEEN . . .
both age and ability?
. . . always having to prove myself for others, to deem me as worthy?
The reality is:
"They don't my name" - they only see my AGE because of my PAST accomplishments.