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.
When I was going through my LinkedIn Premium package and what it offered, I remember a question, in the "Interview Section" asking about a failure or mistake that we had made.
What's interesting is that today (12.25) - I made a mistake. However, when I answered this question, the first example that came up in my mind was . . . with being the Founder and Creative Director of moveDIPR.
When I took on that role . . . I could clearly remember 2017 being a hightlight! It was the first time where everything felt like it was going right. I had a team. I had a project company. I had a right hand/assistant. I was able to scale to Teens with my apprentice program, we were offering company classes and we were even able to bring in Guest Teachers. And with that, I was already teaching at some of the top dance studios in New York (3 to be exact) - I was building my name and my brand is an awesome way! I was top of the world!
However, today I received a message from someone that I wanted to connect with on LinkedIn and their answer was "NO" - they didn't feel comfortable because I didn't use the correct pronouns.
Now, immediately I felt horrible because 1. I'm a black woman, so I should understand how 1 incident can harm us, even when it's as small as an unconscious bias or microaggression. I honestly felt like shit, in that moment!
And something that I clearly remember from doing my DEI training was that when you offend someone or say something unwarranted . . . you should not apologize profusely! But what was my first instinct? >>> To apologize profusely and make it about me: my advocacy for trans and nonbinary students, having a best friend who's gay, etc - everything that we hate about the advocacy or apologies that we receive from white women.
So, to answer the 1st question about a mistake you made . . . this will definitely be a mistake that will be more present in my mind.
All this to say . . . no matter how much older we become, it doesn't absolve us from making mistakes . . . even after recurring more training and knowledge. So all we can do is "Lean in to listen," & KEEP TRYING to become better people.
And in this case, in turns out that my impact was worse than my initial intent.
I believe I once wrote a little about this, in a previous entry. However, I wanted to write about this again.
"Comparison is the thief of joy!" ~ Theodore Roosevelt
"Comparison is the death of joy!" ~ Mark Twain
We've all heard these phrases before right? And many of us can not honestly say that seeing another person's life, hasn't lit a spark under our a**es!
I don't know. For me, sometimes I feel defeated because I'm not where they are or not where I'd like to be, at this point in my life . . . but sometimes, I get inspired to write or share my story with others . . . and sometimes, I even get TOO pumped! Yes, too pumped because I start updating everything: my profile on every social media page, my materials (resumes, bio, CV, etc), I try to ensure that there's ultimate cohesion on my websiteS . . . all so others can recognize my worth - so others can deem me as worthy - so others would want ME!
So, what is this entry about?
Is it really the silent killer or is it our ULTIMATE motivation?
I can admit. When I notice that others are doing better in their lives or reaching milestones that I wish I could. . . I don't CHANGE WHO I AM: honest, vulnerable, no BS type of black woman . . . speak up about the things that I see or believe a voice needs to be added to or advocate for an unheard voice . . . why? because deep down inside, all of my heartaches, fffd up friendships, estranged family dynamic, jobs and bosses who did NOT want me or see me or hear me . . .
THIS IS MY VOICE!
I do have a voice, whether it's in art, teaching or outside of it.
I bring value.
Yes, I challenge the status quo.
Yes, I don't always agree.
Yes, I do and approach things differently because I LEARNED LATE. I didn't follow the trajectory of common society; I became an artist and a dance educator first, because that's all I thought I was good at.
Moving on . . .
And yes, I share with vulnerability.
None of this takes away from my WORTH!
So again, Does comparison make or break us?
My answer is that it does BOTH!
Let's start with the latter . . . as artists or educators or just merely existing as who we are (ME - a black woman) - it appears to be that the more broken and misunderstood I am, the more I push! The more I find ways of making myself MORE visible, whether people go "oops! I forgot to unfollow her or here she go again! . . . I don't have the capacity" - It will NEVER stop me showcasing my TALENTSSSS! My talents, my skills, my 'itty bitty' achievements may not mean a lot to most (who may have several degrees or do the most upstanding non profit or volunteer work, raising a family, or any corporate work), but I MATTER . . . just like you.
Say that to yourself because I definitely have to see these words written or whisper them to myself, from time to time: I MATTER.
And NOTE: You'll never know someone else's full capability, unless you offer someone outside of your tribe/circle that conversation or respond back to their message or take time out of your day to engage with them, whether it be a video chat or cup of coffee.
In all, COMPARISON makes us better! Pushes us to become better and lights a fire in us . . . and that fire may even pull out some really dope ish! lol
For example, I shared an honest moment of comparison with a fellow artist named Ellaine Manuel and she shared with me: "That takes some real guts and vulnerability to share that, so thank you for sharing something so honest with me...You deserve so much more, truly." PS. Elaine and I have never gone for coffee nor taken each other's classes, nor created anything together, but we do respond to each other's messages - we just have this connection on a deeper level . . . and it truly means the world to me!
These are the types of people who we need in our lives, whenever Comparison rears its head. Together! We can really be honest about how we feel and that enhances our mental health right?
TODAY I HAD TO TAKE A BREATH…
I woke up and immediately went to my phone because I ended up sleeping in, later than I wanted to. Why? The answer is due to insomnia, plus the anxiety of being in South Korea, on top of trying to manage the time difference between South Korea and America.
Nevertheless, I came across a company’s name, here on LinkedIn, specifically I ran across the owner's profile, of this company. For context, the owner used to be my friend; I used to work for him in Chicago. And just from seeing his name . . . I was triggered. It took me back to that uncomfortable space, living in Chicago years ago. What this revealed to me was that I still wasn't healed from the heartbreak, the micro aggressions, the gaslighting, the bias work culture, the betrayal, and the lack of accountability, from the entire organization and also the lack of support from the community that supports it; My former friend was a white man, with much power in the Chicago Arts community (the city I grew up in).
And as a black woman . . . this "friend," didn't hear me. The company, the community, my allies . . . They didn't hear me. I was only seen as A talent, in the workplace, I was even faulted for being quiet, in the office (a choice I made, whenever I felt uncomfortable) . . . I soon noticed that my authentic self wasn't welcomed (I can clearly remember walking into the office and only receiving a glance of acknowledgement), this company did not want to hear my voice; I was the one who would brought up concerns in the privilege that some students were allowed to have vs others, the treatment that my trans student encountered, the disrespect that I encountered in previous years, of working for this company, plus my needs in the job I was hired to do, but not fully compensated for. Years back, I began to speak up, so I wrote an Open Letter, describing my mistreatment, in more detail.
Moving forward, how do you all process getting older and how to utilize DISCERNMENT? Utilizing discernment is a key element, in determining who you align with - who should be in your circle, who should be in your camp, your tribe. . . pretty much where you can access support. Do you ‘unfriend and unfollow’ or remove a connection or contact? What do you do when a connection seems off?
If you recently made new/genuine connections, then you find out that these connections are still connected and continue to support someone (a company) who caused you massive harm and who became your oppressor . . . how would you handle this?
We all know of worldly oppressors who commit cruel atrocities or devalue everyone having fair human rights. But in simple terms, someone who is deemed as an oppressor is also someone who prevents you from having the same opportunities, freedom, and benefits of others, to keep down by unjust use of power. I experienced the latter = the misuse of power that unconsciously discriminated against me, taking away my income, which in turn, caused haphazard effects on both my mental and physical well-being.
So again, how do you utilize DISCERNMENT...when it comes to making new connections, who genuinely support you/your work/your efforts . . . but, of whom also unintentionally trigger your past, unhealed pain?
The reason why I'm sharing and exposing this reality is because Black women, more often than not, are always viewed in a negative light and often get their words and actions misconstrued.
I've experienced a great deal of trauma, on the job, in the past 3 years and to say that it hasn't impacted my mental health would be asinine. (Not to mention, the personal traumas that I've experience outside of the workplace). Experiencing mistreatment and having your GOOD/BENEFICIAL qualities unrecognized, causes most, especially me, to fall into a deep dark hole, where we become hopeless. When no one hears you, or sees you and your hardwork, it becomes incredibly difficult to merely move on and find acceptance and peace.
I never thought that my 1st experience in South Korea would end up like this - heartbreaking!
These are the statements that stood out to me, emailed on (11/17 @ 11:23am) by my former colleague (Y***** A.) at Chungham Academy (Creverse) in South Korea:
"I did not want to send you an email, but seeing how much of a coward you are, I had to do this."
Mind you, she NEVER once came to talk to ME - in person, about anything that was bothering her, she ALWAYS hid away or ran away, but she has thee audacity to call me a coward.
"You never met deadlines, lost test papers, had low scores on evaluations.
You never met deadlines (INCORRECT), lost test papers (INCORRECT), had low scores on evaluations. (Question? Who even shared any of this with her? Shouldn't information about another staff member be confidential?)"
"You spoke down to people and expected them to not say anything? (WHO & WHEN & HOW EXACTLY?) I don’t know where you got that privilege from.(I'm BLACK, I have no privilege) Majority of the teachers did not like how you spoke to them and felt uncomfortable in your presence. (A VERY BOLD STATEMENT, but the key phrase here is "felt uncomfortable")
Let me paint a picture: MOST OF THE TIME . . . I STAYED TO MYSELF AND IN MY CLASSROOM, prepping & only made contact with others, when I needed to."
Also, I don't recall anyone following me 24/7, in order to see all of my interactions. Nor aware of any messages that I sent that SHOWED MY THANKS, to certain colleagues, whenever they helped me out or did something generous. UNLESS, IIIIIIIIIII was being targeted and harassed?!?!
I guess being a STRONG BLACK WOMAN who's independent and very confident in her work/voice, triggered personal insecurities. Hmm? Think about that for a moment.
"Don’t harass me AT WORK (after going to her room to speak to her woman to woman. . . was there anger? Yes. Was there hurt? Yes) I don’t know how it worked in America for you and how you even managed to hold a job, but your behavior is not suitable for a work place." (insert a deep sigh here)
I do not let people talk down to me (TALK DOWN?) and yet you still expected me to be ok with how you spoke to me (AN UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATION) 20 minutes (INCORRECT) before my class started? You are a 30+ woman who keeps attacking someone younger than you. You need to GROW UP and be a GROWN ASS WOMAN. You need to learn how to speak to people. I am more mature than you, I DO NOT LOOK AT PEOPLE BASED ON THEIR COLOUR. I look at them BASED ON THEIR PERSONALITY. This is something YOU NEED TO LEARN AND IMPLEMENT IN YOUR MISERABLE LIFE. (WOW! VERY BOLD)
"You continuously attacked me, stalked me and texted me (ATTACKED? NOT SO MUCH! STALKED? NOT SO MUCH! TEXTED? --- YES!)"
"...colour? This is an absolutely childish thing to say. Yet you still claim to be mature. Maybe it is an American thing to make everything about race. But I am not American. I do not give two shits if someone has a different skin colour to me. A human is a human, if you’re shitty person then you’ll be treated like a shitty person, if you’re a good person, then you’ll be treated like a good person. This is common knowledge of human life. And with your age, you should already know this. I, someone who is younger than you, should not be teaching you this."
That is a very racist (I'M BLACK, HOW CAN I BE RACIST?) statement to make, and wit you continuously saying you are a PERSON OF COLOUR, I expected more from you. You just continuously try to find reasons to attack me and blame me for your arrogant mistakes. (Arrogance and confidence are 2 totally different attributes.)
. . . Also my LAWYER IS BLACK (INTERESTING STATEMENT)
Let me now COMBAT THIS FALSE NARRATIVE . . .
Yes, in America we are allowed to disagree and have disagreements, colleagues are no different. We are allowed not to get along, nor 'like' every co-worker. We are allowed to make mistakes. We are allowed to text whoever TF we want! We are allowed to CALL IN people for uncomfortable conversations. LEGALLY we are granted to have ALL of our hard work compensated for. More likely than not, we stick by what's written in our contracts. We are allowed to ADVOCATE for ourselves and others. We are allowed to challenge perspectives. We are allowed to ask for RESPECT, ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY from not only our colleagues, but also from OUR WORKPLACE, which includes OUR MANAGERS & OUR BOSSES.
AS A BLACK WOMAN - I'VE NEVER ATTACKED, NOR HARASSED, NOR INTENDED TO MAKE ANYONE FEEL UNSAFE!!! I'VE SPOKEN MY TRUTH, I'VE EXPRESSED MY FEELINGS, I'VE ADVOCATED FOR MYSELF, I'VE PROVEN MY VALUE. AND YES, I SOMETIMES, REACT, INSTEAD OF 'RESPOND,' & YES, I F***** TEXT PEOPLE, even if/when I'm upset & so does the ENTIRE world! - THAT IS NOT A CRIME!
And here's the messed up thing. . . the colleague that wrote this email to me - we went out to dinner, SHE shared her mistreatment BY THE ACADEMY and I showed her so much empathy and support, gave her a card, sent her podcasts of inspiration, allowed her into my space, shared my empathy for her loved ones - health issues and also immediately left my classroom one day, to HUG her and allowed her to vent . . . when she endured and had an uncomfortable meeting with the BM & Manager; They did not care that she didn't have the funds for a flight back to her country because the academy was requiring her to pay certain fees. Lastly, I guess she doesn't recall how we walked to our apartment complex together and stood in the hallway, near the elevators and just laughed and vented about the academy. She seemed to have felt SAFE then? Oh! And let's not forget how she once confided in me on how she was going to SUE THIS ACADEMY & SPECIFICALLY OUR MANAGER, E*** . . . due to his harassment. IRONIC huh?
For the record, I do not feel threatened by Ya****'s email . . . there is obviously a huge cultural difference here . . . but BLACK WOMEN ARE BEYOND STRONG & WE WILL NEVER ALLOW PEOPLE TO SPEAK OUR TRUTHS FOR US.
Click here to hear about another story of how an African teacher. She's in currently in another country but this clearly shows how Black Women are treated.
There's more to the story, regarding the BIAS work culture, at this academy and how WHITE teachers, MALE teachers, and KOREAN/AMERICAN Teachers are treated very differently.
At the end of the day, if we, as black women don't speak our truths . . . others will cause us to feel LESS than who we really are. I AM NOT the picture that was painted of me in South Korea. And I will continue to share my story . . .