With a new year comes reflection and the thought that things need to be different. Well, for me the different things occurred prior to the ball drop and I find myself now able to enjoy the ride. Not too long ago things were changing and shifting and leaving me feeling confused, disappointed, and frankly, undone. 2014 marked the finale of six+ years with the Steps Repertory Ensemble. This family was one I saw more than my own, accomplished big dreams with, and helped build something rather modest to something quite reputable. While the closing of that book signified the opening of a new life chapter, it was difficult and bittersweet. Only until several months had passed did I allow myself time to redistribute my artistic goals and realized things had changed. I found myself almost paralyzed by the cumulative years of rejection from various artistic pursuits. They somehow blurred the tremendous accomplishments and successes I had achieved individually, with the company, and even with Lindsey and all our incredible feats. I would look at my bio and resumes to reassure myself and dig up my lost pride. My husband and friends would scoff and laugh it off, saying “come on! you’re great. look at all you’ve done.” But it didn’t matter. I didn’t want to quit but I didn’t want to push ahead. Ultimately, I gave myself some time to be still. I didn’t race to auditions and took a break from my dutiful class taking and tried to forgive myself for feeling lazy. I gave myself the opportunity to listen to my heart, mind, gut, feet, and sore hips to realize this break, although guilt-ridden and strange, was healthy and needed.
So much determination and ambition attacking my dreams had caught up with me and begged for respite. But this felt like quitting, which was something I never allowed myself to even consider. I mourned the loss of my performing career while simulaneously loving the stressless existence formerly burdered by body image displeasure, nagging whispers of doubt, and again that realistic and punishing rejection. I am a strong, opininated, tenacious woman, but man that shit can add up and start to chip away at that tough skin we work so hard to pile on.
Perhaps the bravest thing I did was step away. I only realize this now of course. I devoted myself to my teaching, mentoring youth, and planning my wedding. These were fulfulling and wonderful, and the hum of guilt was subsiding. I worked out and took class for me and my own enjoyment versus feeling obligation or pressure to perform and secretly wish for a job to be offered to me. And then, in early October my friend and choreographer Celia Rowlson-Hall needed dancers for ABC’s “Manhattan Love Story.” I was cast for a proposal flash mob scene and would make my television [dance] debut! My body hadn’t forgotten. I survived a fun full day dancing and performing with my fellow castmates. Shortly after, I was hired as the new Administrator of Student Programs at Steps on Broadway. This position previously held by the Ensemble’s Artistic Director whom we all admired and loved was now mine. I am the advisor/guidance counselor/administrator helping to build the futures of the next generation of artists. All roads led me to this place. Including but not limited to:) the uncertainity, the struggle, the joy, the pain, the pressure, the work, the play, the investigation, the exploration, the random gigs, the travel, the money, the everything. Having the ability and responsibility to influence students in the very place where I landed and have called home ever since moving to New York in 2006 is an opporunity of a lifetime.
Despite the fact that I may have been thrown for a loop (or ten), I have and will continue to enjoy each destination along the way on this splendid and adventurous journey of mine.
Be open. Be ready. Be risky.
– Mindy Upin Jackson
Administrator of Student Programs
Steps on Broadway
Photo Credits: Lindsey Kelley & Mindy Upin from “Speed Reader”by Marley Carroll. Photo & art design by Brooke Priddy Conrad
To read more of Mindy’s musings visit mindyupin.com