Sometimes I Adult

(OR)  Randomly on Friday

Randomly on Friday – I am proud of myself for my mad adulting skills.  (Also, I honestly appreciate that “adult” has become a verb.  I know there is the camp of people who dislike it, but I think it is more accurate than calling oneself an adult.  We are not truly, completely, “adult” – we have moments of childishness and immaturity, and moments when we buckle up and take care of business.  I have moments of being an adult, but I am not one every moment of the day.  Therefore, “adulting” more accurately describes my pattern.)

Randomly on Friday – I completed my daily French lesson early, in the time I had between getting the child on the bus and getting myself to work.  I felt really productive first thing in the morning – and that rarely happens.

Randomly on Friday – A friend added me to a Denver based face and body painters forum, at which I squeed audibly because this blows my mind.  I am constantly surprised by how connected this community is, how supportive, and how there is a group of people that do everything I want to do.  Cyr – yep, there’s a group jam.  Juggling – group jam, preceded by game night.  Dancing – so many groups for that.  And now, face painting.

Randomly on Friday – I have been networking my little tush off, putting in bids for gigs and sending out promo material – kicking butt and literally taking names.

Randomly on Friday – a Chicago blues dancing friend is in town for an audition, and tonight we are going dancing.  I have been excited about it for days.  I need to dance – not the choreographed group stuff I have been working on, but the deep and soulful, intimate dancing that I miss about Chicago.

Randomly on Friday – one of my best friends booked his flight to Boulder for my showcase next month.  I may have jumped around the house for a few minutes when he confirmed his plans.  One thing I dislike about being an adult is having my friends spread around the world.  While it means I have friends in cool places that I can visit, it also means I don’t see the people I am close to very often.

Randomly on Friday – I still need help funding the tail end of my tuition and gear payments.  If you have anything to spare, I would appreciate it so much!  I have literally been scraping the bottom of my bank account for the past two weeks just to put food on the table.  Visit my GoFundMe page by clicking on this link: http://www.gofundme.com/annasaerialdance

Randomly on Friday – Tickets for our showcase have gone on sale!!  If you are in the Denver/Boulder area, you should come.  Buy your tickets now, because we are going to sell out.  There are eight aerialists each with iron wills and amazing routines – we are totally selling out.  Here’s the event page, and this is where you BUY TICKETS.

Randomly on Friday – April has been kind of a crummy month for me.  Anything that could go wrong did.  I’ve been struggling to pick up the pieces, create some semblance of order, and continue moving forward.  And I mean really struggling.  I’ve plastered on a smile when I’m in public and broken into tears as soon as I get home, or as soon as someone has been nice to me and asked me what’s going on.  Yesterday was a fairly good day, and it feels like today is going to be as well.  Chin up, Buttercup.

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Beginning The Countdown

I have been fairly MIA in recent weeks.  Our training, commitments, and personal lives have simultaneously exploded into a frenzy after the realization of how much time we actually have left in the program – 6 weeks.  When I am not working on my final piece, I am cramming in as much training on my secondary apparatus and trying to take as many extra classes as possible, while still searching for contracts and planning what happens when it’s all over.

My attention was directed to work shopping my final piece in hopes of  having something presentable for the critique process, which took place two weeks ago.  I was worried I wasn’t going to make it through my piece, since every time I had tried to run it before the showing, I stopped halfway because I had either sunk too low on the chain, or simply ran out of strength.  Almost every day, I curse at myself for deciding to concentrate on a chains piece in the last 2+ months of the program.  Not only that, but I have chosen one of the more difficult ways to hang the chain as it requires a lot of brute strength, endurance, and pain tolerance, coupled with the desire to be “delicate flower” and not a hardened biker chic, and I’ve definitely pushed myself so far over my own physical limits that my body is cracking slowly.  (I took a rest day yesterday in an effort to patch those fissures, primarily the ripped callouses of my palms and punctuated bruising on my shins)

The week of routine showing/critiquing followed the Liz Lerman Process – a method of giving feedback that removes as much subjectivity as possible out of the feedback and is designed to promote thought in the artist.  For instance, rather than saying “i liked when you did transition A,” an audience member would say, “When transition A happened, I felt (insert colorful descriptor here)”.  Similarly, the artist had several questions prepped for the audience, such as “Were there any moments in the choreography that did not follow the same flow as the bulk of the piece?” or “The overall mood of the piece was intended to be angsty, does my costuming reflect that?”.  After this, the audience has a chance to ask questions, but again, removing any subjectivity/opinion/biases.  So, rather than asking “Why?” the audience would ask “What was your intention?”  At first, remembering the language was hard, and some had a more difficult time than others when it came to withholding opinions.  For me, if I really enjoyed an element of a piece, or a piece in it’s entirety, it was very challenging not to say “OH MY GOD THAT WAS FANTASTIC YOU ARE SO AMAZING!!” and remember to phrase it via Liz lingo: “This moment in the piece made me feel ecstatic, excited, nervous, and so very very proud of you!”

The process took an entire week, and was a big physical and mental drain on all of us.  Immediately following my showing, I scrapped about half of my choreography as well as my entire costume and started anew.  The piece of feedback that really struck me was this biker chic/Western vibe I was giving off, which is exactly the opposite of what I was going for.  Rather than being the dancer that manipulates the chain, I want to be the vine that grows around it, portraying a soft, yet free-willed movement that overcomes the relentless barricade of emotions.

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Still, it’s all starting to come together, and I am working on convincing myself that even as time ticks down quickly, it’s all going to fall into place as we approach show time.

The Art of Crying

Yesterday was really hard for me, but I felt some personal growth throughout the strains that I want to share.

Life is hard.  We are 3 months into this program, with 6 more to go.  I’m training and working beyond the point of exhaustion almost every single day.  But you’ve heard this before.  Basically, my life hasn’t changed much in the past 3 months.  I train, I eat, I work, I shower, I sleep, repeat.  It seems that this is going to be my routine until next summer.  Most days, I’m excited about this.

Yesterday, however, a series of events occurred that had me fighting to keep my emotions under control for much of the day.

Everyone in the program takes their training very seriously.  We each have specific things we want to gain from it – enough so that this was our homework over our holiday break.  I am not a soloist, for one.  Also, at some point in my teen years I learned I had a knack for making people laugh, and that when they laughed, I was less self-conscious.  My natural tendency is to become a clown, and this is something I enjoy doing in the air.  When I was taking a musicality class with Destiny Vinley at Aloft in Chicago, we were given scores for our improv.  I felt really awkward when I tried to be edgy or elegant, and totally relaxed when I was pretending to be awkward.  My creative process is to turn off my brain and find a flow in my movement, and I have the most fun and feel the most inspired when I’m being silly with other people.  This group I’m training with isn’t very silly, and it hit me in the morning during a conversation about our final showcase.  I became very frustrated.  I want to mess around, try new things, and maybe we create something and learn through the process, and maybe we don’t create something but we still have fun and learn from the process.  But what I see are the students working independently and offering critique and advice to each other, but no teamwork beyond that.  I want to run around the group, putting clown noses on them all and shaking them until they start to laugh.  You guys!  Loosen up!  We need it.  We’re getting too narrowly focused on our end game and not creating enough while we have the chance.  We’re constantly learning vocab and trying to recall it the next day, but not applying it to anything outside of class.

This conversation and the resulting frustration led me to feeling like I was on the outside of the group – the sad, lonely clown watching a party through the glass, knowing i can help but the door is locked.  This is going to take some serious strategics to find a sliver I can fit through.

Already feeling on the outside a bit, when I arrived at the studio, I found out about an impromptu gathering that would be happening after class – nothing major, a clothing swap – and I think I lost it.  While I was invited, work prevented me from joining.  I was angry, I was lonely, I hated everything about my situation.  I felt like I was missing out on so much because I was so focused on being able to be here – the working constantly and being a mother and trying to train hard.  I know that being a mother has set me apart from the rest of the girls in this program, that my responsibilities are heavier and my time not as spontaneous.  And, in the past, the fact that I am a mother has prevented me from participating in so much, and people stopped inviting me places because of that – I started to worry that it would happen again.

All through our first class, I was struggling to get a grip on my emotions.  The tears were right on the edge and I kept trying to blink them away.  Our next class was ballet, and that has been a struggle in itself for me, and the frustration over the fancy footwork brings me to tears, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it.  In between classes, I mentioned to the teacher that I was having a hard day, and I was drained physically and feeling lonely, and I didn’t know how the class was going to affect me.  She gave me a hug, let me vent a bit, and offered encouragement and support.  From there, I sat down between two students and began to talk to one about how I have been feeling.

The personal growth is that the rational understanding of events was right there as I was allowing myself to feel upset.  I knew the bulk of emotions was coming from being tired and feeling drained.  That was making me feel disconnected.  I also know that the others in the program are feeling similar, and no one really has time or energy to get together outside of the studio.  I also felt like it was ok, if not necessary, to cry and let out all of those frustrations, that there was nothing wrong about those frustrations.

Human beings are interesting creatures when it comes to our emotions.  We have a hard time facing them, dissecting them, and coming to terms with them.  We would rather tuck them away somewhere, guarded and then forgotten.  When we finally start to open up, we are surprised by where the emotions have been hiding and the flood that accompanies their discovery.

Several times in this program, we have had students burst into tears unprovoked.  Sometimes all it took was a push against the shoulder blade to open the chest, a stretch of the spine or relaxation of the hips.  We dropped some physical wall and the deluge of tears was waiting on the other side.  I’ve spoken to several people about this – athletes, body workers, massage therapists, trying to understand why it happens.  No one really knows why – just that it happens.  A lot.  And, when it happens, YOU HAVE TO LET IT.  GIVE IN.

For me, trying to relax into my center splits has been making me feel both nauseated and inconsolably depressed.  It doesn’t hurt to stretch into it, but once I’m down and leaning forward, the pit of my stomach feels heavy, like a water balloon is sitting in my pelvis.  The more I relax my hip flexors and psoas, the more I want to cry.  And others have seen it and urged me to let go.  Relax, whimper, sob – do what your body is telling you to do, because it knows what it needs.

If you don’t let yourself cry, the emotions are going to get stored somewhere.  You can’t rationalize them into nonexistence.  You can’t push them aside and expect them to leave willingly.  Your mind puts them somewhere else until it’s ready to handle them, or until you cannot contain them anymore.  But really, you have to ride them out.  Revel in the nuances of them, the ups and downs and backwards.

What I find the most interesting is that this program has been pushing me past all of my limits, but I’m still standing, excited and inspired, albeit exhausted now and again, and I think it’s because I am not pretending to be strong.  When things get hard, I let people know.  I look for a hug and I hold on tight, squeezing out all of the stress.  When things go well, I have people to share my accomplishments with.  When my body says STOP, I am learning how to listen, and when my body says THIS IS TOO HARD, I let myself cry and feel pitiful.  And only then I can mop up the emotions, wring out the sponge, and face another day.

Don’t think of crying as something weak, selfish, or unwarranted.

Think of crying as cleaning your brushes, so you can start a new painting.

Time – NaKniSweMo Day 5

Day 5 and I am over 20k stitches into this sweater.  I cannot get enough of it right now.  The colors are surprising me.  Initially, I was going to make the sweater more gray and red, with a pop of the baby blue, but when I realized that the red looked more pink next to the blue, the only thing I could think to do was bring the purple into it.  I’m considering adding a pop of lime green towards the bottom.

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In our improv class today, we discussed and played with the concept of time.  This is something we explored last week as well.  We were asked to bring in something that represented “time” for us, and for some reason, I was drawing a complete blank.  I ended up bringing a metronome, because working with a metronome, having the staccato indicate your movements and making you stop in strange places, has been inspiring for me.  It’s a challenge to do, but I think it helps broaden the movement quality and change the focus.

What didn’t occur to me was to include a swatch.  Now that I’m at the body of the sweater, and it’s round and round of plain stitches, I’m sucked into that black hole.  I just keep knitting, and it’s not getting longer.  I’m pouring so much time into it, and not seeing a result.   And the beauty of this, and why I think it is relevant to the aerial training, is that I keep going.  I do the same maneuvers over and over again and give all of my free time to it, stitch after stitch, plie after plie, climb after climb, and oftentimes it’s really hard to see any progress.  Sometimes, I even feel like I’m moving backwards.  And then, something changes, and suddenly I have a sweater, I have good form, I have a decent turnout and I’ve added repetitions to my pull-ups and leg lifts.  Somewhere in the sea of 50,000 knit stitches, I have created a sweater, and it took stacking the same movement on top of each other to get there, and that takes time – a fraction of a second to create that little movement all combined into a month of work, and I have created something beautiful.

This morning, I went into the studio with the intention of blasting my music and knocking out some trapeze conditioning.  I worked on my long beats, I worked on my drops, I worked on tricks and transitions that I felt I was fumbling through.  I pushed myself until my forearms were sore from gripping.  I didn’t try to create new and elaborate work, which is what I did Monday morning and the lack of inspiration and the resulting clunkiness were frustrating.  But, working on the repetition of what I know, and layering it all together, helped me feel more confident in what I do know.  Each time I touch a trapeze, even if I feel like an idiot just hanging in the air, I know that I’m stacking stitches and making a sweater.

The Right Motivation

Week 7 started (I think it’s week 7, but time is kind of blurred because it’s going so fast).  Also, session 2 of the program, which means that some of our classes have changed.  Technique changed from slings to rope and harness, nutrition to kinesiology, pilates to modern dance, and contact improv to handstands.  I’m still putting in extra training, dealing with sore muscles and stiff joints, and wanting to cry at least once a day.  I never thought I would call my life ordinary, but what I’ve been working on has reached such a point of familiarity that I forget there are others who might be interested in hearing about it.

Recent highlights and realizations?  In no particular order:

* Last week, ballet did not bring me to tears.  This is a huge accomplishment.

* It has been amazingly easy for me to make friends – I can’t even tell you.  I am full of gratitude, love and awe for the people I’ve been meeting since arriving in Boulder.  I have honestly never felt this integrated in a community.  Not only integrated, but a part of the community that helps it thrive, and a part that is missed when it is absent.

* I know our final performance is still 7 months away, but I found my song.  It’s still a secret, but I’m excited about choreographing for it.  I’m stuck between static trapeze and chains for my showcase.

* I have to do an assignment involving “space” (i.e. spacial awareness, movement through a space, etc.) and I have no idea how to show my interpretation of space.

This will all be elaborated on later.

My desire to feel like I am good at something, to feel accomplished at something, created an interesting case of finishing-itis.  That is, taking all of my knitting projects and trying to finish them.  I have had no desire to start anything new, just wrap up what’s been left on the needles for who knows how long.  This is partly spurred by the desire for a clean and organized house (nevermind the fact that all that is happening is a project is getting moved out of one box and into another location – nothing is actually freeing up more space).

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So, since Friday, I have been adding the last little details, weaving in ends, and blocking projects.  Last night, I finished an afghan I’ve been working on for nearly two years, and I can’t tell you how proud it made me.  I had been gifted a lot of a mystery yarn by a friend, and had no idea what to do with it, and it slowly became a blanket.  A rather large blanket, that ate up some of my scraps as I went.  Ellette loves it and doesn’t want to snuggle with any other blanket.

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I also realized that I have given away most of my hats – so I need to cast on for one, but can’t decide which.  And, October is almost over, which means NaKniSweMo will be starting soon (National Knit a Sweater Month), and I want to participate but don’t know which sweater to chose.  I’m stuck between Enchanted Mesa and Belle.  Thoughts?

Shhh….I’m Only Pretending

I’m only pretending to be an adult and do those adult things like “having my life together.”  But I’ve come to realize that it can only take me so far before my imagination falters as I tack on one more restless night to a string of sleepless nights.  I can’t keep up with my own charade.

The truth is – I’m sitting over here freaking out.  I have been running on high power for the past 7 weeks.  Scratch that – since JUNE!  And I just don’t have the brain power for it any longer.  I’ve been cracking around the edges, and this week I shattered.  It’s not that anything bad has happened, it’s just that I’m too exhausted and worried to get myself under control again and the slightest worry is bringing me to tears.

I love my life.  I love my life.  I’m doing amazing, inspiring things every single day.  I’m waking up to the mountains in all of their stoic beauty.  I’m in the best physical shape I have ever been in.

Let’s repeat that.

I love this.

So, what am I freaking out about?

I’m tired – physically.  Everything is sore and my brain is dead.  I’m trying to keep track of training, homework, two jobs, and trying to stay engaged in the world of my 9 year old.

If I don’t blog, I’m probably ripping out my hair and scribbling a million lists to feel like I understand what the heck is going on in my world, because I truthfully have no idea right now.  I’m in the air a lot, and I don’t sleep much, and I haven’t been on a proper date in ages, not counting the Playa date at Burning Man, and I interact with the same 20 or so people every single day, which is kind of surreal.

Please, follow me on Facebook (facebook.com/littlegreenpixie) and on instagram (LittleGreenPixie) – updates are much more reliable on those sites.

Why I Quit my Job and Moved to Colorado to Become an Aerial Dancer

Here I sit in Boulder, were I have been calling home for the past two weeks.  I unloaded my possessions and launched myself into the most intensive training regime I’ve experienced yet.  I spend around 30 hours each week in the studio, and more in my own home continuing the conditioning, as well as 15 hours each week working at a coffee shop that requires me to be up before dawn, and add to that the marketing I am doing for another performer, and I’ve got a full load.  It’s wearing me down – my muscles almost constantly ache, my mind is persistently active, considering the next task at hand, I cannot eat enough, and I still have a child to take care of.  When I’m not running a mile a minute, I’m a complete zombie.  And somehow, with all of this activity, with the pain and exhaustion, I find myself happy.  I feel strong, I am gaining confidence, I am in love with my new home, and I have faith that the end result will be completely worth it.

The training schedule goes like this:

Monday: 1.5 hours Ballet, 1.5 hours Open Gym

Tuesday: 2 hours workshop (nutrition, and later will be kinesiology), 2 hours technique (currently Sling), and 1.5 hours Fabric 3/4

Wednesday: 2 hours improv (Skinner Releasing), 1.75 hours Fitness, 2 hours Performance Seminar, and 1.25 hours Student Company

Thursday: 1.5 hours Aerial Fitness, 1.5 hours Pilates

Friday: 2 hours Improv and aerial dance history, 1.75 hours Partnering (Contact Improv)

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 1.5 hours Advanced Static Trapeze

Danielle, our sling instructor, has asked us all to keep journals throughout the next nine months of training.  I have a personal journal, as well as this blog, so I thought adding another one would be too much.  So far, I have written one entry, but it turned out to be a pretty powerful entry.  Danielle asked us to think about why we are here – why aerial dance?  Why do we care this much?  Why are we willing to test our physical, mental, and emotional limits for the sake of dance?  And for each of us, there would be a different motivation.

That evening, I opened a new notebook, and the lined page stared at me for a good long time.  I picked up my pen, wrote the date and prompt at the top, and put the pen down again.  Why am I here?  Why did I quit a stable job in Evanston, Illinois – a job that was less than a mile from my home, with benefits and paid vacation, that allowed me to bring my daughter in when I needed to, that paid reasonably well and in which I got along with a fair number of my coworkers – why did I quit?  Why did I quit, pack up my entire life, throwing out or giving away 90% of my possessions, break my lease, and decide to spend the next two and a half months on the road, searching?  Why did I have a plan for every letter of the alphabet, but really only cared about plan A, which was to audition and get accepted to the Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Professional Training Program?  Why did I give up familiarity and stability to become what I have always attested I wasn’t – a dancer?

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I sat there thinking about it, with the quiet pressing in around me, at my glass dining room table, with my notebooks and papers spilling out around me.  And I thought about something I wrote in my application essay.  People listen to music; it’s an auditory experience for everyone.  But for me, I see it.  I see how I could twist with the melody, the rise and fall of equipment with the crescendos, transitions from the ground to the air and back.  The bodies rigid lines and writhing grace.  I hear the music and the music paints visions on my eyelids.

I am here because I need to move, because every time dancing has been taken away from me, I find myself falling into a spiral of anger and depression.  I never considered it dancing – it was moving.  It was an extension of what I needed to be doing.  In Milwaukee, just before I turned 21, I saw an advertisement for swing dancing at a restaurant/bar downtown.  I asked my friend, Liam, if he would be interested in trying it out with me.  He was thrilled.  Together, we leaned on each other through the struggle with time, feet, and dancing with a partner, and we both fell head over heels in love with not only swing dancing, but the community that came with it.  We started dancing as often as possible – a minimum of 2 nights each week, but sometimes as many as 5.  I loved the energy and the release from dancing.  I laughed often and created a circle of friends that was the strongest I’ve ever had.

When we moved to Chicago, I felt really disconnected from the swing dance scene.  I found most of the venues to be pretentious and uncomfortable.  I would occasionally head back to Milwaukee for dancing, but that eventually phased out.  I spiraled downward, into a bad bout of depression.  It was in this time that I discovered aerial arts.  Initially, it was a method for staying fit and meeting people; I never dreamed it would become such an integral part of my identity.

After my breakup, when my depression was at it’s worse and I was getting fed up with myself (not to mention how fed up with me my friends were getting), I needed a change desperately.  I allowed a friend to introduce me to blues dancing.  After my first night out, I was hooked.  This was it!  The music was soulful, deep and resonant in me, and I could move softly or dramatically, pull in elements of swing or allow it to be an entirely different manifestation of movement.  I was only dancing once a month, but it was the perfect anti-depressant.  I brought a couple friends along, and soon I had built another circle of dancers I could connect with, laugh with, and most importantly, share a moment in movement with.  It was then that I started dancing with my eyes closed, when I surrendered completely to the music and the dance.  There were a few leads I craved dancing with, because they would put their hand around my waist and we would be so close I could feel their breath on my skin, and I would close my eyes and trust the communication through our bodies to carry us.  It was the perfect moment when everything else ceased to exist, and more importantly, a moment in which I wasn’t alone, but had someone sharing it with me.

It’s only in the past year, perhaps having something to do with blues dancing, perhaps just a natural progression of my need for movement, that I started to stray from the “circus” path of aerial.  I would spend hours searching YouTube for videos of aerialists, looking for inspiration for my own choreography.  But I was bored with what I was seeing.  It puzzled me.  The aerialists I was watching were technically magnificent, they were graceful and articulate in their movements, but something didn’t pull me in.  And then I would find the video that I would watch over and over and over again, seeing new things each time and coming away with reams of inspiration.  What was so different about them?  i would watch their fingers and their toes, the way the small appendages were given as much intent as the large ones.  The “ta-da” moments were almost imperceptible, to be replaced with a languid fluidity that said to me “My apparatus is my limb and not my tool; it is a part of me.”  That, I thought – that is what I want to do.  I want to dance like that.

Really, it wasn’t until I was choreographing my audition piece for the Frequent Flyers that I understood the potential of what aerial dance could be for me.  Aerial dance being different than circus in ways that are still be defined – in ways that I can help define with my work.  I had recently been dumped by my partner of 5 years – and granted the last 2 of them were really shaky – it was still a shock to me.  I felt like i had nothing left to be in Chicago for – no partner and my job was making me miserable – so I packed my bags and resolved to go “ELSEWHERE,” and the only thing I knew for certain then was that I wanted to be an aerialist, and more importantly, an aerial dancer.  My audition piece was crucial.  So, I channeled all of the heartbreak, the anxiety and fear and depression, into my piece.  I work-shopped the crap out of it, until I was a huddled mass of human puddy on a mat, trying not to cry too hard.  I put my trust in the fabric, and by doing so put it into myself as well.  It was the moment when I needed it – I needed to fly, to move, to dance.  I could close my eyes and breathe, and in turn began to heal.

By the time I completed my audition, the heartbreak was mostly gone and a brand new direction had been found.  I was on a path that made me feel strong.  Not entirely secure, but my existence and happiness is literally tied up into the air.

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I am here, I am flying and dancing, because I allowed myself to finally surrender to what I needed.  I need to move, I need to stop thinking and stop feeling and find the moment, the tension and resistance and completely give in to it.  My apparatus is my partner, supporting me, loving me, sometimes hurting me, but always teaching me to be stronger, to be supple, and giving me a means for movement.

After what I’ve been through finding this about myself, the next 9 months seem like a walk in the park.

(Now, ask me in two months if it’s still a walk in the park, and the answer may be *slightly* different)

http://livesoftheaerialists.com/

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