Get Out of Your Comfort Zone - Honeymoon Edition

One of my images from our trip to Machu Picchu
Hola mi amigos! I'm BACK!!!! I hope that you haven't missed me too much. At the moment, I'm flying high on a travel-bender sitting in the aeropuerto in Lima, Peru. This isn't the first or second time I've been here in the past few weeks. But it is definitely the longest period with my current layover time queueing at 6 hours (only 2 more to go). Over the past 3 weeks, I have bartered at ramshackle markets in horribly broken Spanish with excessively wooing Peruvian ladies in Lima. I've experienced the short and light-headed breathlessness of Soroche (or altitude sickness) that walking only a few wildly tight, steeply climbing streets of historically scenic Cusco, Peru can quickly bring on. Shortly after my time in Peru, I was again fumbling through my Spanish to order enough pisco sours to loosen up and dance among the locals at a club in Santiago, Chile. Whether struggling through a conversation to purchase a bus ticket to Valparaiso, Chile, navigating the Subte (subway) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or finding our way to the historical center of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, my husband and I spent our amazing 3 week South American honeymoon utterly and uncomfortably out of our comfort zones. But it was all worth it to make it to the centerpiece of our journey, and to one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu! I know you've missed me (or at least my posts ;-) ) over these past weeks, but I hope you forgive me for my silence during our travels. And, even better. There's a lesson here for all!

Exploring the historic Plaza de Armas of Cusco, Peru
These past few weeks of travel have been full of fun, excitement, discomfort, frustration, unexpected joy, utter submission, and much love. A flooding array of emotions and challenges can accompany what sounds like a fun, daring adventure. But with good intentions come hard lessons. Here, food poisoning from eating at a questionable airport restaurant, exchanging money on a random street that all the travel blogs wrote to go to in order to save big bucks on exchange rates (too bad they stopped writing those blogs two years ago when these cambios, or cash houses, became obsolete and...maybe...even illegal), or walking a few miles into a sketchy neighborhood without any phone service or knowledge of transportation out of there. But at the same time, watching an ancient Inca site breathing through heavenly clouds, haggling a silkenly soft alpaca sweater to the equivalent of $10 USD, seeing the most incredible display of street art carved into the cutest city on earth, and standing by your new spouse's side to share these experiences was well worth the moments that thrust us anywhere but close to comfortable.

I wanted to talk a bit about what I've been up to, and at the same time create some relevant content for you guys. In my thought process while prepping to write this piece, it clicked for me that it was time to talk about getting out of our comfort zones. There are many ways to get out of your comfort zone. For instance, I am an expert traveler. But only when it comes to domestic travel within the United States. I haven't been out of the country in 6 years as I've focused on building certain aspects of my career. For me, I could have stayed comfortable and had my honeymoon in the US. But that idea, while easy and relaxing, would have been completely within my husband and my comfort zone. We threw around the possibility of traveling somewhere international, but in a more developed country with lavish, comfortable accommodations. This option would have been slightly out of our comfort zone, but still offer us some ease of mind and relaxation to celebrate our union. But if any of you have gotten to know me over the years while reading Life of a Freelance Dancer, you know that neither of those experiences are close to my style (nor my husbands).

Enjoying art in the Parque Esulturas in Santiago, Chile
When Danya and I looked into honeymoon options, we were most excited by traveling to places where there was a strong language barrier, where in some places you can't even brush your teeth with the water, where people asked to pose in pictures with me because they had never seen somebody with green eyes before, and where there is the possibility that we may find ourselves in potentially dangerous situations (nothing too crazy, right). Why, you may ask, would a newlywed couple want to thrust themselves this far out of their comfort zones on such an occasion as their honeymoon? Because we thrive on experiences that force us to grow, force us to question the way that we live our lives, and force us to open our minds to the possibility of greater understanding (in many areas of of life) than we have today. I feel this is a relevant lesson in life, society on a global scale, and even dance.

I remember back when I first fell in love with ballet. I didn't know much about what I was doing, aside from the knowledge that there was this amazing school where kids were selected to dance in the mornings and afternoons (the School of American Ballet) and got to focus on dance like I had been focusing on math and science. I also knew that I was a little behind, but felt I might be able to catch up if I did enough research and worked my ass off. I pulled open the January 2000 issue of Dance Magazine and decided to ask if I could audition for the summer intensives I had found with either the biggest ads or in the biggest cities (because, ya know, the bigger the city or the bigger the ad, the better the company?). I was lucky to have a supportive family and an even more supportive teacher and school director to help me follow my uncultivated dream. I jumped into the deep-end fast, and nobody stopped to second guess my ambition. And I guess a lot hasn't changed since then.

Enjoying the centerpiece of our honeymoon, Machu Picchu
After all of my summer intensive auditions that year, even as a male, I had only been accepted to a small handful of the programs I applied for (practically none with scholarship). One that gave me a minor scholarship and really stood out to me was Houston Ballet Academy. I had also received a full-ride to the now defunded Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts, where my mom was an alumni in their vocal department. Obviously, after her experience there, I was given a gentle, but clear push to go where the money was because I was almost guaranteed a lot of attention (especially being a male dancer) and my mom knew I would have a positive experience there.

But in typical Barry fashion, I had my eyes set on jumping into a pool of water with no definitive bottom. At the time, I just did it. But I can explain this decision more clearly now. I innately knew that there were two ways to grow as a person; in small, safe building steps or in one fell swoop with great potential for success or failure. I made the choice to put a lot of money on one number, instead of buying a handful of inexpensive scratch tickets from the lottery.

Dancing thru a tour of Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires
Looking back, I feel I did this for a good reason. If I went to the Governor's School, I would be exposed to something slightly comfortable and something slightly unknown. I would slowly begin developing a new taste for different styles of training. From there, I could slowly build to the next step. Going to Houston Ballet Academy for the summer, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Nobody I knew had attended the program previously, but I had heard positive things about it through the grapevine during auditions and from the company's very limited internet presence (remember, it was the early days of the internet). Something told me that I needed to be in an environment that I didn't understand, that tested my belief system, and that showed me a new way of looking at the world, only here it was the ballet world. I truly believe that this first risk I took in my career, before it was even a career, changed the trajectory of my life and was a major turning point in getting where I have been, where I am, and where I am going.

There is so much to learn from putting oneself out there in multiple different aspects of their lives, especially as an artist. It is the job of an artist to offer unexplored perspectives to audiences for acceptance, discomfort, and expansion of their own values and life experiences. If one doesn't want to push themselves outside of their own comfort zone, it is our responsibility to share our experiences and challenge them to grow. In life, we are often presented with three different options. Ones that allow zero growth, little growth, and great growth. Those choices that often offer the greatest growth can be the most painful, challenging, and uncomfortable experiences. Like a caterpillar bursting out of its cocoon as a butterfly or like a mother giving birth to a child, these experiences are likely very frightening and often painful. But the rewards from stepping into the unknown, discomfort and pain in growth, and expansion of mind, self, and being can reap benefits, rewards, and joy that couldn't be understood or experienced in one's life otherwise.

Taking in standing atop the amazingness that is Cusco, Peru

No comments:

Post a Comment