Complete. Finished. Done.
I crossed the final to-do off my 8 Elements checklist this week, and I’m still working through how I feel about it all. I have dedicated myself to this program for the last 4 years of my life, and it’s changed me in ways I had no way of anticipating. Articulating my feelings about the process and its completion has proved to be really difficult for me, and yet I’m compelled to write about it here. Bear with me?
Each time I’ve gone to Portland I’ve come back different. Each time I’ve prepped for Portland I’ve felt fear and worry about not being “enough” for the challenge at hand. My husband, friends, and students were my champions throughout, and I am beyond thankful for their support.
Going to Initiation meant really investing in myself as a dancer, and admitting how important being successful in bellydance had become in my mind and heart. I was so aware of how little “formal” training I had and was full of fear of discovering how behind I was – extra terrifying in that I was already teaching (and had been for years). It also meant going “public” as a dancer. I survived, and came home ready to practice and grow…and work towards Cultivation.
I knew Cultivation was going to be a leap in terms of what was expected of me as a dancer, and I was eager for that challenge. I had fear again – fear that I hadn’t practiced enough, that I hadn’t grown enough, and that this would be the phase that ended me. When we saw, on day 1 (I think), what was expected of us on the test I was pretty sure I was done for – it involved things I’d told myself were outside of my “things I can do” list. The week whizzed by, I dug deep and practiced HARD every day, and I survived. I passed the tests. I came home deeply inspired to continue working & growing. I wanted to get to Phase 4, Transmission. My challenge? Getting through Phase 3…Culmination.
So. Much. Fear. Culmination, from where I was looking, was focused on performance – my weakest link. I dance for myself and for my students, not for the thrill (?) of performing. Teaching is my “thing”, and the only way I would have access to the teaching certificate was if I climbed the crazy performance mountain and passed Culmination. Makeup was involved. Performing on a stage. Doing a solo piece was optional on paper and felt like a requirement for myself. Oh, and there were tests, and a practical. I reminded myself of how impossible the Cultivation test seemed on Day 1 and that I’d managed to work that one out, so this one must be doable, too. I survived the show, solo and all. I passed the written test. My composition passed. I passed the “hard” (for me) part of the practical. I failed the “easy” part of the practical.
Failed. Having to retake that half of the test meant a delay in access to Transmission. That failure could have derailed me completely. Honestly, before doing the work of this 8 Elements journey, failing WOULD have derailed me.
I persevered. I practiced. I got help. I applied for Transmission even though I hadn’t passed yet. I worked past that failure and made it into the first-ever Transmission AND passed my Culmination practical before heading to Portland.
Transmission was everything I wanted and so much more than I expected. I had a bumpy road getting there and didn’t feel as prepared (mentally, emotionally, physically) as I’d been for the previous intensives. Losing Jen weeks before was catastrophic and left me wondering if I’d be able to pull it off – I almost backed out. Going was the right thing to do on many levels. The learning environment was restorative. Having the things I do well validated was amazing. Learning new ways to help others learn something I care about as much as bellydance was inspiring. Connecting with the other students and with RB was fulfilling.
I am home, and I am changed. I am teaching with a new level of enthusiasm. I am dancing with a sharper focus. I am approaching life in a more positive way. I have more confidence and a stronger sense of purpose.
I had no idea how far I could go in 4 years, and I really like the me I’ve become. I am forever changed and will be forever grateful for the growth opportunities wrapped into this program. Zach Zenner Womens Jersey