Last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of presenting at Momentumfest. In 2018, I took a risk and brought work that was new for me to present. It was much more reflective of my beliefs as a human than it was of my skillset as a Pilates teacher. I was overwhelmed with the response from the attendees and this experience is truly what has helped me craft the next steps of my career.
For 2019, the themes of my classes were about taking up the space that you deserved without apology, holding your energetic and spiritual needs in high regard so that you could be of service to others and sharing your individual stories. I chose these themes as a result of meditating on the question “What would be helpful for attendees to hear?” They all felt very “Jenna” and flowed as such. I felt connected to the messages and confident that they had reached who they were supposed to, until Sunday.
My last class on Sunday morning was a mat workout that I used to teach frequently 8 years ago. After the finish of the class, an attendee approached me to thank me. “Thank you so much!” she said. Then followed up with:
“Who Are You?”
It was such an innocent question. She was new to the profession and didn’t have a reference point for me or my work but was present enough to ask. I laughed and said, “I’m Jenna.” It wasn’t until a few days later that I would realize that this question was the most important one of the year for me. Whether she knew it or not, her question challenged me to see that in teaching that class, I was actually attempting to return to a place in my teaching where I no longer lived. In one sweaty hour, I had become untethered to my purpose.
GAH! I had so many feelings on Sunday that I couldn’t figure out. All had to do with this “visit home.” The teacher I was 8 years ago was striving for approval more than she was allowing her gifts to shine. She dotted all of the “I’s” and said all of the right cues and coloring inside of the lines of the Pilates method. She worked to please everyone at the expense of her own needs and was accused of catastrophizing a situation if she spoke out of turn. She didn’t understand that there was a whole world of beauty that lay just beyond the boundary of the approval of others, but she does now.
I used to think my training defined me. Today, I understand that the skills that I’ve acquired are part of the larger support system to share my philosophy and beliefs surrounding movement. My voice is supported by my skills and not the other way around. I’ve cultivated a world where I can allow my inner dancer to move on the page, through words, meditation and moving experiences and get paid for it. She LOVES these things. She soars through them. She shines. My students shine. I shine. Teaching a class format from my past was like taking the stage away from the dancer. Of course, the question “Who Are You?” came up because the teacher in that room was not who I am today. What a glorious lesson.
Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s not that it was a negative experience or that I’ll never teach mat again, or that I’m done with Pilates all-together, but more that I’ve realized as a result of engaging into a process of personal and professional growth, I can no longer return to the ways I used to teach without sacrificing myself in the process. This is GREAT NEWS! It’s like a permission slip take up the space I deserve without apology, hold my energetic and spiritual needs in high regard so that I could be of service to others and share my story through my teaching. That sounds familiar…
I share this as a reminder to all of you who have changed your mind throughout the teaching journey and hell, throughout life in general. You can remember the places you came from fondly and even visit, but you can’t go back home in your teaching. You’ve gotta dance to the song that’s happening right now and trust that this stage is the one that’s been built for you.
To Jessica and Brian Valant, thank you for providing me a place within your venue where so many learning opportunities abound. To the attendees at Momentumfest: Thank you for attending my sessions and know that even though you probably won’t see another reverse mat class from me in the future, it was sure fun to visit that space in time with you. Onward and Upward!