Until my first time on stage, I had never felt truly alive.
I had danced the number of our student tap dance performance cleanly but fumbled at the end when I didn’t hold, hold, HOLD!!! my ending pose like our teacher had drilled into us. But that didn’t matter because I felt like I had a sun burning at the centre of my being.
I had never been on stage before and I was terrified of it. I was convinced that it was going to be a humiliating experience that would be vulnerable to the point of being raw.
I pictured walking into the spotlight, trying to peer into the darkness in an attempt to discern faces, and being met with an appraising look of judgement like it was God peering into my soul.
Palms sweating, heart beating, overcome with jitters I almost didn’t go on. Until I did. And what I found was not at all what I had expected. Instead of a black abyss and me at the centre of a ring of predators, I found freedom.
Having rehearsed the number with my class every week for months, the boogie took over. I leaned into that uncomfortable feeling of potential public failure and found that my feet knew the steps.
Stevie Wonder’s Superstition drummed a steady beat as we progressed through the choreography and I found that I was smiling. Unexpectedly, I was enjoying myself.
As I looked around I saw that my fellow classmates-come-performers wore stern expressions and stared doggedly at some invisible point on the floor. I found that amusing and grinned wider as I realised I was the only one actually having fun amidst the rows of people pushing through the number in a blind panic.
Without intending to, I had found home. Being on stage, dancing, performing, it was like I’d stepped into the sun after living my whole life in the shadows. Who knew such wonders existed?
With the adrenalin rushing through my body and euphoria making me feel like it was divine intervention, I took an oath right then and there that this was who I was going be from now on.
Three days after my first time on stage, I’d managed to get myself into a late entrance exam for the last open places in a performing arts degree programme. I was finally on my way.
Apply to graphic design school, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
A few years earlier I’d applied to graphic design school, failed to get in, took it very badly and spent the subsequent years aimlessly bumping around in a thick fog of not knowing what to do with my life.
I ended up going to my fallback school instead but didn’t even last the first year before giving up. After a chemistry exam one morning, that I knew I had tanked because I returned a near-empty paper, I walked out and never looked back.
Life had become an inescapable pursuit of what I thought I was supposed to do, what other people wanted me to do.
I escaped further into my art because it seemed the only place that made life worth living. The pursuit of the creative was exhilarating because it gave me agency over my own feelings and lessened the anxiety that overwhelmed me and convinced me I had no control over my fate.
Art was a familiar coping mechanism. Since early childhood, I had existed in that negative space between two magnets that repelled each other, my parents. Art was how I got through daily life.
Performing Arts School is where I found myself again
Fuelled by my performing arts studies, I danced, drew, painted and wrote myself back into existence. Through creativity, I was able to reclaim those parts of me that had drifted away previously.
I took extra classes, attended other schools, studied throughout summers and completed my degree a whole year before the rest of my class.
Becoming a performing arts graduate cleared away years of self-doubt that I had piled on. I had finally found my true joy in the pursuit of creativity.
The happiness I found in dance helped me find happiness in life. The creative process is what I enjoy the most, even with the high highs and low lows that you open yourself up to.
You can be perfect or you can make art
For me, the most important thing about art isn’t the technical skill or mechanics that go into it, but the process of introspection and different levels of contemplation that generate art.
I tell stories with my art. Layer by layer the spirit flows into the work and eventually, something pure begins to breathe below the layers. Time stands still. How did this story begin? Where does it lead?
Learning to embrace that process is a constant challenge, but through it my creative potential becomes limitless. Creating things that I want to see exist makes me excited – and it never lets me down.
“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules, leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”– Neil Gaiman
I’ve left behind the stability and security of a steady paycheck and someone else telling me what I need to be doing every day. I’m now responsible for making sure I get the work done, that everything important is taken care of.
There is no more easy way out, no one telling me what needs to happen next. I only eat when I work, but you know what, I like it this way. Yes, it’s visceral and you feel the risk with every step you take.
But I’ve had a small taste of what freedom feels like and I don’t want to turn back anymore. I’m committed to seeing this through, even though it seems like a lot of work and I’m only one person.
But one day, I’ll become that one-woman show that has it all in hand. That woman that has prevailed and risen to her full potential.
she– E. Corona
so believe me when
fear her when she looks
into a fire and smiles.