My Education Led to Extreme Insecurity

Yesterday, I had a phone call with a person I am interning with. Talking with this person often makes me nervous because I’m pretty invested in their project. When I started researching some of the ideas behind the initiative, I saw that a lot of the concepts were in line with values I had held before getting the internship. Getting the opportunity to work with this person is a chance to direct my efforts towards a project that means something to me on a different level. So, I was reasonably on edge.

However, after I hung up and started writing down what we had talked about, I wondered if that was all that was making me feel awkward. We spoke very briefly on the subject of education, but the few words we exchanged made me wonder if my school might have a role in how stiff I sound on the phone, and in general.

My boyfriend often makes fun of me for my “fake” voice. Even when I’m around friends, I tend to use intonation that just isn’t genuine. I don’t know if I would call it a defense mechanism, but more of a mask. It’s easy to speak in a slightly higher pitched sing-songy tone, especially when communicating something awkward or confusing. Still, I ask myself why I think it is more comfortable and if it actually works against me more often than not.

I reflect on all of the people I know that have used a similar technique to blunt hard conversations. I remember disliking them more than most others because I felt like they were not giving me the respect of speaking to me like an adult. Instead, they would slip into a chipper attitude and speak as though I were a child. Plenty of teachers come to mind when I think of these people.

Suddenly, the puzzle pieces were falling into place. My parents had rarely cooed or gushed over me when I was a child, so my first experience in public school was really strange. I remember being really upset when a teacher once asked me if she needed to “slow down” her words so I could understand. Even in primary school levels, I realized what it felt like to be talked down to. How did I come to adopt the vocalization patterns that the people I resent used on me?

In many ways, I think it leads back to conformity within the school system. My fake voice habit is a side effect of extreme insecurity and nervousness that developed while going through school. I have been relatively open about how ridiculously tyrannical my education was and the many negative scars it left on me. Being ridiculed and punished for speaking “out of turn” or questioning information presented to me made unconsciously seek out complacency and acceptance. My fake voice developed as a mask to hide behind while I dealt with abuse and neglect from a school that only cared about the test scores I gave them.

Extreme insecurity might be a bit, well, extreme of a description. I don’t think my uncertainty extends very far into my life, but it is quite prevalent in my communications and interactions with people I admire or deem valuable. I know that this may come back to bite me someday. My fake voice might piss off the wrong person and leave my name on some interning/hiring blacklist. I do take comfort in the fact that I am aware of its origins and why it was necessary for me to acquire it.

In my opinion, the education system does an abhorrent job at making students capable of marketing themselves and being confident in their abilities. I don’t blame teachers for this, I think they have been confused about their roles and systems for a long time. However, a good starting place would be to stop talking to children and young adults as though they are six months old. An even better place to start would be treating all students with the respect of a colleague or team member. It is insane hypocrisy to ask for communicative high schoolers that have been treated as subordinates their entire lives.

In the end, the phone call went well. I’m truly ecstatic to be working with this person because, as I said before, I am a firm believer in many of their ideas. I was grateful to just be offered the opportunity, but now I know that I need to prove how much I can add to the project if I want to see any kind of future there. But those ideas are much farther ahead. For now, I understand that this is a product of a destructive environment and I can overcome it. I just might sound a bit fake in the process.



Sore and Tired

The first week of a ballet intensive is always the hardest. New teachers, new combinations, new schedules, and, of course, a new intense style of training. Today was my second day at Ballet Divertimento du Montreal and I am exhausted. I can’t wait to get through the next few days and relax on my weekend.

Being a dancer is really difficult. Most bodies are not built to withstand the positions that ballet requires. As I am sitting in my bed with my aching bones, I wonder why I love this so much.

The challenge is addictive. That’s the gist of it. I’m on a deadline, but I hope I can elaborate tomorrow.


Writing: It’s REALLY Hard

Some days, I just don’t want to write. It’s a fact of life, it’s called burnout, it’s pretty standard. Today is one of those days. I had a fantastic first day at my intensive. Compared to last year, my instructors are a lot kinder and more diverse in their training styles. The only difficulty is that every class is taught in French.

I like to look at it as a challenge though. Similarly to this blog, I really did not want to do that. I wasn’t super eager to take classes taught in another language, but I also knew I needed to learn that language quickly. So, I’ve been doing my best to take my frustration with the linguistic divide and bridge the gap with perseverance and patience.

Other than that, I had dinner with my dad, who will be leaving Montreal soon. I did some work for a very important person who I have a phone call with tomorrow. I would like them to feel as though I have already added value to their project, so I am up late making sure that will be the case.

Like I said, I see all of these things as challenges. Writing when I don’t want to, learning new styles of dance in a foreign language, and working really late to get a dream job. They’re demanding, they’re not necessarily the most enjoyable activities, but they reach towards a common goal: happiness.


Feeling Stuck

Sometimes, we look at big daunting tasks and feel like we will never achieve them. Right now, I am looking at the big daunting task of a four-week ballet intensive in a foreign country that will be taught in a foreign language.

However, I kick myself for worrying about achievement. What am I achieving? Completion? Completing the intensive won’t mean anything unless I give 100% of my effort as much as I can. Am I trying to achieve progress? Possibly, but that may not be measurable in just four weeks. So, why am I worrying about achievement instead of focusing on working to my full capacity every day?

I have a placement class tomorrow that will dictate what I focus on for the next four weeks. I know plenty of my technique is weak or poorly trained, but I won’t dwell on those ideas. My habit of constantly focusing on what I need to improve on is somewhat important but detrimental if not kept in balance with the reality of how much progress I have made. Tomorrow should be about how much I have accomplished since this time last summer.

It is hard to be kind to ourselves when we really want something. It is hard to remember that making mistakes or being imperfect is the epitome of humanity. Finding peace in the idea that you are meant to be flawed is comforting.


French Variation

Around 11:30am EST, I drove onto the island of Montreal, QC with my father. I’ll be living here until July 25th to participate in a ballet intensive. I came a few days early to set up a bank account, get my McGill student ID (yes, my picture did turn out awful), and get my social insurance number for when I move up here permanently in August.

We’re staying in a VRBO until I can move to my long-ish term apartment, so we went down to the Marche Jean-Talon to get some groceries. Montreal summers can be brutal, but we were lucky enough to arrive on a mild, breezy day. As we walked down the streets next to the market, I thought about the parallels between Quebec and Senegal, another French-speaking place I visited recently. I also noted how French colonization had influenced both areas differently.

For reference, Senegal was a French colony until 1960 when it gained independence. In places such as Thies and Saint-Louis, the architecture and culture mimic French style very clearly. Much like Montreal, becoming independent didn’t mean losing the French lifestyle or development, it just meant political and economic freedom. The difference lies in how each country has changed since becoming its own nation.

Canada has undoubtedly had a much longer time (93 years longer) to expand its economy and form its political system than Senegal has. Canada also has a much more diverse economy, with lumber, fishing, and oil being just a few of its many resources. Senegal really only has its fishing industry and phosphate, a mineral that many westerners travel to Africa to mine and sell. Canada has little regulation and restriction on trade and business relative to Senegal, which has made it very difficult to export/import and nearly impossible for an average citizen to become an entrepreneur.

There are certainly more aspects that make up the difference between these countries. Just their geography alone has a great influence on the relative wealth of each former French colony. The fact that Canada is technically still within the British common-wealth probably helps as well.

I’m no expert on either country, but my thoughts often wander to these ideas when in a French-speaking country/province. I think my history classes definitely neglected the scope of influence that French colonization had on the world. The education I received focused mainly on England and, while the English obviously had a giant impact through exploration and expansion, other countries such as Spain, France, and Portugal also established themselves as countries of expedition and growth during the same time.

My blogs usually come down to this idea, and maybe I’m nitpicking here, but this is yet another flaw I see in traditional education. There are never enough school days to develop a thorough understanding of any period of history. In homeschooling/unschooling environments, students have the freedom and time to learn as much about anything they want without sacrificing the exciting details for the big ideas.

But that’s just my opinion.




Cool People Magnet

The man in the featured photo for this blog is Rosey. He is a “cool people magnet,” as my teacher Beth described him. I attended professional development with him, Dr. Yonty Friesem, and several teachers from all around Northern New Mexico yesterday. It was a privilege to get to see Yonty again, I have a lot of respect for him and his dedication to student-driven media education. During the first two hours, the teachers were working on the curriculum, while I was helping Rosey with some side projects.

A man named Ferdi Serim attended the PD to promote his project Levers, which reminded me a lot of Praxis, an apprenticeship program I am very much interested in. Anyway, Ferdi showed up and started talking about how he had played with Dizzy Gillespie when he was younger. He tried to show us this technique Dizzy taught him called the “human metronome” but we couldn’t find a single video demonstrating it. Ferdi just ended up showing us the method himself, but then Rosey proposed that we shoot a video and see if we can’t get it aired somewhere.

So, for the next hour or so, I was in a separate room helping them film the “human metronome” that Ferdi so desperately wanted to document. It was interesting, I felt like I was on a real film set. Any area with a camera rolling is a real film set, but this felt different. The cameras were placed with care and intent, the background was adjusted until it was perfect, and we shot from two different angles to give a clear view of his hands.

This may sound like a simple set up, and it was, but there was something about how much thought was put into every detail of this two-minute video that made it special to me. Watching all of these cool people create something that seemed so professional in such an informal space was exciting and insightful. So many people shun their passion for jobs such as media production because they don’t have “professional equipment.” Working with Rosey and the UNM Taos Digital Media Arts Lab has taught me that a good producer will work with what they have and still make a phenomenal product.

On my way home, I was wondering if a magnet was the right word to describe Rosey. The word magnet made it seem as though he couldn’t help that those amazing people and opportunities gravitated towards him, they just did. It undermines the incredible amount of work and pride he puts into what he does.

He created a non-profit education initiative called True Kids 1 that helps students develop skills in media and then shows them how they can build a career out of it. He is dedicated to teaching young people that their passions and interests are theirs to conquer. Rosey continues to advocate for young people’s voice to be heard and considered on topics that affect the state, the country, and the world. He believes in empowering the people that will make up the future, not destroying their free thinking.

TK1 is the reason I did my radio shows, worked with Yonty, and moderated panel discussions on a classic film series. I cannot even begin to explain how much Rosey has done for me or how much my confidence has grown since working with him. He trusted me with so many projects and tasks that I never thought I was capable of. He always wanted my help and my participation in events because he knew that I would show up and I would do the work he asked.

Rosey is not a “cool people magnet,” he’s a hard worker, a forward thinker, and a fantastic delegator. I aim to be as ambitious and creative as he is in his work and I am so grateful that I got to work under him as my mentor.

As I write this blog, I am on a flight to Montreal. Rosey has made it clear that my departure from the mountains is not going to be easy on him. It is nice to know I will be missed, but in some ways, I am drawn to the growing group of innovators located in my little valley. McGill seems so far away from the people I worked so hard to connect with. I have promised to always be available for remote work, but I know that can only go so far in a media environment.

Yesterday was not the last time I will see Rosey. I’ll be coming back to the Rockies in August to work with him and TK1 as an organizational manager. That month, however, will be my last hurrah with my team. I’ll miss them, maybe enough to come back. The future is uncertain, but I know it is rich with opportunity.



Busy Days

Wow, I had a busy day.

I woke up at 6am to register for classes, got to Taos by 8am for professional development, researched Senegalese curriculums, sent a lot of emails, had a doctors appointment, and took my last ballet class at my home studio.

Tomorrow, I leave for Montreal. I still have yet to finish packing, but I know I’ll be fine. Sometimes I forget that I can also buy things if I forget them. In my town, you have to have everything you need with you, because you won’t be able to buy it there. We have absolutely nothing in terms of grocery stores or pharmacies.

I’m excited. Going to Montreal, even just for a month, is a step towards independence. I yearn to be my own person and I am finally getting the chance to be.