I took my first-ever pole class about two years ago. One of my closest friends had started doing it and looked amazing, so I decided I wanted to be just like her. Plus, it looked like a fun, challenging, and truly artful way to get and stay in shape. What wasn’t there to love about it? Although it took a while for my practice to finally “stick”, I decided in March of 2015 that I would start poling at least three times a week. And I did it.
It was difficult. I remember crying my eyes out because I couldn’t even manage a “chair spin” after my third class. I remember seeing girls hold themselves upside down twenty-feet in the air in 6-inch heels, wondering if I could ever be so fearless. I went alone to every single class, so I never had a friend to relieve stress with if I messed something up. I had to get comfortable looking stupid in front of girls (and boys) who were really, really good.
Eventually, though, I too got good. I started inverting a few weeks into my consistent poling regimen. I increased my flexibility. I could do complicated, often scary-looking tricks. I learned how to put routines together. Soon enough, I was helping out the other girls in class and even got to teach a class of my own for my friend’s bachelorette party. I even bought a pole for my apartment, rearranging my entire place and getting rid of furniture to do so. I was feeling fabulous and felt that pole had become my “thing”.
Other than falling out of it a few times for a couple of weeks at a time, I kept at it until the following March of 2016, when I competed in my first competition. I competed at Level 2 in the entertainment category, meaning that my routine had to be focused on tricks and spins rather than “flow” or displays of emotion. I didn’t place too highly, but I wasn’t in last place by any means and was proud of myself for doing it. Excited at the prospect of competing again, I kept at it, albeit much less consistently, for a couple of months thereafter.
About a month ago, though, things started to feel…different.
I had absolutely zero motivation to go to classes and interact with people. I barely felt like freestyling at home. While I partially chalk it up to it just being too damn hot this summer (and my apartment is like a furnace, even with generous wattage being spent on multiple fans), I realized that there was something else happening.
I had started taking pole too seriously, and it was biting me in the butt.
You see, when I start becoming interested in something, I feel like I have to eventually become the best, or one of the best. This sentiment may pass, but I always start out that way. With pole, it just happened to stick with me for a while. When I started, I knew that even though I sucked then, I would eventually get better and better until I was competing nationally, then internationally. I pictured myself being like Natasha Wang, who started pole at 29 and now teaches workshops of her own all over the world. I was determined to become a figurehead in the pole world and make my mark that way.
But here’s the thing.
Pole is not the only way I use my time. I have a full-time job, a novel I’m writing, two blogs, and a side writing project I’m working on with a friend. I have friends, family, and a relatively new relationship that I am developing and nurturing. I have other things I love doing, like reading and making visual art and getting outside. I realized that if I wanted to be where I supposedly wanted to be with pole, many of these things would have to be put on the back burner. And if I’m being 100% real with myself…I’m simply not willing to do that right now.
And I’m okay with that.
Me not being willing (right now) to put in the enormous, sacrificial amount of effort it takes to be one of the “greats” doesn’t mean that I can’t continue with pole. I doesn’t mean I can’t be good–nay, great–, that I can’t ever teach again, or that I can never compete again.
This is me being okay with not being the “best”, at least for the foreseeable future.
This is me saying that I’m okay with having pole as a part of my life right now, rather than being my whole life.
This is me telling myself that I’m still valuable, awesome, and talented even though I’m not dedicating hours a day to stretching, lifting, spinning, falling, and bruising my way to pole expertise.
I may have fallen in love with pole for the wrong reasons, but I’m willing to take a more casual approach and see if I can fall back in love with it for the right ones. I’ll still attend classes once a week or once every other week and I’ll still keep my home pole–even if it means I can’t have furniture. Heck, I might start taking online pole classes when it gets a little cooler. I hear great things!
Like any enjoyable activity, pole is one of those that can easily turn into a chore or burden if you take it too seriously without understanding what that truly means. But if you sit down and and have an honest conversation with yourself, you can figure out where you truly want to be and how you can get there. Maybe you are willing to make it your life, but need motivation to get started with that goal. Or, perhaps your time with that activity has expired and it’s time for you to move on–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Or, maybe you’re like me and you just need a little reconfiguration in your approach. All of these outcomes are good and it’s important to do what’s best for you.
Is it easy to figure out what the answer is? HELL no. It’s probably easier to land a fonji or a Russian split than it is to answer that question. But try to have that conversation with yourself whenever you’re ready. You’ll feel just as good as when you land that split.
p.s. If only for my own ego, it is still an imperative goal of mine to be able to fonji one day. And get into a hypersplit. And dance in heels. Maybe pole isn’t getting rid of me as easily as it thinks it will.