Redefining Exhaustion

So I lied. I wasn’t sore last week. I was just mildly fatigued. Because if that was sore, this week is pummeled. Like, the biggest kid on the playground beat me up at lunch, kind of pummeled. Last week was tame with only 3 days of training, compared to my first full 5 back-to-back days of training.

So here is a quick rundown of how the week went.

On Monday, I was pretty much recovered from the previous week, and could successfully do pull-ups again. Then we had our first ballet class. HA! Props to ballerinas out there, because I bet every since pair of ballerina thighs could crack an acorn if they tried. Seriously, ballet is HARD! Not hard like “wow it’s really hard to lift this weight” hard, but hard like “every single muscle in my body is tight and turned out and tucked in and you’re telling me now that I need to MOVE and keep this position?” hard.


Did you ever imagine me in ballerina shoes? Well, here you are, me trying to do 5th position. No, this is not what 5th position looks like. But baby steps.

Tuesday ended up being my errand day, and I think my grocery bill has doubled in cost from how much I’m eating. All of us are scarfing down food between classes just to get enough calories. I know our bodies will eventually settle down once this becomes the norm, but I feel like every day mine is a whiny 5 year old screaming “you’re starving me, why don’t you ever feed me?” and I’m the mom saying “I gave you food an hour ago? How are you still hungry?

At the studio, random banging often echoes through the building, as the church undergoes construction to finish converting it. Due to certain legalities when purchasing the property, Circadium wasn't given access to the building until a month before classes started, so it's been a mad dash to get everything done in an unbelievably short amount of time. I'm impressed by how much they've accomplished though. I remember stopping by when I was apartment hunting at the end of July, and getting nervous because the church looked exactly the same as it did when I auditioned! Seeing it completely transformed in just a month was impressive to say the least. This week they’re working on the dance studio, tearing down a wall between two classrooms upstairs to make a full length studio. When this is done, we'll finally have mirrors and a bar for ballet!

Wednesday was our first day of open training. When designing the schedule, the directors wanted to give us a bit of a break in the middle of the week, so we could use the time to train either acts or other skills we wanted to refine, but also give our bodies a bit of rest and not have as intensive of a day. Because of the flexibility our Wednesday schedule gives us, I arrived at 8am to a school devoid of any other students. It was pretty neat to be in the space alone, with just a few staff members there. The sanctuary has incredible acoustics, and while that’s usually pretty deafening during the week, training there can feel almost majestic at times because of it.

By Thursday I was definitely feeling the stress of the week, and my muscles were in a constant state of soreness. I’m sleeping an hour to an hour-and-a-half more than I used to when I was working full time, and yet I still could have fallen asleep at 8pm. On top of the physical exhaustion, we also dove into some intense emotions during our 3 hour theatre class. We explored the 7 Levels of Tension, which is an approach to acting by Jacques Lecoq which helps actors portray and transition between emotions. The levels include (1) Tired Body, (2) California Body, (3) Modern dance/Economical Body, (4) Alert, (5) Action, (6) Passion, and (7) Death. We spent a large portion of the class going between levels 4-6, which meant 11 of us were acting like ninjas, then jumping and kicking and punching the air, then screaming or crying or laughing hysterically. It was even more exhausting than actually training.

Friday absolutely killed me. I was physically exhausted, emotionally worn out, an old arm pain was flaring up, and to top it off, we had our first group presentation after a long day of classes. Our assignment that week had been to create a group piece titled "Pleased to Meet You." It had to be around 10 minutes long with a beginning, middle, and end, and each of us had to have a ~15 second solo. Not only was this the first time we all worked together to create something, but we had also only known each other for a week. We were still learning the group dynamics, let alone adding the task of creating something with such specific requirements. But as much as none of use really wanted to do the piece, it was very necessary. It got us over the hump of learning how we operate together, and we managed to create a somewhat cohesive piece that everyone felt as though they'd contributed to, that brought in aspects of things we'd been learning, and that the coaches were impressed with. So I'd say the first group project was a success.

Though Friday ended successfully, I actually broke down briefly under the weight of it all. I think I'm feeling the burden of school differently than some are. Many of my peers are 18 or 19 years old, fairly fresh out of high school, some of whom have years of circus experience and/or parents who are financially helping them achieve this education. I'm 24, and 6 years out of high school. I've graduated from college, worked in the corporate world for 2 years, saved meticulously for over a year, and am paying for every single penny of tuition on my own. For me, every class, every hour on campus mentally holds a little extra weight. And sometimes, I will have to make the choice between getting in a few more hours of practice, or working a few hours that night to pay tuition. I can't afford to waste time.

I’m realizing how important prioritizing my mental health will be. We’re living in this very competitive, performance-based world. Whether we mean to or not, we all constantly compare ourselves to each other as equals, ignoring the hundreds of hours of practice in certain things. Amongst my peers are people who have been performing for years, people who have grown up in the circus world and know they’ve wanted to do this professionally even before I’d climbed a fabric. I work side-by-side with students who are considered the top in their apparatus, which is incredibly intimidating. And it's not just me feeling this pressure. Towards the end of the week, a few of my peers had expressed their frustrations regarding their weaknesses or lack of certain abilities. I think many of us feel we are the worst at one thing or another, and it’s so hard to focus on what we are better in when there is this one thing that is so seemingly glaringly bad. But having that solidarity helped me a bit. Knowing it wasn't just me who felt like I was struggling gave me some consolation.

There is also so much to learn, and I’m feeling this overwhelming desire to learn everything and get good at everything. It’s only been 2 weeks, and I have a laundry list of things I want to have accomplished by yesterday. I feel like I'm almost trying to make up for my comparatively minimal experience by wanting to learn so much in such a short time, which, with also trying to work part time, is completely impossible. But the first step to any growth is acknowledging where the problem lies. I have 3 years of school to accomplish these goals, and a lifetime after. So step by step, I'll get there.

Sincerely, Circus Girl