I am not the sum of anyone, or anything, other than my experiences. And I have had some unbelievably shitty experiences. I've also had amazing, indescribable experiences. Roar being one of them.
A personal trainer at Equinox Fitness in New York City once told me that everyone is the average sum of the five people they hang out with the most. She told me if I hung out with fat, unhealthy, lazy people, then I would end up fat, unhealthy, and lazy, too.
Now, I hung around size-four showgirls and insanely ripped dancers for all of my performance career, and no matter how hard I wished for it, I never ended up being the average sum of any of them. So this tells me two things:
1. She was an idiot. And 2. I was an idiot. She had no idea what she was talking about. I kept throwing money at her, anyway.
See, I never hung out with other dancers who had binge-eating disorders. I never hung out with other dancers who threw up their food. Sure, we all made jokes that we weren't eating that week, but few of us actually meant it.
I meant it.
I wanted so badly to live the life of the two-piece-wearing, six-pack-having, can-fit-into-any-costume-you-need-me-to showgirl that I became the sum of the five craziest voices in my head: Shame, Guilt, Jealousy, Determination, and the loudest one, Control.
I read a book when I first moved to New York City at nineteen years old and 158 pounds (yes, I know what I weighed during every month of every year I lived there) that said, as actors, there is so much out of our control. If the leading man is 6'3”, they can't cast a leading woman who is 5'1”. If you look like the director's ex-wife, you're probably not going to get cast. If you can't fit into the costumes, you're not going to get the replacement gig on the Chicago tour. So you have to control everything else that you possibly can.
Your weight. Your hair color. Your clothing. Your makeup. Your song choices.
For seven years, I binged, starved, purged, and exercised each spring for audition season. I would book a gig, binge until rehearsals started, lose weight during rehearsal from dancing eight hours a day on a healthy diet of bananas, cigarettes, and gum, and then binge from opening night to closing night until my dresser could barely zip me up. I would blame it on my period (for four weekends in a row?).
For seven years, I skipped parties because I was afraid I'd eat cake.
For seven years, I'd leave parties and go buy a cake and eat it all when I got home.
For seven years, I pulled two-a-days at the gym and used Carnation Instant Breakfast as my source of vitamins, protein, and probably enough chemicals to bleach your hair.
For seven years, I lived my life according to rehearsal schedules, grueling callbacks, audition notices that asked for fit girls showing their midriffs, and how many pairs of Spanx I could get on under a dress for an agent meeting.
And then, just like a pair of worn-out Spanx that are stretched too thin and can't hold everything in anymore, I lost it.
I lost my shit. I could not move. I could not get out of bed other than to grab the cookies 'n' cream from the freezer and I broke out in eczema all over my face.
I was diagnosed with binge-eating disorder and put in contact with the Renfrew Center and given a pile of Geneen Roth books and the next thing I knew, I had to get out of New York. I had to. I could not begin a recovery program knowing that there were auditions happening forty blocks away. I could not start eating what I wanted, when I wanted, knowing I would gain weight through recovery, knowing that a choreographer might see me at the grocery store.
Ha! Not just like that, with just a snap of my fingers but, I straight up packed my shit and moved to Kalani Oceanside Retreat on the Big Island, where everything changed. I changed. And I learned to roar.
Two years later, and now I hold retreats for women who are coping with body-hatred, self-doubt, emotional eating. Women who want to live a life of freedom at the very same place where I learned to roar. And they say shit happens for a reason and blah blah blah therapy this, therapy that, but let me tell you.
“They” are right. The personal trainer was not.
I'm 60 pounds heavier than I've ever been in my life, and I'm the most opposite of unhealthy and lazy that you could be. I hang out with fat people, skinny people, gay people, young children, old people, and even a chef, and although I learn a ton from them, I still stand pretty uniquely on my own. I teach dance and choreograph 35 hours a week, manage my own blog, write for Sadie Jane Dancewear and the Huffington Post, and lead women's retreats in Hawai'i.
I am not the sum of anyone, or anything, other than my experiences. And I have had some unbelievably shitty experiences. I've also had amazing, indescribable experiences. Roar being one of them. And I am happy to say that I wouldn't trade that sum, the sum of my binge-eating disorder and my performance career and my depression and my Hawai'i life and my tap shoes and my heartbreak, for anything easier. They made me who I am. They gave me my roar.