Thursday, October 27, 2011

The sweet death of ambition

So what follows may seem like another woe-is-Sara kind of post, but rest assured, that's not what I'm feeling. I just want to take stock of things by writing them out. And I feel fine. I'm happier recently than I've been in a long time.

I think it's time for me to re-evaluate my ambitions.

I've been trying for three-ish years to 'make it' as a bellydance teacher. By 'making it' I mean making enough money to do that part time and something else part time. I've never been under the misapprehension that I could teach and do nothing else, at least not in this area or this economy.

I quit my job in 2009. I got serious. I gave it a good effort.

Now I'm tired of it and I want to stop.

I live in an area with a lot of teachers. There's nothing wrong with that and I'm not upset about it, but the fact is if you divide the number of people interested in bellydance by the number of teachers you don't really get a whole lot of people in each class.

I live in an area where dance studio rent ranges from painful to exorbitant.

I live in an area where bellydance doesn't have a huge public face, and where most 'normal people' don't even know that the bellydance community exists.

I live in a time where no one has a whole lot of money to throw around, and when a certain world dance fitness craze has decimated the market for bellydance classes.

I've been teaching regularly since 2004. There hasn't been more than a month-long period when I haven't taught a regular class. I've taught as many as six classes per week in the past.

This year I realized, if I want to ever save any money at all, I would need to get a second part-time job. So now I have two part-time jobs, not one.

My teaching skills and my knowledge base are improving (I think?). My dance skills are certainly improving, anyway. I've recently been asked to participate in regional events as a performer or teacher for the first time. I practice and promote myself and I try to perform for the general public to raise awareness about the beauty of our dance form.

This year I tried to make another push for financial viability, adding two classes to my schedule for a total of four. My class attendance dwindled to fewer students than I had at the beginning of 2011, when I was teaching just two classes. In fact, it was about half the number of students I had in January of this year.

I cancelled two classes. Now my total number of students is the same as it was with four classes.

You'd think this would be frustrating. Well, it's only the fourth or fifth time this (or something worse) has happened to me, and I've learned to just look at it and accept it. And this time I took a step back and looked at how I really feel.

I don't want to teach four classes a week! I feel burned out when I teach that many. Doing 1000x basic moves is hard on my poor wretched FMS-riddled body. I get sick and tired and I pull so many muscles it's hard for me to concentrate on my own dance development. Besides, I like having time to do something other than work and teach and practice! I like not having every single weeknight and every single weekend day booked solid.

I don't really want what I thought I wanted.

For a month or so I've told myself I need to regroup, to try try again, to give it another year, but I look at what it's going to take to rebrand myself and make another big marketing push and I just don't want to do it. I don't want to do it any more.

The thing is I'm not much of an entrepreneur. I hate networking. I like making friends (for realsies) but when I have to worry about promoting myself I get awkward. I hate money and I hate branding! I hate advertising! I'm a naive artist. I want my work to stand on its own, even though I know that's stupid and that no one ever 'makes it' without shameless self promotion. I have too much shame, I guess.

I still love dance. I still want to teach, but I don't want to worry about whether or not I make money doing it. I want to share what I'm interested in, not what I think will sell. I especially want to perform, but I know I won't make money doing that. Those days are over. Maybe a new era will come around some day where you can get a restaurant gig and work it, but I might be too old to take advantage of it by then.

I'm not sad. I have a million other things I want to do with my life. I'll probably never be satisfied no matter what I manage to accomplish, but I'll never be bored, either.

So here's to the future. And to figuring out what I'll do with myself next.