Naked and Not Afraid: Pleasing Yourself

Scarlett Vanderwoodsen, Columnist

Around this time last year, I received an email response inviting me to audition for the company I’m currently with. They were in a hurry to get me through the door since the founder of the group was in town for just a short period of time, and they called me in a flurry. I was asked to prepare a classic jazz and rock number for the same day as my audition – to say the least, I was in a panic. On that particular rainy weekday, I found myself sitting, hunched over on a bench on the first floor of the Arbutus building, racing through webpages trying to find doable songs. I was trying to memorize lyrics in just a few hours, with thoughts swirling around my mind.

I had just started to get my groove being back at school after being on the verge of getting the boot for my classroom performance. The thought of taking something on that could have the potential to distract me from my studies made me reluctant to attend my audition, but one thought overrode it all – what do I have to show for my life aside from a piece of paper as an accomplishment? While I believe education is very important and I’m immensely privileged to be able to attend university, above all I stand beside the belief that it is just as important to not only dream big but chase those dreams.

At the time I made the decision to audition, I placed school over everything and I found I had lost myself in investing so much of myself in my GPA. Social life? Non-existent. Fun? Never. Skin? Dry. I felt I owed it to myself to make a change before my past unhealthy coping mechanisms for distress kicked in.

After my last class of the day, I headed straight home and began rehearsing into a pillow. Since my house has terrible acoustics and my songs of choice contained powerful vocals, I belted into a pillow out of worry that my neighbours would hear my sad attempts at jazz vocals, even though I was home alone. I packed my cutest thigh-highs and babydoll and trekked downtown.

While the skimpy number I stripped down to emitted some sort of sex appeal, my rendition of “Georgia On My Mind” however, did not. With the audition on such short notice, I had learned the melody and lyrics of the song and attempted to add a choreographed dance routine to the classic song in the span of just a few hours. This ultimately led to my demise on stage. Thrown off by the pole in the middle of the stage, I desperately tried to interact with the foreign objects in my path in both a swift and smooth way – both of which I failed to achieve. In addition to my poorly executed methods of seduction, the lyrics slipped from my mind, followed by my dignity.

I could’ve dusted my hands of that audition, called it a day and said it wasn’t meant to be – it would have been an easier blow to my ego to not risk making things worse. And it would’ve been a hell of a lot less awkward for everyone in the room. But I knew that if I left the stage it wouldn’t just mean that I didn’t give my performance my all, it would also mean that I didn’t myself a chance.

Since the first time I hit stage at the ripe age of three years old up until my audition, I performed for everyone but myself. It was in the way I wrote music for my band that I thought that others would like. I plastered on makeup and a smile for my family for years as a dancer. I unintentionally conditioned myself to please others.

Being a student has the ability to turn us into career-driven machines, focused on the bottom line – a totally understandable and expected outcome given the environment we’ve been placed in. But I think it’s important to remember that just like in the ways we work hard at our degrees, we should work hard on ourselves and not limit ourselves to whatever it is that our degrees sum us up to be. Taking the time and effort to explore every aspect of our lives and working to achieve the bliss that comes with pushing our boundaries, is what may drive our happiness and affect the career path we’ve been working so hard to chip away at.

Only a handful of people know that I’m a burlesque performer. Will I ever tell my family? Not in a million years. Not because I’m scared of the stigma around what I do, but because my place on the club’s stage is my little corner of the world that is reserved just for me, and I respect myself too much to give it up. As Stanley Tucci’s character in Burlesque says, “Every opportunity has a shelf life.” Regardless of what your working towards at your time in university and outside the boundaries of this campus, allow yourself to embrace the opportunities thrown your way last minute, recognize that you are worthy of your dreams and soak up your spotlight, because you are so so worth every bit of it.


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