Love Note #6: I'm Back!

You probably thought I was never writing a love note again. For a second there, I thought I might not either. My last post was emotional and personal so I was hoping to wait until I had more fun things to write about. Yet, we are in post-apocalyptic Trump era now and things continue to be emotional and personal. And I'm done being apologetic for having any emotion that is not just happy or positive. Besides, this my blog and if it can't be an outlet for my celebrations and my frustrations then what is the point?!

Of course, if anyone ever takes any issue with the things I write – I welcome open and honest dialogue. Living in Milwaukee, I have come to the not-so-surprising realization that I can be abrasive and aggressive. A great memory is when I was telling my boss-friend-collaborator over the summer that I thought I was being passive aggressive and he said, “I think that's just aggressive-aggressive.” So, I've learned to just embrace that's who I am. I'm not going to censor myself but I'm keeping myself accountable. I obviously don't want to be so honest or blunt that I'm completely horrible to the person on the receiving end of my aggressive-aggression. After eight months of living in Milwaukee, I've attributed this side of my personality to being a true East Coaster. For the most part where I come from, we tell it like it is and aren't very apologetic if your feelings are hurt in the process. Even still, I think our society, even on the East Coast, is getting further and further from being able to communicate directly with one another especially when it involves tough, complicated feelings. It's just easier to go third party about it. So, let's be better, y'all. Let's try harder. Let's talk, off the internet, even if it's hard. 

So what have I been up to since November?

After my project wrapped up on the Beerline Trail, I hit the ground running trying to find similar creative and rewarding work. There's quite a few arts education nonprofits here so I figured that would be a great place to start. By December, I got a job co-teaching art to 3rd - 5th graders at a Milwaukee Public School. In January, I started working with an organization called Artists Working in Education (AWE). Through AWE, I have been working with teens across Milwaukee to help them through the process of creating public art projects in their neighborhoods. The work so far, has been so incredible for so many reasons but I think learning the city through my student's eyes has been the most fascinating part of the process. It has been almost two years since I last taught and I forgot just how much I love it. The jobs are challenging but in the best sense of the word. I'm learning, I'm growing. That being said, these jobs are proving that I have a lot of the tools I need to succeed which is a pretty awesome feeling to have. Throughout my 20s, I was sort of flailing and when problems came up at work I was either not confident to know I had solutions or I actually didn't have solutions because I was too inexperienced to have them. I finally feel confident about my ability and experience and I feel like I've been given opportunities to let that all shine. And it feels pretty damn good.

And these new jobs (plus working at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and doing some freelance video editing) have really taken up most of my time. That and trying not to have full-blown panic attacks after reading the news every single day. This shit is exhausting, is it not? Thank goodness, for Saturday Night Live and comedic relief.

Speaking of comedic relief, I've been working myself up since I turned 31, to give stand up comedy a shot. During grad school, I had one professor who I'm pretty sure was telling me to quit the whole artist thing and take my show on the road, literally. Since then, many people have asked if I do stand up or would ever try it. While I love people giving me compliments and telling me I'm hilarious, I've always known stand up is a lot harder than it looks. Anytime you're a single person on stage and all eyes are on you – not easy! Add in that you're sole job is to make the audience laugh, well, that's terrifying because what if they don't?! I've been to the comedy show where the audience is not feeling the comedian and you can cut that awkward air with a knife. Anyway, my friend Mikal has also been encouraged by friends to try stand up. So we've been brainstorming ways to make the whole single person on stage thing a little less daunting. Our first idea was to do a comedy radio show or podcast. So we, along with Mikal's hilarious sister, went on my favorite local radio show, All the Things and did a demo of what we might do if we had our own radio show/podcast. It was a ton of fun! So take a listen and let me know what you think!

And while I love the radio/podcast format, I've really wanted to something live – a show! My comedy heroes right now are Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams – their show, 2 Dope Queens, is an inspiration. So my thought is why couldn't we do something like that? Mikal could be the Jessica to my Phoebe! It's still all in idea-phase but recently, I went to a Sex-Ed for Adults event where they had an open-mic style storytelling event to share dating stories. I was excited about going and was open to the idea of sharing a story but didn't really have anything prepared. There wasn't a ton of people signed up when I first arrived and since I know two of the lovely ladies who organize Sex-Ed for Adults, I was encouraged to sign on up. After listening to only a few stories, it was my turn! And I told a dating story gone very wrong when a guy who I barely knew came to visit me and overstayed his welcome. It was a story I had retold to many friends, always getting lots of laughs. So I got up on stage and improv-ed my way through. And when the people in the bar started laughing exactly when I wanted them to, I realized I have to do this more! It was such an adrenaline rush and a much needed validating boost of confidence that I can be funny on stage! So stay tuned – I'm hoping that more comedic adventures will take place in the near future.

This much needed boost of validation also came after an experience that left me feeling pretty invalidated. For those who know me, I'm a bit of a fitness junkie. Last year on my birthday, I decided I wanted to take all my friend to a spin class. That seemed like an amazing way to celebrate to me (and it was!). For the last year or so, yoga and spin studios have been really important places in my life. When I moved to Milwaukee, I was shocked to find out there wasn't one single studio that dedicated itself to spin. Although, there was one studio who offered spin classes, in addition to TRX and Crew. I tried it out and while I didn't love the spin classes, I stuck with it. I started to work the front desk to get classes for free and auditioned to become a spin instructor. I figured if I didn't love the classes, I could create classes I did love. Yet, being such a newbie to teaching, I really needed a focused training that I just wasn't getting. Working there also started to become a drag. I loved working front desk at The Handle Bar in Boston but something at this new studio in Milwaukee wasn't clicking for me. It started to become a place I dreaded going. At the end of the year, my plate became overly full and I was extremely stressed. I knew that something had to go and the only thing that made sense was to give up working and training at this studio. In the meantime, another woman opening up a spin-only studio called CycleBar in Mequon reached out to me. The auditions were in January which would give me time to see if I could give time and energy to new spin studio/instructor training program. After visiting Handle Bar in Boston over the holidays and taking some of my favorite instructors' classes I decided to go ahead and audition for CycleBar - and I got in! It all felt way more organized and I was encouraged by just the little feedback I got during my 8-10 minute audition. 

After rearranging my schedule and going to a happy hour to celebrate the opening of the new studio, I thought I was embarking on a 4 day training program and a new side-career as a spin instructor. And I was really excited to learn and work hard. On the first day, however, a bomb was dropped that while we might have made a 4 day commitment, they weren't making that same one back. We were told that cuts might be made before the 4 days were over. This wasn't what I signed up for and I can't say if I would have signed up for it if I knew this was just an extended audition but I would have had to consider it a lot more seriously. Long story short, I was cut. I've written a more in-depth essay about my experience that I won't go into here but I do hope to publish somewhere soon. Let's just say the lack of transparency about cuts being made was one of the many red flags that didn't sit well with me. CycleBar isn't a company I would have felt good about working for despite their attempt to have a philanthropic side. When a company sends an unprofessional, dare-I-say misogynist, white male to work with a slightly diverse, mostly female group, you're philanthropy and attempts at creating community are lost on me. I'm super sick of this big corporate trend of "giving" as if the general population will see this lame band-aid and forget that there is a deep, dark wound of institutionalized racism and sexism their company was built and continues to thrive on. CycleBar isn't the only fitness studio or company doing something like this but they are certainly not trying to create a new model that dismantles stereotypes and attempts to foster a true place of inclusivity. And maybe you're asking yourself, but what gym or fitness studio is, Katie? Yes, this shouldn't have been surprising but I believe something I love a lot can be better! And that's when I discovered Tammeca Rochester and Harlem Cycle. I haven't met her or been there (yet) but she's my new fitness hero! And until a studio like that opens up in Milwaukee, I'll be retiring my spin shoes for a little while and find other, better ways to work out that doesn't compromise my morals and values. 

That's all I've got for you now and while I can't promise when my next love note will be written, please know that it will be!