I recently watched Mike Rowe's TEDTalk "Learning From Dirty Jobs" and found it quite interesting. For one, he talked at length about a job he did where he had two testicles dangling from his chin. Mr. Rowe found the experience quite horrifying. Truth be told, two testicles on my chin seems like a regular Tuesday night for me. Granted Mr. Rowe's testicles belonged to a sheep, but hey, we are all different colors in the crayon box, so Mike -- you do you.
He also talked a lot about peripeteia, which to my surprise is an actual word. Foolish me thought it was the name of an unfortunate drag queen I saw perform a hideously unsuccessful Madonna/Nana Mouskouri mash-up at a dive bar in Saskatoon.
Once my medication kicked in however, I was able to focus more on the idea of work and what my career has personally meant to me.
You see, my career wasn't just supposed to pay my bills. It was supposed to save me. Save me from a torturous bullied childhood, get me out of my shit-stain of a home town, prove that I wasn't just the "dumb fag" the kids at school called me and, if I'm to be absolutely honest, prove it not so much to the people in my town, but more so to myself. As it turns out, "I'll show you" is a perfect motivator for success.
As far as careers go, all I ever wanted to do was dance. Well, actually growing up in the Roman Catholic Church on Long Island, there was that brief period when I thought I wanted to be a priest, but then my grandmother told me a bedtime story as she tucked me in one night. It started off, "A priest, a pedophile and a rapist walks into a bar... then he orders a drink." Dance was clearly the more respectable option.
I would constantly gauge my self-worth on whether I was working and what I was working on at the time. -- John Carroll
I've been lucky enough to achieve all I have wanted to do with my dancing. My career has afforded me many blessings, both financial and personal. It got me out of my hometown, gave me self esteem, money in the bank, a great work ethic and strong people skills. It flew me around the world, introduced me to wonderful friends and put me in the right place at the right time to meet my husband.
However, there was a trend throughout my journey to success. I would constantly gauge my self-worth on whether I was working and what I was working on at the time.
My ego was strongly wrapped up in my job. I felt on top of the world when I was employed and felt equally worthless when I wasn't. In this society of "more, more, more", "instant celebrity" and "I want it done yesterday", it was difficult for me to not compare myself to what others had accomplished and not judge myself based on what I was doing.
As a professional dancer, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I'm getting a little long in the tooth (no comments, thank you). I mean, I have a couple of good years left in these ol' dancing feet but let's face it -- my days are numbered. Father Time is practically snickering behind my back.
I've been trying to figure out what I want to do in, what I like to call "Act Two" of my life. As of now I see my options as being a stripper, a Showcase Showdown model or a Bea Arthur impersonator.
I'm not getting any better ideas from watching Dirty Jobs either. I don't necessarily watch a man use a knife and his own incisor's to castrate a sheep, only then to spit the severed balls into a bucket and think, "That's it!" When I watch Mike Rowe mimic someone who's job it is to inseminate a cow, shove his arm so far up the animal's backside that it eventually looks like the bovine rectum is attempting to swallow the man whole, I don't naturally have the urge to yell, "Sign me up!"
Though I'm not sure what the next phase of my career will be, whatever it is, I hope to continue to understand that work doesn't need to save me anymore, doesn't need to define me and that comparing my work to other's is a lesson in futility. Maybe the point is to not be so judgmental of the "dirtier jobs" and be open to any and all possibilities.
So when we see each other at a holiday party this season and you notice something strange stuck in my teeth, know it's probably just remnants of a sheep's testicle and smile, happy in the knowledge that I've learned a valuable lesson and found a new job.