I am Still Afraid
**Note: This is a post I had written earlier this year, but somehow ended up being deleted. So this is me re-uploading. I have grown in a lot of ways sine I had originally written this post, but I do still go through this pattern a lot. I am just better at working with my anxieties or hiding it now than I used to be. I hope you can relate and feel at least some validation from this, knowing that you are not alone.**
This is a post about fear and living in it. I have been performing burlesque for a little over three years now and been part of theatre since I was a child. The stage is my home. The backstage and crowds of glitter filled people are where my chosen family and I belong. We have this beautiful world of weird, creative, supportive energy that I would be lost without. Yet… I am still afraid.
Leading up to the show… I worry that my mind will blank and all the practice in the world isn’t enough. So, I put off rehearsing more than I should. When I do practice, I cram in entire days of just moving, stripping, and doing it all over again. When I practice without the costume, I forget everything, despite how well I know it and how many times I’ve done it before. I need the costume to remember. All I can say is “I didn’t practice enough.”
The night before a show… I realize how many costume pieces need to be fixed and how much rhinestoning is left to do. Of course, I start these tasks at ten o’clock at night because I was spending the entire day earlier anxious about if I’ll even be able to pull off all that costume work. Concerned with how the symmetry of my stones will appear from the audience, so I take twice as long as I should.
The day of the show… I push through 3 more runs of my routines then try to keep moving. Eat, hydrate, rest, hair… I don’t always get to those first three. More often than not, my energy is buzzing with both excitement for the night and concern of if I’ll succeed with my routine.
Getting ready in the venue… sometimes my makeup is ready before I arrive, most shows I do it backstage. This is when I decide to experiment or forget my brushes or wish I brought different lashes. By some magic my makeup worked out. Glad I managed that in time…
The doors open… I see performers and friends I haven’t seen in a while. I love them, I embrace them. Sometimes I worry it’s been too long and for whatever unrealistic and unknown reason that will cause our friendship to be stale, so I am hesitant with being "too welcoming." I avoid approaching some people because I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing: it happens more often than not. I want to fully embrace my idols but worry they will think it’s weird because I haven’t been this friendly before, our simple respectful relationship has already been established the first time we met. There is no growing closer, despite both of us knowing this to be false. I leave the greenroom to socialize with the crowd. Same situation.
The show starts… I hide backstage to prepare and get into my costume. Costume is easy. I hide in a corner or somewhere out of the way to give space to people who need the mirrors and the greenroom. I put in my earphones and go over my routine. I blank… I remember the beginning and start over. I get halfway through my routine and blank again… I keep restarting my music and forgetting that same part three more times. I forgot my routine. I forgot that one vital part of my routine. I shouldn’t have socialized so much. I should have practiced more… Nerves creep up in me from my toes up my spine to the back of my neck.
The emcee begins to introduce me… I focus on my breathing and get grounded. I set myself onstage and go with it. Sometimes my muscle memory naturally remembers my choreography, sometimes it’s a lot of improv. At least I can make eye contact and work the audience. This stage feels sticky… I hope nobody notices my feet getting stuck. Just keep working the audience. I hope they aren’t tired of my butt yet. No, who can get tired of that. Butts are great! Music ends. Kiss, bow, maybe a butt lift with my hand. Goodbye beautiful audience.
I go backstage… I did it. It was great. So magical. The audience was amazing. I can’t believe I remembered my routine (or pulled it off if not). I want to do it all over again.
This is one pattern of many that happen for me. Sometimes I get completely overwhelmed with performing, despite how much I love my routine or how well I know it. Sometimes I just don’t want to wait my turn and the entire process is a stress free set up and production of the show. I have always had stage fright and moments of not practicing enough, not giving enough, or not being enough. Sometimes it isn’t the show or my routine I’m worried about. Often my anxiety creeps up on me anytime I try to push myself to socialize and network. Or it’ll hit about whether I am the right voice to bring up conversations in the community, or that I’m too aggressive and a bad person because of how I bring it up. Why do I deserve love and respect if all I’m doing is wanting changes and not thinking that the burlesque community is good enough where it currently is? These are lies my brain tells myself all the time.
I can’t choose when I have good or bad days or how people will react. 90% of the time after talking with my closest trusted friends, I realize I’m ok and in an amazing place with my growth. I remember how great our community is and why I love to perform. I get uninspired and re-inspired all the time. I go in and out of wanting to give up on routines or burlesque all together. We all have our moments of anxiety with the stage and burlesque, despite whether we’re brand new or been performing for well over fifteen years: whether we are only a local performer or an international headliner. We all have bad days and anxieties: some more than others. Whether it’s with performing, socializing, speaking up, or doing something about the world. I don’t want people to be concerned about me or act to prevent this from happening. I want you to know that you are not alone and the best we can do is try. Look after yourself when you need it. In the meantime, I'm sending deep love to you all.
Thank you for listening,