I've been thinking a lot about my impact in the world. How do you know if you've done anything meaningful with your life? How big of a step do you have to take? How big to actually see the change?
These thoughts led me back on a journey through my memories.
How did I get where I am?
What made me choose this path?
What was the big turning point in my life?
When I really thought about it, there was no major a-ha moment. No life-changing, OMG I have to take a huge leap and completely change my life path RIGHT NOW! moment.
What I thought about was one of my past pole instructors.
She's not necessarily the first person I would think about as having an impact on my pole life. By the time she was my teacher, I'd already felt like I'd surpassed so many of my perceived limits and she was no longer my teacher by my next major milestone, which was the beginning of my performance and competitive journey.
Before her, I'd already amazed myself that I could spin holding myself up with just my arms. I was already shocked that my typically scrawny little arms had somehow gotten strong enough to hold myself upside down on a pole.
What Mary Ann did was change the way I actually perceived limits.
Let's take a step back for a moment.
I started taking pole classes in January 2007 (yup...14 years). When I first started, most of the pole studios across Canada (or certainly the ones I knew of) were of a single franchise. And all classes adhered to a very strict curriculum. Level 1 week 1, you learned these moves. Level 1 week 2, these moves, and so on.
Mary Ann was the first instructor who just nudged me to explore beyond the curriculum. To go outside of the page.
She introduced me to a number of YouTube accounts and I started seeing and dreaming beyond the structure of the curriculum. She also challenged me (well, moreso casually suggested) to choreograph a routine incorporating more of my own dance background.
Perhaps without even realizing it, she started me on my journey to finding my own authentic style of movement. To incorporate my strengths from outside of class with the skills she was teaching in class.
With Mary Ann's influence, I was able to find my own "voice" (or movement, I suppose) in pole, which then gave me the skill to be able to perform, to compete, to be a better instructor, and eventually to open my own studio.
From a little nudge to explore beyond the curriculum, that's a pretty big impact.
But it REALLY doesn't stop there.
At the time when I met Mary Ann, I was following all the "right" steps in life. I'd finished high school, went to university, finished my undergrad, gone on to complete my Masters, and continued on that path to a PhD. At the time, I'd just assumed in my head that I would take the next steps in the prescribed path. Once I finished my PhD, I would do a Post-Doc, and then apply for tenure-track professor positions, and be a professor. I was on the path.
But, then I learned to explore beyond the curriculum.
And explored I have!
My career path has not been typical. It has certainly not always been comfortable, and I definitely have not always been happy in it. But even when its felt shitty at times, I've never stayed stuck because I know I can and I am comfortable to "explore beyond the curriculum".
Taking Mynn's advice to "incorporate my strengths into class" I've made interesting career moves and down the line, found myself in a pretty perfect niche of circus research.
I realized what an incredible impact she's had on my life. An impact that extends so far beyond the pole studio and through my entire life. One of the things that made her so exceptional and perhaps is also the reason I didn't recognize the just how immense her impact on my life was until now, is that she never stood in the spotlight with me. She never "showed me off". She quietly supported me and gave me the confidence to step up into the spotlight on my own. To become my own person and to incorporate and live her teachings through my life.
And so, when I think about how you know if you've made an impact, I think the answer is: you may not know, but you've probably made more of an impact than you can ever imagine.
Mynn's impact on me has undoubtedly been expressed through me and continues to grow through any impact I have on my students, and then whoever they inspire in their lives (and I have some pretty amazing students doing some pretty amazing things, if I do say so myself).
I've decided to stop worrying about my impact. If her little nudge to me caused this much impact in my life, perhaps I have nudged others and caused some small or even great impact in their lives. And perhaps it is not up to each of us to have a great impact. Perhaps it is through these micronudges that we will, together, change the world.
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Rest in peace my beautiful friend