the shelah marie

encouraging healthy women from the inside out.

Update 12 — Sustainable Theater Workshop — What I've learned

Three weeks doesn't seem like a long time, but for me, this trip to Haiti felt like years. Maybe it was the sharp shift in lifestyle (easy to get conceptually, much harder to bear experientially) or the new working environment, but here are some honest  reflections.

What I've learned about myself:

  • One of my highest priorities is my independence

Life becomes almost unbearable if I can’t navigate my time on my own terms. Classic American individualist mentality, I know. You ever tried giving a cat a get a bath? That’s pretty much how I respond when I feel like someone is controlling me. It gets even worse when that person is male. I am neither used to nor familiar with being at the mercy of anyone, male or female. So being in Haiti, where even the most independent women still navigate through men for many situations in business, travel and education, it was a trial for me to wait around/ask permission from one man for almost everything -- uncomfortable to say the least. In the words of Chief Keef, “That’s that ish I don’t like.”

  • I have a very hard time without forced social interactions

This is why I cringe when I hear the word “networking.” I don’t want to pretend to like people; I don’t like fake smiling or fixing my opinions to suit people who don’t agree. I would rather politely bow out of the conversation and go find someone I gel with better. I’m also really spoiled because in New York and Florida I have a very strong network of people who care for me. My wellbeing matters to them, because I matter to them. I can honestly say that is one the things I missed the most.

  • In professional settings, I need to learn how to diplomatically and honestly express when I feel something is wrong

I’m a big girl, everyone isn’t going to like me and that’s ok. This isn’t a friendship -- this is professional. I think women especially, get conditioned to try to appease and not “bother” anyone. I’m always worried that I’m going to disappoint/upset someone. Excuse my French, but FUCK THAT. I deserve to be respected as a professional performer and educator. If I keep up my end of the agreement, I should be met with the same. You think Will Smith (don’t ask why I picked him) in his early career or otherwise, would just be like “Oh, you completely changed our agreement last minute? Oh, sure – no problem.”

Hell no.

So why should I?

  • Patience & Flexibility

Things are not always going to go exactly how I imagined. Being here as helped me realize that sometimes plans should be altered. If they change, maybe there is a space for me to achieve something better than the original plan. On the same token, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make extensive plans or have structure – I just need to learn how to be flexible within those structures. Furthermore, sometimes shit takes awhile to pan out. For example, anyone who knows me will tell you I have NO sense of direction. Turn me around in a circle and I’m lost. My first time walking home from The Center in San Rafael I was really effin nervous. I stand out like a sore thumb, my creole is horrible, and I have no phone or anything to call if I get lost. The center and the house where I am staying are literally on the same street; all I had to do was walk STRAIGHT. I got so nervous my first time walking alone that midway home I turned around and walked back, only to later find out I was going the right way all along. I was almost there; I just had to keep walking.

  • I am a dedicated and passionate educator

No need to be humble here. This has been an extremely hard trip for me emotionally, spiritually, and socially. The only saving grace has been my time with my students. I think the way I approach a group allows us to have such a genuinely good time together, which creates a dynamic learning environment. I once heard someone say that in a particular research study, the classrooms where students learned the most was when the instructor gave the group opportunities to know them on a personal level. When I’m with a group, I’m always trying to let them know who I am, so I can better get an idea of who thy are/want to be.