Almost three years ago now, I faced what many people do much earlier in their lifetime – the reality that once I graduated college, I may never perform on stage again. It was a harsh reality, considering I had been performing in shows since 6 years old. After graduating from Kent State University, I went on to the University of Pittsburgh to pursue a career in health administration. I always made sure I stayed busy, taking drop-in dance classes, and teaching ballet and contemporary but deep down I felt there was always something missing.
You may ask, why healthcare? Ok, so healthcare probably isn’t too many people’s passion but being a part of the innovative and groundbreaking care models and insurance benefits in healthcare is what drives me every day but probably not why you think. Because those models, benefits, and even ideas in turn help people, and truth be told helping people is my biggest passion in life. And, similar to healthcare, dance can also help people in tremendous ways. I’ve performed and taught dance therapy classes at nursing homes, participated in Dance for Parkinson’s Workshops, and did my senior capstone project teaching dance therapy at Akron Children’s Hospital to quantify the mental and physical benefits of dance therapy.
Balancing work, dance, a social life, and until this past May, school isn’t always a walk in the park but it is completely possible and totally worth it. Here’s my secret sauce to managing everything:
1. Plan – I LOVE planning all aspects of my life and think it’s the only way I stay sane. I keep a paper planner and my electronic calendar, in case I’m ever caught without my planner. With rehearsals on Sunday’s I start planning and making my grocery list on Saturday’s so I’m ready to go grocery shopping and meal prep Sunday morning after church and before rehearsal. Plan healthy meals and snacks – I almost never sit down to eat a whole meal at once so I always have healthy snacks on hand, which requires a thought-out grocery list every week. If I ever go to the grocery store without a list I either end up wasting time going back to the same aisle or department 5 times because I remembered something else I need or I end up getting a bunch of things I never needed and nothing that I did need.
2. Make lists and prioritize that list – I typically end my work day making a to-do list for the next day or two, depending on how productive I am. I also have a running list in my planner for all non-work related tasks. Going on a trip? Make a packing list. Grocery shopping? Make a grocery list. Holiday shopping? Make a gift list – which can also come in handy if you save them year to year to remember what you’ve given people. Having people over/planning a party? Make a party to-do list. As you can probably tell, I might take my lists to a whole new level of crazy planning but they do keep me on track, as long as I don’t misplace them that is.
3. Me time – making time to relax and prioritize your well-being is extremely important. After a long day or week, I like to unwind with a nice bubble bath, and the occasional glass of white wine with fruit and ice. I have also been known to multitask and read a book or study for an exam while in the bathtub, just be careful not to drop anything in the water! I also consider my early bed time as my “me time”. My friends always joke how I’m a grandma because I’m in bed around 10 every night, and won’t make an exception to that routine for too many things. Those early nights translate into rather early mornings, allowing me to get to work early so I can check things off my to-do list before others arrive.
4. Support system – for me, my support system is my family. Without them I can honestly say that I would be in a very different place in my life right now. In college, I would call my mom between every class, so you can just imagine the number of times a day I talked to her. And now, it’s more texting back and forth every day, because our schedules are opposite of each other. My family are the ones that I can call when I’m stressed out or overwhelmed and just hearing their voices starts to calm me down. Without having them, I think I would have had multiple nervous breakdowns by now.
These things all lead up to being as efficient as possible, and the reasons I’m able to do ‘everything’, as many would say. I’m so incredibly lucky to have found and pursue my two passions in life, dance and healthcare, and couldn’t imagine my life without them. At the end of the day I believe that people make time for the things they want to so if something truly makes you happy and feel whole you should never use the excuse that you’re too busy. There are so many different ways to pursue your passions, you just have to find what works best for you.