When I was growing up, I found telling stories to other people electrifying! I loved it, so I performed at my church, and throughout elementary, middle and high school. I learned I was good at performing, which intensified my love because people praised me for my ability. I was state ranked for reading poetry and short stories in forensics (a.k.a. speech team) while in high school, when I also learned how to listen and use criticism. I went on to earn my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theatre at impressive schools and was living the dream! Acting jobs supplied half of my income, my simultaneous career was massage therapy. I was in heaven! Then, I believed that moving to a bigger market like Los Angeles would mean I would have bigger success. I worked on GREY'S ANATOMY and with Garry Marshall. My acting career was on fire! At the same time, I discovered teaching is a great joy for me, a familial tradition.
Teaching. I found that sharing something I love so much and helping others open doors to skills they have fed my soul. While earning my Ph.D. in clinical psychology, I was teaching at Pasadena City College. There, I met some of the most wonderfully challenging students I've ever worked with who helped me become a better teacher and person. You see, the people who already share your love can be easier to teach because they already are convinced the time you are in class together is valuable. I learned to work with challenges of all kinds. At first, I was angry that the students did not want to be professional actors. Then, I realized many students I taught in the past - who loved theatre - often went into other fields. The skills I was offering were fun and could be applied in a variety of situations. Articulating the usefulness of these skills was helpful to myself, supported by what I was learning in psychology, and opened the students' hearts and minds to the magic of using imagination to communicate.
Fast forward to accepting a post as Head of Movement for Actor Training at Northern Illinois University. I moved from Los Angeles to Illinois with my family while accepting what I thought was going to be the job of my lifetime. Life has a funny way of laughing at you when you think you've arrived at your destination. You see, the combination of having a degree in psychology, being a researcher, and working in a department with only practical teachers (not researchers), made me painfully aware of standard ethical breaches dismissed as "that's how it's always been." Theatre training has often been a cult of personality and this department was no exception. I was not strong enough to impact that culture and learned very early in my time there that I did not belong. Eager to move on, I resigned after my third year.
Bad experiences don't define you, they refine choices. Thankfully, I have lived long enough that one teaching post, however bad, was an outlier. The way those colleagues behaved toward me was not all personal, though it felt that way. I've had the good fortune of admiring colleagues in the past who would sit down and talk with me about any challenges we faced together with generosity and kindness. Conflict is part of life. That said, get out when the getting is good. Waiting (when you know in your gut leaving is the best for all involved) often gives other people more opportunities to be hurtful. If the decision to go has been made, just leave. A better time to exit does not exist. Remaining in an unhealthy situation tends to steal joy and cause what is already bad behavior to become worse. When people behave badly, this is not a reflection of you, their actions are insights to the flaws you remind them of within themselves. Another way to say this is being triggered by other people happens. Not owning your own baggage makes big messes. Adults get therapy and work on those issues. Perhaps if everyone got therapy, life might be full of brave and honest people.
Create your life. What's great about bad situations is they clearly help identify what doesn't work in life. I know what's important to me: my family, living with integrity, laughing, helping others learn to be their best selves, and being as healthy as I know how to be. If I identify factors in my life that do not support these areas, I make changes. Sometimes those changes are jobs, sometimes adjusting boundaries in relationships, sometimes altering my perspective or approach. I do know sharing the magic in life is worth taking risks. I've been lucky enough to run my studio, BodybyHeather.com, where I'm my own boss helping others foster ease in their bodies - and I'm teaching grad students at Roosevelt University this summer. I'm still working on my research, writing, and discovering ways to contribute that make me feel satisfied and engaged. Bad and good occur side by side in life. Choose what you want to create.
Copywright 2019 Dr. Heather Corwin