I am not your typical aerialist. I started in my early 30s with no dance, gymnastics, or performance background. When I went to my first class, I couldn’t do a cartwheel. Even after a year of tedious training, attending more classes than I care to admit, and having to completely change my lifestyle, I still suck at aerial. But I haven’t given up.
I began my aerial journey during the only time in my life where I felt like giving up. I moved cities after the end of a train wreck relationship, loss of a loved one, aggressive cyberbullying, and brutal realizations about who my real friends were. For the first time in my life, I was completely lost. Until I walked into an aerial gym.
Aerial was everything I wanted (and needed): creative, athletic, social, and (most importantly) fun! My classes gave me an outlet to deal with some of the life changes I had experienced in a positive way. I looked at aerialists who have been doing this for years and said, “I want to do that!”
After the initial honeymoon phase wore off, I had a wake-up call. Aerial was not only challenging, but it quickly turned into the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically and mentally.
The smallest defeats seemed like big ones. After months of thinking I was doing a 101 move correctly, an instructor pointed out that my leg wasn’t straight, which took several months of retraining to learn the move correctly. Outside of the studio, people glared at my bruises, and I had to ensure my non-aerialist friends and co-workers that I was not being abused. There were low moments where I would excel for weeks and with one bad training day, I was ready to quit.
I also suffered a short-lived but painful muscle tear, which took countless methods to heal, including visits to the chiropractor, PT, and a trip to the hospital. I had to start getting regular massages, dry needling, and the worst part of all… I had to force myself to slow down and listen to my body.
Even with the defeats, I chose not to give up. Retraining to do something that I had been doing wrong taught me how to break habits. Though the bruises were painful, I somehow earned them. Overcoming an injury created a longterm habit of taking care of my body by cross training with other activities that were out of my comfort zone. I recently tried a ballet class, rock climbing, and gymnastics rings.
The most important reason that I haven’t given up is because of the positivity that this sport has brought me. Whatever your reason may be for wanting to quit, the best piece of advice that I received when I had my come-to-Jesus moment that aerial was going to be more work than I had signed up for was that there would be rock blocks. Lots of them. And then more.
With the enthusiasm and support of my aerial trainers and “crazy circus family,” I learned that aerial is not a race. There is no finish line. And for me, not quitting is my personal best.