I often get asked by students how long I have been doing flying trapeze and how I got into it. If you ask any flying trapeze instructor, we all have very different backgrounds and very different journeys that led us to flying, but mine seems to surprise most people. First of all, I am older than people often think and I found trapeze a lot later in life than many of my colleagues, sort of by accident. If you had told me 5 years ago that I’d be living in the Dominican Republic and teaching flying trapeze for a living I probably would have told you you’re crazy. In fact, sometimes I wake up in the morning, think about what a strange turn my life has taken and wonder if I am crazy!
My journey started a little over 5 years ago. My friend had seen a Groupon for a trapeze class near Boston (where I lived at the time) and decided to buy one for both of us. We had bought them almost a year ago and then forgot about them because life got too busy. At the time, I was halfway through a PhD program in Behavior Analysis, while working 50 or more hours a week with children with severe autism. I was burning the candle on both ends working a very stressful job, taking classes, and working on my dissertation. At that point, I had already been in graduate school and working more than full time for over 5 years, and seemingly forgot there was life outside of work and school. I had finally hit a wall and told my friend I needed a break. When she remembered we had the trapeze groupon we decided to book it as soon as we could. We also invited another friend who was a colleague of mine in the PhD program, who was also eager to take a break from his studies and try something new. The three of us ventured up to Reading, MA to Trapeze School New York (TSNY) which at the time was located in a giant furniture store, in a town made of jellybeans, complete with a giant water show (I know…this sounds ridiculous but I swear it is true! ).
When I arrived at TSNY I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I knew what flying trapeze was, but I had no idea what to expect. I still remember every minute of that first class. From the second I stepped in the door I was completely awestruck by the instructors there and I remember thinking right away “Man, what a cool job these guys have….what a life!” I was a little nervous, but did surprisingly well in my first class. I caught on reasonably fast, learned a knee hang and a backflip and made both of my catches. I had fun on the trapeze, but what really left an impression on me was what a great community they seemed to have there, and what cool people the instructors were. The entire time I was in “Beantown” I remember feeling like I had stepped into another world. All the stress of life, work, and school all seemed to disappear for the first time in 5 years and I immediately felt like a part of the community and like I had new friends. My friends and I all decided to buy two more classes before we left. We figured that at least for the next two weeks, we would each commit to taking a 2 hour break from life and have some fun.
By class 3 I was hooked. I enjoyed learning new tricks on the trapeze and flying through the air, but even more than that I enjoyed being able to leave all of my cares at the door and jump into a world that could not be more different than my regular day-to-day once a week for 2 hours. When you do trapeze you have to focus on what you’re doing. You can’t be thinking about the paper you need to write, or the 800 more pages you need to read, or the aggressive student you had to restrain at work that day. Trapeze was my time to focus on myself, and most importantly be surrounded by a community of really interesting, fun people. I quickly realized, the people who worked at the trapeze school seemed to live very different lives than I did. They were fun, carefree, and way less stressed out than I was. Many of them traveled from place to place either performing in circuses, or working at different trapeze schools. The more time I spent with these people, the more I realized how much I envied their lifestyles. I also quickly realized that the people who became my friends at the trapeze school were some of the most loyal, caring, interesting, and fun people I had ever met. I quickly started spending more and more time there; sometimes taking two flying trapeze classes, an aerial class and a trampoline class all in one week. I noticed changes in myself. I was becoming stronger, fitter, more confident, happier and more relaxed the more time I spent at trapeze. I learned how to have fun, how to make time for myself, and how to have friends again. Sometimes when I reflect back on that time in my life now, I realized trapeze really changed my life for the better. The lifestyle I was living when I was working so much was quickly leading me down a road of anxiety and depression. I was lonely, unhappy, and was not taking good care of myself mentally or physically.
After about 9 months of spending time at the trapeze school several staff left and the school was in need of new trainees. I was shocked when one of the managers approached me and asked if I’d like to start learning how to be a trapeze instructor. I of course jumped at the offer, but new that it meant I would fall behind a bit in work and school. I’m so thankful that I took a chance and took the offer to start training. For the first 3 years, I worked just a few classes a week while maintaining my full time job and school. I quickly started falling behind on school work though, and much to my advisor’s disappointment, it took me an extra year to finish my dissertation. I started devoting less time to just school and work, and had finally found a balance in my life. However, the more time I spent at trapeze, the more I found myself wanting to live the same lifestyle my coworkers had there. I wanted more time to train, have fun, travel and enjoy life. I had finished my PhD, had a successful career and had a good balance in my life, but I still found myself wanting more. I felt like I had missed out on a lot of things in my 20s because I was so immersed in work and school. I hadn’t had a social life, I hadn’t been in any serious relationships, I hadn’t traveled unless it was for work….I basically hadn’t had much fun at all! I remember waking up each morning and thinking “ughhhh, I have to get through 8 hours of work before I can go to trapeze.” So, finally one day I decided to take a break. I asked my boss (never in a million years thinking he would say yes) if I could take a 3 month sabbatical. I told him I was burnt out and needed a break to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. I was so thankful that he agreed, and allowed me 3 months away with an option to come back, or end my position at the school.
The three months off from work were the most eye-opening months of my life. I woke up every day excited to go and work at the trapeze school, or to enjoy my day however I wanted. I trained hard, I spent time with friends, I caught up on sleep, I enjoyed the outdoors…I did everything I had been wanting to do the last 5 years and hadn’t had the time for. After about a month, I realized the thought of going back to my job made me immediately feel stressed out and sad….so I decided not to go back. As fall was approaching and trapeze season in MA was ending, I decided I should travel and work at another school for a few months, then I would get back to getting a “real job” again. So I set off for Seattle and began a job teaching at Emerald City Trapeze, with a 3 month contract. Three months quickly became a year. I was working trapeze full time, living my dream, enjoying my new trapeze family in Seattle, and living the most stress-free life I had ever lived. As great as Seattle has been, I needed a break from the rain for a bit and was lucky enough to get two months off to travel and come work in the DR. So here I am! I keep telling myself “just a few more months of trapeze, then I will settle down and get back to my real life and real job,” but who knows, maybe I have found my new life!