My friend Steph and I don’t see each other very often, in fact, it may have been a year since we last had lunch together. She was in town for a few weeks and as her time is always in demand, having her to myself for a whole hour is precious indeed. There’s a lot about her journey that walked through the same pot holes of uncertainty that I did, and having learned of her story before my own unfolded kept me hopeful that I too would come out the other side wiser and more resilient.
Whenever I say that there’s a big part of me that’s an introvert, people usually react in disbelief. How can someone who has lead such a public life in the performing arts be an introvert? Surely that confidence is in all aspects of my life, and my persona on stage is just an extension of that? Steph has heard this so often that she’s lost count. To her, that persona or “game face” as she called it, is the medium to deliver her message. Her personal life, the one where she is far more guarded, is reserved for her closest friends and family.
A vessel of toned muscle and invisible bruises
I remember one of my former dancers telling me that for a time, even her closest friends didn’t know she would travel to another town for dance classes. She lived in a small town and danced at the same studio where I started my own journey. Watching her dance three years on and a few months from graduating from her degree, that story, those insecurities now seem like a lifetime ago.
Or are they? Even though the years on stage has helped relieve a lot of my doubts, there are many days where others take its place.
The young woman before me, her vessel of toned muscle and invisible bruises typical of contemporary dancers, exuded the most confidence I had ever seen in her. She was in her element, in her flow, and I couldn’t help but be in awe of who she is. I sat next to her Mum, pride evident, though muted in her humbleness.
As her body moved, contorted and created graceful lines in the light and shadows, I couldn’t help but remember the excitement in her message three years ago, telling me that she was moving to Auckland to study dance. She wasn’t just moving out of home for the first time, she would also be alongside dancers whose bodies had years of classical training, yet here, she was home.
What you see on stage are often the highlight reels, the real work, the growth, happens behind the scenes. Indi in my eyes, is what happens when you feel the fear, but still go and do what you love anyway.
My game face is the medium to deliver my message
What does my game face look like? She is a great listener, articulate, uberly excited about the smallest things, oh and course...seemingly confident! At five feet tall, I’ve learned how to fill the stage with my energy and presence a long time ago, and it’s that ability that resonates with people.
As much as I love the stage, it’s working with others to give them the confidence to shine their own light that motivates me to keep doing what I do. There were times when it felt like a burden - the heaviest probably a few weeks before I made the decision to close the studio. Now I see those days as my insecurities, disguised as a great burden of responsibility I couldn’t escape from. Doubt can manifest in fascinating ways.
My greatest skill is as a storyteller, and the best way for me to use that for good is to have self-belief (and always checking in with my emotional triggers). To be honest, that will always be a work in progress.
The hermit mode helps me
Every now and then I get tired, and I mean really tired of being around people. Yes, I choose to share my adventures and to perform on stage - that puts me in the public eye and of course it means being around people. It may not always be in person, but every person I connect with, their energy is always there.
In the earlier days, I just assumed it was the amount of dancing that was taking its physical toll. There was a cycle of about two to three months, when all of a sudden I would hit the wall and I could sleep the whole weekend, just waking up to eat or go to the bathroom. An afternoon nap turned in the whole weekend passing by in a blur...and I didn’t care.
These days regular exercise and slightly better eating habits (can definitely put more effort into that), helps keep those days a rarity. It’s a constant battle with my natural fiery, sometimes spontaneous nature, so that’s a work in progress.
When I start to feel worn out, I embrace the hermit mode. That introverted side of me, the one who enjoys being by myself in the peace and quiet. I reflect, I ground and find my centre again. If constantly tell yourself that you don’t have enough time to be still, ask yourself, do you have time to recover from burnout?
I’ve been in hermit mode for a few months, and slowly but surely, my batteries are re-charging. I’m building on that courage and one day soon you’re finally going to meet the real me...unmasked.
Ronna Grace Funtelar is a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and slam poet currently based in New Zealand. She is a hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.
Basically, a shorty who knows her life purpose.