According to Julie


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Why it got so quiet here

It’s been almost ten years since I started this blog. I have now been on a kind of blogging break for months. This is why:

1. I can’t blog about other people’s secrets. For the past few years, between client confidentiality and some serious family issues, more and more of my thoughts I just need to write to make sense of, have been unpublishable. One of the biggest things going on in my life since October 2012 has been my sister getting cancer – twice. She has been very open about this in her own digital presence – check out her instagram – and also went viral when she took part in a remake of the “Call on Me” music video with a group of cancer patients. So her cancer was never a secret. But it was never my story to analyze online either. This is only one example of several important topics I have needed to put into words lately, which I have chosen to talk about or write privately about, rather than blog about.

2. I got my dream job. People regularly pay me to write, to critique other peoples’ writing, to make websites less annoying, to follow people on Twitter and to talk about digital media. A lot of what I used to do on this blog is now stuff I get paid to do. Sometimes that means I can’t do it for free after work, either because it wouldn’t be fair to my clients and employer, or just because I want to unwind by doing something that isn’t my job. This is a good thing. I used this blog as a writing practice space, and it got me exactly where I want to be.

3. I live with someone. When I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own apartment years ago, I suddenly had a lot of extra unsocial time on my hands. I had a few hours almost every day when there was absolutely no one around. Filling this time with writing was a natural choice, because I was exchanging telling my parents about my thoughts (whether they wanted to know or not) with writing down my thoughts and potentially telling the world (the world did not need to listen). Now I come home from work, and there is usually someone there who actively wants to know what’s on my mind.

4. Over the past few years, I have been learning with my body at least as much as with my mind. I started learning partner dancing about five years ago, and since my move to London and back to Oslo, West Coast Swing has taken over a lot of my free time. Breaking my wrist made it necessary to train my arms, shoulders and back more specifically, which also helped my dancing. Gradually, and without noticing, I built up the strength and fitness to be able to enjoy jogging, so I started doing that. And finally, after 28 years of not quite cutting it as a proper Norwegian, I can now confidently say that I actually do know how to cross-country ski. After going to school and filling my brain with new information for over two decades, it feels right that my learning experiences as an adult should be about training my body to do new things. But this training has filled up time I might otherwise have spent writing, and it has not inspired me to write about exercise. Perhaps because I do not have the right vocabulary, or perhaps because it simply isn’t very controversial: I jog and it makes me able to jog more. Not worthy of a blog post. When I have wanted to write about this, it has been very difficult to put into words without fear of being too personal or making other people feel bad. I have gone through periods of being very frustrated with dancing and struggling to write about that in a way that could possibly be published. (My blog post about competitive dancing gets into some of this.) One thing all this training has made me think about – to the point of wanting to blog about it – is that my gym classes could have been so much better when I was in school.

5. The internet changed. While blogging in general is alive and well, many of the bloggers I used to follow have quit, turned writing words into a paying job (like me!) and/or just relocated to Twitter. Posting something on Twitter is faster, both the actual posting, and the response I get from the internet. I don’t really like this, but it’s the truth.

6. I grew up. Growing up means a lot of things, but this is one way to describe it: You become less selfish, but at the same time, you become more important. What I write here now has more serious potential consequences, because I am important to more people than I used to be. Unlike when I first started blogging, I now have co-workers, clients, bosses, students, competitors and a boyfriend (who also has a family and a network of people who I am in some way important to). Over the past ten years, I have also deepened friendships, started friendships and ended friendships. I don’t pretend that the majority of all these people read my blog. But I have become more aware of the consequences of what my audience might think, and this has introduced a self-consciousness in my writing that I do not like. Can I blog about how weird it feels to be called a social media expert without discouraging potential clients? Can I complain about something bothering me about the West Coast Swing community without a backlash from other dancers? Will being upfront about my opinions on companies or brands come back to bite me when Burson-Marsteller wants them as a client? I didn’t have to worry about this when I started blogging. I barely had to worry about what my parents and teachers thought.

I do not know what all of this means for the future of According to Julie, but I do know that writing is an addiction that I have not fed enough lately and that I need to do something about that.

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We should all just go to sleep

Around 3:30 AM on a Sman sleeping at desk with giant cup of black coffeeunday night, I was sitting in a hotel room in Poland, winding down after dancing, reading an article that was telling me I should have left the dance floor hours ago. In the Danish newspaper Berlingske, Chris Macdonald’s article Den store løgn om søvn (The great lie about sleep) listed the effects of sleep deprivation: weak immune system, over-dependence on caffeine, high blood pressure, weight gain, and unhappiness. “The brain and pretty much all of the body’s biological processes suffer when you are sleep-deprived.”*

I was reading this at the worst possible time, towards the end of a long weekend of dancing all night and then dancing all day. But it was the conclusion that really stuck with me:

It took us a long time to start taking the dangers of cigarettes seriously. The same thing is happening with sleep today.*

I’m not the only one who is tired all the time. No one sleeps enough, and no one is taking it seriously.

Some of my co-workers seem to work around the clock. My parents don’t have any pattern to their sleep habits at all, as far as I can tell. And then there are my dance friends. Our lifestyle just doesn’t allow for sleep.

One of the big threats to my sleep is West Coast Swing. At West Coast Swing weekend events, people complain if the evening dance parties end before breakfast is served. You’re supposed to attend workshops during the day, compete in the afternoon, dance and party from evening until breakfast, then take a nap before your next workshop.  If I want to leave the dance floor “early” (like I had left at 3 that Sunday night), or nap instead of taking a dance class, I hear “You can sleep when you’re dead.” or “You’re here to dance, not sleep.” But I can’t enter a voluntary coma when I return from dance weekends, so I have to sleep at some point during the weekend.

Back in Oslo, it’s hard to consistently go to bed early when I’m teaching or practicing until ten pm three times a week. And I tend to feel more alert in the evening, which makes my sleep schedule look a lot like this:

Sleep schedule - tired all day, waking up at night

My combination of consulting work and late night dancing is pretty much a recipe for sleep deprivation. But I’ve certainly experienced worse – when I combined late-night dancing and starting work at 6AM.

The thing is, it’s not just me. There is this widespread idea that rest is for the weak. Rich people now have less leisure time than poor people. Although that statistic is made up of a lot of different factors (including involuntary under-employment), one important reason is that the most high-status, highly paid jobs are considered more interesting than free time. Even when we are not paid overtime, we would rather work too much than not work enough. Leisure is associated with boredom and uselessness.

But we need to appear boring and useless from the outside in order to let our bodies be productive on the inside.

So last week, when I found myself sitting in a circle of teenagers,talking about our current life goals (long story), I listed one of my own goals as “getting more sleep”. And although the teenagers probably thought I was joking, I consider that casual statement – and this post – as my official commitment to getting more sleep. Just because I can function on six hours a night, doesn’t mean I should. I  deserve to be more alert, creative and happy, and less dark under my eyes.

I am going to follow the advice of this t-shirt:

T-shirt with writing "I have so much to do that I'm going to bed"

In case I need any more motivation to just go to bed, I will reread this horrifying Huffington Post story.

*My translation from the original Danish.

Image sources: Gadgetsin.com (apparently you can buy that giant coffee mug), The Meta Picture, Skreened (you can buy the t-shirt too).


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Why I stopped competing in dance competitions

practice performThis winter, I went to an international West Coast Swing event and sat out the dance competitions instead of joining in. This probably doesn’t sound shocking to my non-dancing readers, but pretty much everyone I talked to that weekend wanted to know why I wasn’t competing.

I struggled to put it into words at the time, but I know that weekend was one of the most fun, relaxing and educational weekends I have spent dancing so far. I watched my friends on the competition floor, and felt that choosing to opt out of this one part of West Coast Swing – at least for a while – was a good choice for me.

I’ve never been motivated by competition. (So gamification doesn’t work on me, but that’s a subject for a different blog post). I had no intention of competing in West Coast Swing until one of my dance teachers gave me a good argument for doing so: You should start competing early, so that by the time you stand a chance of winning, you’ll be used to competing.

So I entered some competitions, won nothing obviously, and focused most of my attention on workshops, social dancing and rooting for my more advanced dance friends in the finals. My weekly classes and social dances were relaxing highlights of my otherwise fairly stress-filled grad student life, and I was in awe of many of my more experienced fellow dancers in London.

Then I moved to Norway, which automatically bumped me up from beginner+ to one of the more experienced West Coast Swing dancers in a country where the WCS scene was just getting started.

shut up and danceAnd at some point I started dancing like it was my job. Not just because teaching dance literally was my part-time job, but because West Coast Swing became the activity I spent the majority of my energy on, physically and emotionally. West Coast Swing had more control over my emotions than my actual full-time career did. Dancing could make me feel elated or dismal, and sometimes both within 24 hours.

I knew that dancing was becoming a source of increasing stress, but taking a break didn’t feel like an option. Constantly improving was one of the best things about dancing, and besides, it was still fun. But sometimes it was also exhausting, distressing and discouraging.

I competed a few more times, and counted it as a personal victory that I felt less nervous every time. But I also felt that my competition dances were my worst dances, my most inhibited, hyper-aware moments. I started thinking “To do well, I need to dance well when I am at my worst: when I am sleep-deprived, jumpy and anxious.”

Then I realized that was kind of an insane approach to a supposedly fun activity.

So I have made a conscious choice to only dance for fun. If it is ever not fun, I just don’t dance. If I feel tired and not into it when I arrive at a social dance, I just go home. I keep teaching because it is fun and inspiring – more so now that I am more relaxed overall. I keep attending so-called “competition training”, but I consistently call these gatherings “Thursday practice” and if I’m not in the mood, I don’t show up.

Now I’m not saying that trying hard is a bad thing –  “fun” doesn’t mean “easy”. Proper technique gives you the tools for having fun, so I do not want to encourage anyone – especially not my students – to have a “whatever” approach to technique and practice. I am also personally motivated by learning and improving (I’m a nerd, remember?), so practicing in itself is fun to me. But I practice to have more magical moments on the social dance floor, not to win anything. I try to always remember that I started dancing to have fun.

And unlike some dancers who always push themselves through the hard, stressful, painful parts of dancing, dancing is not my main goal in life. Dancing is my wonderful escape from the stressful side effects of what my main goals in life actually are. And I need to keep it that way.

Now enjoy some crazy social West Coast Swing:

Related post: Think about why you started

Image sources are unknown, but I found them through Pinterest, where I have a dance-themed board.


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6 weird side effects of dancing West Coast Swing

I started dancing West Coast Swing about three years ago. I’ve written about why I started, and what I like about it (in Norwegian). Here are some of the side effects of this hobby (probably relevant for lots of partner dancing in general):

Growing out of my clothes. You would think one of the great side effects of dancing constantly is regular exercise, allowing me to eat all the ice cream without growing out of my clothes. But no. My legs have muscles now, and my skinny jeans are not OK with that. Neither are my knee-high boots.

Drinking less. Sure a weekend event can be a non-stop party, but during the week and on weekends at home, I find myself declining beer and wine because I’ll be training or teaching later that night. When I go out with my dance friends, I do order drinks, but not many. I can’t follow properly with a beer in my hand, and I never sit still for long.

Having no use for personal space. Personal space is for wimps. In dance classes, I go straight into closed position with complete strangers, even if they smell. Completely worth it if the class is good enough. Also, even the best and cleanest dancers sweat on the social dance floor. Get over it. Of course, this means I might hug people too soon in non-dance situations. And I’m still a shy person often lost in my own world – so I won’t know your name, but I will hug you.

Wearing pants. (Trousers for the Brits. In your language, I wore pants before WCS). My boogie/lindy/east coast swing days (the jumpy, retro kinds of swing) were much better suited to my love of polka dots and big skirts. West Coast Swing calls for dress pants and boot-cut jeans, so that’s what I wear now.

Wearing flats and jeans on date nights. On the way out, I tell my boyfriend/dance partner: “You like this skirt and heels combo now, but I can’t do West Coast Swing in this. You say we’re just going out to a pub, but you know they might play good music. High-heeled boats or triple steps? Choose wisely.”

Stumbling on uneven floors. Every week, I spend hours perfecting a smooth walk across a smooth floor. The goal is to create an illusion of floating or skating across the dance floor. My feet should be connected with the floor as much as possible. Unfortunately, my smooth walking technique is unsuited for less smooth surfaces – like everywhere that isn’t a dance studio, and some dance studios too – causing me to complain that the floor is awful (at best) or to stumble and fall. The amazing Michael Kielbasa says: “You’re not clumsy; you’re a dancer.” And he’s pretty good, so I’ll trust him when he says I’m not clumsy:

Related posts: How to buy west coast swing shoes in Norway


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Think about why you started

why I started

“When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.” I’ve been thinking a lot about why I started lately, especially when it comes to dancing. I’ve been feeling like there are things I should be able to do within dancing that I can’t do, both in terms of specific moves and techniques and in terms of time and money investments.  When people talk about competitions and international events, I don’t get excited. I just start thinking about how tired I will be, and whether I will have to take time off work.

But this weekend I had some really good social dances. After a particularly crazy sequence of spins and dips and ducks, in the midst of an adrenaline rush, I thought: I started dancing so I could feel like this on a regular basis. All the technical training, the private lessons, the sleep deprivation and the tired feet are just means to this end.

I started dancing to have fun on the social dance floor. I dance to be able to follow anyone, and have fun with any leader. I dance so that when advanced leaders ask me for a dance, they can have fun too.

I didn’t start dancing to compete. I didn’t start dancing to gain any sort of fame or any recognition other than smiles from my leaders. I didn’t even start dancing to teach – although I like to think I am improving my social dance experiences by developing good habits with my students.

This way of thinking works for other parts of my life too:

I started working in PR to make communication my job. I started because it would mean being paid to write. I work in PR because I believe most problems can be alleviated – if not solved – through communication.

I didn’t go into PR for money, fame or a glamorous lifestyle. I didn’t start my job because I thought it would be easy. I started because I thought I would be good at it.

I started blogging to write. I blog because my blog is a place to store my thoughts, so they are not bouncing around in my head and getting mixed up. I blog to get things out of my system. I blog to organize my thoughts – whether they are about content filtering algorithms or pop songs accused of “rapeyness”. I started blogging to practice writing something that might be read by someone other than myself or my school teachers.

I didn’t start blogging to gain lots of readers or to fit into a certain niche or to prove anything to anyone. I started blogging to practice writing with readers, but I don’t write for my readers – (sorry, everyone) – I write for me.

And I dance for me – and for my current dance partner. Even though it isn’t New Year’s I will consider this post an official resolution.

If you liked this random piece of motivational life advice, you might like this post too: Six months left

 

Image source: Popsugar Fitness, via Pinterest


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How to buy West Coast Swing shoes in Norway

If you found this post, and you’re not a West Coast Swing dancer, you should of course learn some West Coast Swing as soon as possible. But in the meantime, read this instead: a blog post about the stupid things clueless people say when they buy dance shoes, written when I was a shop assistant at LaDanse.

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