Dancer Down: The Whole ACL Story

I was sitting at the Stagedoor Café, my favorite diner on 34th street and 7th avenue when I received the e-mail. It was my favorite place to grab ten dollar eggs and toast after going to Ripley or Pearl Studios.

Five days prior was the audition in New York City. I wore my black high thigh panties for good luck and I kicked my face, gave the choreography my all, sang two songs, and they called me back. The audition monitor handed me the sides to read and on top it said “Cassie.”

“No way…. This must be wrong,” was my first thought. “She’s like…..a lead.” “She has that huge solo, I mean she’s Cassie!” I texted my mom, sister, and best friend right away in shock. I remember it so clearly. The texts sent: “I AM READING FOR CASSIE AND SO FAR I HAVEN’T SEEN ANYONE ELSE READING FOR HER.” So I channeled by best Donna McKechnie, and did the best I could with limited time on the scene. I felt okay about it walking out of the door, but not spectacular. I called my mom, “honestly mom, I haven’t the slightest clue what they are thinking but I danced hard and I got to read for her, so who cares?!”

As an actor, singer, or dancer (or all three) you are quite accustomed to rejection so I told myself as usual to not expect anything from this audition. I am your standard “Chorus Girl” after all. I’m tall and heavily dance trained; rarely capable of playing a female lead due to my height, body type and ‘showgirl’ package. I have been in the ensemble of almost every show or production I’ve done since high school. Don’t get me wrong—I love it. I love being in the chorus. I’ve always been the backup dancer, the “featured solo,” in the front of the formations with one or two vocal moments.

Yet, there it was that morning at the diner, the golden e-mail. With one click, the content would reveal itself and I would be either in a good mood or bad mood. I saw the words “Broward Stagedoor Theatre’s A Chorus Line Auditions” in the Subject line and my blood began to circulate faster.

Hello Kayley,

Thank you for auditioning for A Chorus Line at the Broward Stagedoor Theatre in Coral Springs, Florida. I would like to offer you the role of Cassie.”

I threw the phone down on the table as if it was a hot coal. My hands were shaking. I couldn’t finish my eggs. I called my parents screaming between sobs.

Fast forward 5 weeks later, to opening week. I’d never trained so hard for a role in my life. I learned the original choreography from Broadway legend Jessica Patty who had studied under Donna and alongside Charlotte D’Amboise. I rented out studios and practiced that 11-minute solo as many times as I could to build up stamina. I chopped my hair off from mermaid length to barely past my chin in order to look more like Cassie’s age of 32 and whip my hair around 70’s style. I had motivating and inspiring discussions with my director and coworker Andy (playing my romantic opposite, Zach) in order to build our foundation as a couple onstage. It was riveting. I was growing. I wasn’t just a chorus girl. I had levels to explore and layers to my performance.

When originally learning the choreography, Jess sat me down and warned me of the high demand the show put on her body and the bodies of many other women who’ve taken on the role of Cassie.

“Take care of yourself. Get massages, acupuncture, don’t dance too hard all the time or you’ll pay for it later. Pace yourself. Care for your body.”

Little did I know just how true those statements were and how much it was going to affect me.

Throughout the process, my cast and crew were amazing. All were highly trained in dance, focused, & powerful performers. I adored working with them, I adored rehearsing; showing up to that theatre every day with my foam roller. The dressing rooms were tiny; the theatre was a fairly small theatre on the east coast of Florida. It was by no means Broadway or an equity production, but it was a family—a hard working, devoted, and passionate creative team, backstage and onstage. It was my dream show and my dream role, and I felt like I was on an upward spiral.

Right before opening, I got another promising e-mail from a previous audition in February that I attended as well. A huge musical theatre Dance Agency, Clear Talent Group, signed me. I auditioned among hundreds of ridiculously talented dancers and they wanted to sign me and work with me. Cue more tears, more excitement.           Opening weekend came and my mother, grandmother, stepdad, aunt, sister, and a few other friends came and showered me with love and support. It was a beautiful few days full of flowers, tears, hugs, and kind words. Shortly thereafter, the second week of performances came and my grandmother came to a Wednesday matinee performance. At this point I had performed in 6 shows as Cassie. We had that Thursday off, so I decided to go home to Naples for a day, see my family and guest teach at my old dance studio. With much excitement, I surprised my old students and taught a grueling hour and a half class where I taught them the opening number (tons of turns, jumps, kicks, and pliés). I must have done the combination 30 times with them. I was dripping in sweat, jumping and kicking higher than I ever had, soaking up the adrenaline and super proud to pass down the show’s legacy to the girls. At the end of class, I’d promised them to show them my solo. I was nervous to perform in front of my students so the adrenaline kicked in big time. I sang the first 3 minutes of it and broke into the dance break. The second 8 count in, I do a big high right kick with my left leg planted in plié. I was dancing too hard, too passionately, and I had already danced for an hour and a half straight. It happened in an instant. I heard a profoundly loud ripping, popping sound that resembled a rock colliding with the ground and I was on the ground. Then came a dull ache in my left knee; the knee that was bent 2 seconds ago. I have never been injured in my life (minus a broken toe) so I truly didn’t think I had done anything serious. I got back up quickly after a few moments on the floor and tried to start walking/dancing again. My knee gave out. I couldn’t straighten it. The ache continued and worsened. But there was no swelling, no bruising, and not as much pain as I would have expected from that horrible ripping sound.

The next 48 hours were my worst nightmare. Should we go to the ER? Which Doctors do you know in the area? How can we get an MRI as soon as possible? You have an appointment tomorrow at 8 A.M. Did you call your director?

I couldn’t even begin to think about missing a show, not being Cassie, not dancing that incredible solo, not returning to my Chorus Line family. I wouldn’t believe it. I iced my knee that night, searched Google for potential answers as to what happened and prayed fervently. I wished for a sprain, torn cartilage, something minor. The next morning, after a speedy MRI and texts back and forth to my director and cast, I received the news.

“It’s a clear, full ACL tear. I am so sorry.”

ACL?! That was a football, basketball injury. I had only heard of athletes tearing their ACL’s during heavy contact sports. When someone tore their ACL on TV or during a game, my dad would always say, “He’s done for the year,” or so and so “tore his ACL, poor guy is not finishing the season.” I was in disbelief. My whole vision for my passion and my career collapsed in that moment. I cried and cried and cried into my Dad’s arms.

I write this now, 10 weeks from that very day, 9 weeks from ACL reconstructive surgery. It’s been one hell of a journey. This is not a “pity me,” story by the way. This injury is by no means life threatening, life ending, or even catastrophic. I am blessed with great health and I know this is only a tiny, miniscule thing compared to the kind of beasts that some children and adults battle in their lifetime. In the performing arts industry, however, it does pose a lot of problems. It means a huge chunk of your career comes to a halt. It means you re-evaluate the way you move for the rest of your life. It means you spend a year doing rehab, icing, and teaching your new ligament to do what your old one did. It means without your nerve endings you have to re-teach yourself how to land a jump because it doesn’t feel the way it used to. You have to re-educate yourself on how to fouette turn, how to pirouette, how to do a tilt. To most non-athletes, rehab is a chore and a hassle. To the average person, returning to work is fairly easy and can be done after 3 or 4 weeks post operation. For dancers, rehab is a matter of survival. For us, it’s about being that 40% that is capable of reviving the abilities they once had before the injury. Yes, you heard me. It’s around 40% or lower–the percentage of people who are able to return to full strength and agility. That’s a low number. Yet this will not discourage me. Every day, I use my ankle weights and I do my resistance band work. I remember that this is temporary and that I have the opportunity and capability of returning to that same level of performance. I tell myself that I will do “A Chorus Line” again. I will be able to turn and kick and jump as well as I used to. I will book jobs through my agent once I return to full health. I will follow the rehab protocol and not rush or attempt anything too soon. Most importantly, I will not fear re-injury. I will challenge my mind to not be fearful, but to be strong and confident when I am about to land a jump 10 months after the operation.

Injuries require patience, a strong support system and a positive mind. To conquer a setback, it takes prayer, God’s unconditional endurance, meditation, and belief in yourself. I am on this path. I am waking up daily with pain, feel cracking and grinding in my new knee parts when I am exercising, and have to control swelling by ice regularly. However, this is just the beginning. When I go to a dark place of thinking, “Why me? Why now? What lesson is here for me, God?” I revert my attention to the light of the situation. If my ligament hadn’t torn then, would it have torn in a show? Down the line at an audition? Or in the city without family around to look after me? God only knows. But now is the time not to ask questions. It is the time to push forward. It is the time to light a fire in my soul; to let this hurdle teach me the value of life and health. I promise myself these things daily: I will try to be patient, to be wise, to grow, and to see this as an opportunity to become an even stronger dancer. When I begin to feel sorry for myself, I will reach out for help. I will read about, study, and strengthen my body and mind. And I will be a voice that inspires others, inside my industry and out. I am not done achieving my dreams in the slightest.

When I called my director and told him that I was unable to perform for the remaining 5 weeks, he said something remarkable to me that has stayed in my heart throughout my recovery. Between my sobs and “I’m sorry’s,” he said, “Kayley, you focus on getting better. Don’t worry about the show. Don’t worry about us. We will be fine. These things happen. You have a long, long career ahead of you Kayley. Go get better fast so that you can get back on stage again.”

Thank you Kevin Black. I dedicate this blog to the cast & crew of a Chorus Line, my unbelievable family, and to any dancers in need of encouragement. IMG_9270 IMG_9281 IMG_9463 IMG_9485 IMG_9378 IMG_9941 IMG_9286 IMG_9313

Review and Renew

2015

This blog hasn’t been touched since I went to Europe. It’s been 3 months since my last post, so the amount of catching up I would have to do would be ridiculous. I guess I’ve been having too much fun! Between trains and planes all over Europe, cathdedrals, meals, forts, hills, alps, sheep, shops, cobblestones, hikes, paintings, friends, and quaint villages, October and November flew by with a blurry, blissful head and heart. Instead of retracing all the details, I’ll just keep it short and sweet. Traveling is so much more than a luxury of sights, sounds, and tastes. It has shaped me and educated me far more than any experience in my life. I’m going to steal a quote from my friend in saying that, “without seeing the world, without traveling, you only know as much as you can see.” Our vision of life and what’s out there is so limited if we don’t go outside the box. We see what we think is important, what we think is necessary, and what we think is right. I encourage anyone who reads this, whether you have enough money or not, to find a way to save, to take a loan, to reach out to friends, and try as hard as hell to get out there and SEE more than what’s in front of you on a daily basis. Highlights of my Europe trip included: Mount Teide, Tenerife’s volcanic mountain above the clouds (highest mtn in Spain), Las Palmas beach, Gran Canaria, Almeria Alcazaba fortress, Valencia Holy Grail, every spot in Barcelona, Chateau D’If and the cathedrals of Marseille, Milan’s excellent wine, food, and shopping (leather darling!), the Last Supper viewing in Milan, the canal structure and architecture of Amsterdam, the Christmas Market, castle, and pubs in Edinburgh, the homeliness, rural views, and people of Annan, Loch Lomond outside of Glasgow, Miss Saigon and reunions with old friends in London. All I can say is, I am already planning another beautiful trip somewhere new this year, because the travel bug has hit me hard.

As for the closing of the year and the beginning of a new one, it is clear that blessings are abundant in the Stevens household. I ended December celebrating the marriage of my two best friends Morgan and Brad, had a beautiful Christmas alongside my family, a Disney Trip with my siblings, and commemorated Pops’ birthday and our first Christmas without my sweet, sweet grandfather. On December 29th, I began rehearsal for my first ever Equity Production in Naples, “Mack & Mabel.” What better way to ring in 2015 than with a professional, kind, and fun cast that works, or should I say TAPS their butt off? Being back on stage and working with such talented actors has really kept me inspired for my return to New York City in late January.

This new year is already off to a hugely positive start. In 2014, I felt the need to constantly inspire other people, to keep my chin up amongst trails, to drive through any battles with fervor, and to be my own source of light. I became very self reliant. This year, I’m already learning that I can rely on other people to inspire me too. In fact, I need others to fuel me as well. God teaches us that we are never alone because he walks with us daily. But He also teaches us that we need help, guidance, and support. Fellowship. One light may shine bright on its own, but in the company of other bright forces, the light is blinding, so vivid that it draws everyone in. A friend of mine called this kind of light, “a torch.” Some people really do bare “torches” of love and those are the people that I choose to surround myself with this year. The people that make you feel alive, that challenge you, that love you unconditionally, that you can rely on, that accept you with honesty, and that provoke deep thought in you. God’s hand has thankfully placed people like that in my life recently, and I can’t wait to witness the joy that lies ahead. One of my favorite phrases to use about humankind is “sleepwalking through life.” Many of us do it without realizing. We wake up; repeat our actions of work, we play, we maintain our bodies, we socialize or educate ourselves. Then we go to sleep and do it all over again. In one of my favorite movies, “About Time,” the main character gets the privilege of re-living his days over and over again to notice the smaller blessings throughout his day. He does this repeatedly until he realizes that he simply should treat every day this way instead of missing the blessings the first time. It sounds like a cheesy movie plot and perhaps an unrealistic idea, but THAT is the way I want to live my life. Noticing the small details, lighting a torch of my own, forging that light with others to make it even brighter, stronger. This post is dedicated to those people in my life that have helped me light my torch when it burns out, who’ve helped me remember God’s gifts when I can’t.

And because it’s A New Year, I will share my old resolutions (YES—I saved them on my phone) and a couple of my new ones. What’s crazy is I actually completed the majority of these in 2014.

2014 Resolutions

  1. Develop exercise regimen
  2. Read 20 or more books on cruise
  3. Experience a new love
  4. Get more involved in charity work
  5. Write a book
  6. Let go of the past
  7. Be more Patient with others
  8. Think Less of Myself
  9. Audition for at least 30 jobs this year
  10. Get Vocal Coach
  11. New resume, headshots
  12. Financially stabilize myself
  13. Go back to Europe
  14. Get signed by an agent
  15. Stop being nervous at Auditions
  16. Treat Body Like a Temple

Some of 2015

  1. Rebuild my Faith, strengthen it
  2. Be Present, not somewhere else
  3. Budget, Budget, Budget
  4. Establish NYC job, Apartment
  5. Go to more singing auditions, rather than dance calls to get comfortable
  6. Work towards Actors Equity Card
  7. Travel Somewhere New
  8. Love is natural, not analyzed, not complicated
  9. Practice More Meditation and Prayer
  10. You can’t get better without work: Take far more acting, dance, voice classes
  11. Stop Worrying so much

Happy 2015 my readers, my family, my friends!

-K

IMG_6293 IMG_6333 IMG_6378 IMG_6412 IMG_6508 IMG_6521 IMG_6559 IMG_6594 IMG_6636 IMG_6735 IMG_6566_2

“Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.”

Thank you, Frank Sinatra for the inspiration.

Romance. My favorite and least favorite topic. The killer of all brain cells. The irrational zing we get when we watch a movie, see a couple walking down the street holding hands, or hear a love song on the radio.

We all have dating history. Each one of us. Whether it be a small fling or a heavy, long, devoted 5 year relationship there are always pieces of us left in other men or women after we date them. We give a part of ourselves that we can never get back. We love, we break up, we mourn. And we try not to harp on the past too much when we move on.  In the words of my wise and beautiful friend (and writer) Giana, “It’s like an addiction, the more you bring it up and talk about it the harder it is to let go.” Today, I want to address the tricky subject of those past relationships–the afterthoughts, shall I say.

Each time a man or woman is romantically involved with someone we learn something, grow, and we get more and more aware of what we need in a partner. It is usually said by most of my friends and family that “every person that steps into our lives at that moment is crucial to our growth as a human being.” And for the most part, I believe them. I look back at my life and my romantic and unromantic decisions thinking, wow, I learned so much from that experience. I have to believe that each dating experience or fling in high school and college lead me to where I am today– today I understand love a little better, know what I want and what I need, realize that love and independence go extremely well together, and I communicate far better than ever before. But sometimes, I also look back and think, “What in God’s name was I thinking?” or “How many unnecessary unpleasant moments did I waste?” “Where was my self respect?” and the biggest worry of all, “Could I have been spending more time with family or focusing on my dreams and career?”

It’s hard not to harp on the past. Living in the moment is preached on a daily basis to all of us. LIVE FOR NOW. Live for today. Enjoy every breath and every step. But I’d be lying to myself if I said that I never regretted my past and questioned it. Sure we can blame a lot of our mistakes on our youth, our immaturity, our environment, our unstable emotions, whatever the idea may be. But I get truly hard on myself from time to time when I think about my mistakes. We’re human, how can we always focus on the now? It’s impossible to not let your brain wander occasionally to your childhood, your memories, your old photos. So when I feel regret, I allow myself to feel it. It is normal, it is expected.

The thing is, when I give myself a moment to digest my actions, I realize none of it was a waste of time. Sure, it might not make sense now. But that’s because I now know what it is like to not lose myself in someone. I know that love is not harmful, it is not manipulative, it is not a challenge, it is not jealous, its not intense, its not a soap opera, it is not a competition, and it is not purely physical. Love is friendship, it is support, it is kind, it is funny, it is slow moving, it is trusting, it is patience, it is compromise, it is acceptance, and it is unconditional. 

And I would not know how this feels had I not gone through everything I did. So I think, after mulling all of this over in my head that I can triumphantly say that IT WASN’T a waste of time. It never is. I would not have met the right people when I did, I would not have known how to guard my heart, I would not know certain faults about myself, and I would not be the strong version of myself at this moment had I not gone through a few bumps in the road.

In fact, at this point in my life I welcome the rest of the bumps—because I know I can get through anything. What everyone says, is inevitably, beautifully true. Each friend or lover or mentor crosses our path to teach us. Whether the experience be ugly or beautiful, it becomes a piece of you. My soul says, “thank you,” to those people who made me, me. I am grateful for those moments—the good, the beautiful, and the bad; the lies, the confusion, the passion, the intensity; the comedy, the sorrow, the tribulations, the romance, and every little piece that adds up to the bigger picture. The journey that is life.

Self Criticism

Lately I’ve been moved by how God has really morphed me into a stronger person with each passing month. I feel as if I’ve encountered a lot of internal and external problems this year that have forced me to take a couple steps back and think about who I am and who I really want to be in this short life. Often times when something is thrown at me I blame the situation, the person, the circumstances, or anything that is not myself. Not to sound negative or self deprecating but I have come to the realization that I have a lot of things to work on when it comes to my heart and mind. Being in such close quarters with people every day on a ship has forced me to realize that I have plenty to work on spiritually as I venture into adulthood even more. It’s shown me new colors of myself and interesting behaviors I display in challenging situations. By identifying and critiquing myself, I am not putting myself down in any means, but simply making note of things that have caused problems, made me feel bad, or have impacted someone else or a situation poorly. So here it goes…. some of my lovely flaws that need some work.

1.  Confrontation. I am absolutely terrible at confrontation. If someone is rude to me, wrongs me, or makes me feel belittled I do not address it. Instead, I hold onto it internally and form ideas in my head until I am about ready to burst. ‘Bursting’ is never, ever effective. It never comes out in a good way. It hurts others, and it hurts me. And bursting can be avoided by calm communication. Confrontation does not need to be a dramatic thing, it can be simple and handled right off the bat. Respect is the most important quality we humans can have for one another –and with respect, any confrontation can be made simpler. It is entirely possible to stand up for myself, my friends, and my beliefs in a calm way. 

THE RESOLUTION: Confront, be honest, open, and do not hold your feelings in. 

2. Sensitivity. I am the most sensitive human being in the UNIVERSE. When anything is said to me, whether joking or not, I take a hit. In my industry, nothing could be more terrible than a sensitive soul. The Theatre world tears you apart. Your ego gets popped every single day in New York City– auditioning against other dancers and singers, being judged by your body, your technique, your voice, your hair, your personality. It makes my job so much more difficult if I take things too seriously. Sure, being sensitive has its perks because you care so much about others and you might feel more moved in emotional situations, but in a professional environment and with friendships, you have to lighten up a bit. 

THE RESOLUTION: Lighten up, take a joke. Believe in yourself.

3. The Overthinker. The analyst. The emotion decipher-er. I believe I am all of these things. I read into everything, anticipate something that hasn’t even happened yet. I try and get inside the head of everyone I am around. I try to make sure everyone likes me. I hate when someone seems as if they don’t truly like who I am. I read into everything said to me by family, friends, co-workers. I believe that I can detect people’s emotions. I feel strange when someone is down and I’m not. Or when I’m down and someone else is happy. I need to get one thing straight: I DO NOT HAVE MAGICAL POWERS. I CANNOT READ MINDS. EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. 

THE RESOLUTION: Let go. Be patient with people. Let them tell you how they feel. Don’t read into anything unless you have to. And guess what, Kayley? ITS OKAY if someone doesn’t like you.

4. The Oversharing Habit: I am an open book. Always was. Always will be. If someone asks me to tell me what’s going on in my life, I usually feel like I’m capable of giving them my full life story in good detail. When i’m going through something, almost everyone I work with knows about it. Every friend, every family member. Now some of you may wonder why this is bad… I’ll tell you why. When you over share your personal life, you leave nothing to mystery and you give people too much of you too fast. Not everyone who meets me deserves to know my every quirk and childhood story. In fact, the more I stop oversharing, the more special it is for those closest to me. Best friends are best friends for a reason– they are the people who you feel most comfortable asking advice, sharing a secret, a crazy story, a fight, a troubling problem. If you share the same details with everyone else, what makes your other relationships so special? Not everyone needs to know all of my business. In fact, since I’ve stopped oversharing I feel so much better about my personal life. I have always been so close to my family that I would share every single detail of past romances, fights, friendships being compromised, etc. I quickly learned however, that no matter how close I am with my family and how much they love me, they can’t understand precisely what I am going through. And when I heal– they might not heal. WHen I choose to let someone back into my life– my family won’t. Because I’ve overshared. And then everyone is involved in your life, your problems. 

THE RESOLUTION: Stop telling everyone my problems, concerns, and highs and lows. Share only when I need to with the people that I feel would help most. 

5. Judgement. This is probably the biggest one for me. I hate to admit it, but I tend to judge very quickly when I have no room to judge at all. When I see certain behavior displayed by friends or family that goes against what I believe in, I become judgmental and feel superior. I have NO reason to feel this way when I could be judged for anything myself. People are different than me. They react differently than me to situations. They respond to obstacles differently. They choose to live certain ways because they want to. Everyone has their own pile of problems to deal with. Marriage problems, drinking problems, social problems, financial problems, family problems, tragedies, spiritual problems. But at the end of the day, I can’t pretend that I am any better than anyone. I am not. And my decisions in the past have been equally as poor. We all make mistakes, we all learn from them. Without mistakes, we wouldn’t be human. 

RESOLUTION: Don’t judge. Accept. Love. Give. And Pray.

Hope you all connected in some way to this post, 

Sending love from Halifax, Nova Scotia today. BE HAPPY> BE WELL> BE YOU.

-KJ

Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away

When you reach the end of a ship contract, you can’t help but feel so many emotions all at once. You feel ready to be back into real life, but also very uneasy about it. You feel sad about leaving so many people from all over the world, knowing you might not see them ever again. You feel happy to have been exposed to cultures that are unlike any you’ve ever witnessed, and happy to have made such incredible bonds with so many co-workers from every department. You feel relieved to be so close to a real bed and  fresh food, but you also don’t miss doing dishes and grocery shopping. You dread leaving your closest ship mates, yet you also look forward to having your own space and quiet again. Its all a cluster of ups and downs with this job. Because for anyone who works on a Vessel like us, work isn’t just work. It’s a lifestyle.

The countdown has begun– 2 more cruises as a dancer, 4 more weeks of ship life, and 10 more shows until I get to fly to home sweet Naples, Florida. The more I think about returning to real life, the more it sinks in that this all feels like a really drawn out, vivid and influential dream. When I get off the ship, will I have to re-adjust to real life? Will it feel weird to NOT have to worry about being somewhere at 4 or 5 pm because I am so used to “all aboard” time? Will I get anxious with my free time? Will I be able to drive a car as well as I used to?
I admit the the things I am looking forward to most are the simplest pleasures.I can’t believe I am saying this but I can’t wait to cook! To eat real whole vegetables. To sleep through the night with no noise, no rocking, no tiny bunk bed! To wake up in my pajamas and drink coffee on the sofa in a living room looking outside instead of eating breakfast in passenger friendly clothing. To walk around my house wearing underwear and not having to stop and socialize or open my mouth and talk until I want to. To drive down the beautiful sunny street of 5th avenue and people watch. And most of all, I’m looking forward to giving my body a break from these shows and heavy stage makeup!

I do know one thing about leaving the Maasdam after all this time– after 9 months at sea, I will take away more knowledge than I could possibly hope for. I’ve learned that my own culture and background is just microscopic compared to the rest of this world. I’ve learned that other ethnicities, cultures, countries, continents, and peoples can teach you more than any form of education. I’ve learned that a simple smile, eye contact, and a sweet “Hello,” “Good morning,” or “How are you today, _______?” in any language or culture is enough to make a person’s day. I’ve learned the powerful effect of saying someone’s name on a regular basis to make them feel more special and personal. I’ve learned that hierarchy is damaging. That we all are equal in the workplace and we should be treated as equals in regular life as well. I’ve learned that the hardest workers are often the ones who barely complain and who smile all day long in gratitude for their lives. I’ve learned that engaging in conversation with other people and listening with intention can make your life all the more prosperous. I’ve learned that socializing and bringing people together under a community or workplace can make your life feel purposeful.I’ve learned that a healthy diet and exercise regimen does so much more than keep your body in shape. And lastly, I’ve learned that health should not be taken for granted, that life is precious, and that our journey on earth is fleeting and should be spent joyously.

Thank you to Holland America, the MS MAASDAM, Stiletto Entertainment, my ridiculously amazing and loving cast, my adoring stage crew family, my philippino and indonesian family and coworkers, my entertainment department, my deck and engine buddies, and even the many passengers for making this contract all the more insightful and memorable. I don’t know whether this is my only ship contract or not, but I hope that our paths align in the future.
For now, I am simply going to enjoy the breathtaking views and treats in Canada and New England and hang on for the rest of this wild, beautiful ride. Or should I say cruise.
Bon Voyage!
-Kayley JayneIMG_1358

IMG_0715

IMG_1302

IMG_0821

IMG_0797

IMG_1403

IMG_1374

IMG_1402

IMG_1443

IMG_1427

IMG_4056

IMG_4150

IMG_4288

IMG_4008

IMG_3954

IMG_2878

IMG_3240

IMG_3302

IMG_3539

IMG_3752

2014-03-27 at 23-30-35 _DSC0945

2014-03-27 at 23-17-37 _DSC0878

2014-03-26 at 21-39-51 _DSC0426 - Version 2

IMG_2317

IMG_2730

2014-03-06 at 20-16-18 _DSC8475 (1)

2014-03-06 at 20-43-41 _DSC8636

IMG_1416

IMG_1451

IMG_2945

IMG_2935

IMG_2976

IMG_0620

IMG_2767

IMG_2723

IMG_2866

IMG_1759

IMG_1801

IMG_1516

IMG_1403

2014-02-26 at 20-49-20 _DSC7996

IMG_2318

IMG_5421

IMG_1239

IMG_2099

IMG_2041

2014-03-26 at 21-28-02 _DSC0372

2014-03-26 at 21-39-51 _DSC0426 - Version 2

Positive Polly and Negative Nancy

 I finally, finally finished the book, “The Happiness Project.” It took me 2 years to finish the second half of it after starting the first half a while ago, but it was well worth the wait. Perhaps it worked out for the better that I finished this book at this point in my life rather than any earlier. Some important parts in the book really hit me hard and caused me to think about who I am.

            One of my favorite parts of the book is toward the end when Gretchen Rubin (the author) goes on to talk about how negative energy and being “a downer” is so much easier than being “a joyous one.” I think we all go through phases of both in life. But sometimes you do have people in your life that constantly try to suck the joy out of things. Who wants to be a joy sucker? Not me…. And sometimes I can feel myself doing that. It takes an exhausting amount of energy to remain joyous and wake with happiness. To choose to be light hearted, to see the good, to enjoy each moment—takes conscious & consistent effort. And it never stops—being positive isn’t just a phase, you have to work at it every single day. I think of the people in my life and I realize that most of them are the joyous ones. So I can’t help but feel joyous too. Joy rubs off. The best example of this I’ve ever seen is my father.

         My Dad is one of those humans that if you have the pleasure of knowing him—JUST knowing him—you’re life will be better. Dad treats people with only love and affection and patience. He doesn’t get easily annoyed by lines or service or a crappy accident on the highway causing a delay. He just smiles or laughs and says, “Well—there’s not much we can do.” He chooses positivity. He chooses laughter. He chooses JOY every single day. After going to a restaurant or a movie or a concert that he didn’t enjoy, when asked what he thought, dad will respond with a chuckle and a “well I could have been poking out my eyeballs instead,” or “not bad! I got to be with my girls so I can’t complain.” He’s not one to ever say, “well, that was horrible.” If someone is ripping him a new one and yelling at him, Dad is the first to smile and be kind in return(in business and in life). And most of all, Dad spreads his joy to others—he shares his joy and rubs it off on everyone around him. He never takes himself or anyone too seriously and he seizes opportunities to have fun and goof off. He is incredible and I love everything about him.

 As for me, although I generally consider myself a very happy and joyous person, I can also feel the negative urge sometimes. I urge to gossip, to pick at things and people, to groan in traffic, to snap at people if I am late to something important, or to be displeased by a poor performance. So when I read this chapter in Rubin’s book of resolutions, I was intrigued. I made a note mentally, and now on paper, to make some changes.

As Rubin mentions, “It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light.”

  1. Why debate a subject every time just to be right? Sometimes its better to let your opinion be YOUR opinion and not push it on others just to prove a point.
  2. Laugh at myself more, laugh often. Laugh hard. Get outta YO HEAD.
  3. I often seek perfection, make plans, and have high expectations—what I really need to work on is just seeing how things go. No need to analyze.
  4. I’m a communicator and a talker, some people aren’t. AND THAT’S OKAY.
  5. Distractions are good sometimes. Once again, GET outta YO HEAD.
  6. Calming things, or “items of refuge” can be super helpful. My items of refuge:                                  
  7. + Family, family dinners, family talks, family hugs      +Watching Marcello, Anabella or Harper sleeping or laughing                           +Dancing to music, anywhere, at any time          +Waking up to a window streaming with sunlight and coffee                            +Applause, thundering applause!  **Thinking of these things in times where my joy is being brought down can lift me and center my soul.**
  8. Don’t tone down enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a form of social courage. No need to back down on it in most situations.
  9. Think about ME less. Think about Life and others much more.
  10. Don’t ever stop learning, stop working, and stop striving to be better.
  11. Accept that not every day you’re going to be good at this.

All my love, 

Kayley Jayne

True Love: Fact or Fiction?

As I have reiterated many times before, you have a lot of time to think when you work on a ship. Also, you have loads of extra time if you are a performer. I’ve read 3 books in a couple weeks and watched a TON of chick flicks. Too many to name. So naturally, I can’t help but be very intrigued by true love and the way that society and the media “romanticizes” it. Love is on my brain. And readers, I need your help– because I want your feedback. When I was a teenager, I truly believed that there was someone for everyone out there. One person– not two, not three, not fifteen. As I got older, I got exposed to marriages not working out, couples fighting, ugly break ups at school, toxic relationships, and platonic relationships. I saw couples at dinner together barely talking to one another and I heard stories of men and women playing games with one another. Now– that doesn’t mean that I haven’t believed in or seen real love. It’s just that when I think about the couples that I personally know in my life that exemplify that kind of passionate relationship– I can only count about 5 on one hand. And that makes me sad. HOWEVER– It’s not all negative. I see all the other examples of love as well. On the other side, I do often see couples dancing at the bar, holding hands along the ship, reading books together, going for a run together, taking a yoga or cooking class together, and praying together. I see couples talking endlessly at dinner, watching shows together, gazing into each other’s eyes on the bow. I get to study people on a daily basis doing this job. I see them and talk to them at all hours of the day– new passengers, big families, newlyweds, elders who have been married for 50 or 60 years, widows, widowers, teenagers. I see examples of love everywhere. 

I began to make it a habit to ask some of the older couples on the Maasdam how long they have been married and what their secrets were to a happy marriage. A lot of the men gave the age old biased answer, “Well if my wife is happy, I’m happy.” One woman said, “Make sure the man loves you more than you love him,” (which I had a hard time stomaching– shouldn’t love be equal?) Others answers were, “Well we do our own hobbies and have our own passions, we spend time apart so we can cherish time together,” and my favorite answer of all was “I love her, thats why it lasts. I’m the luckiest man alive.” That last one was the constant answer my (recently passed) grandfather Pops gave when I asked him how he made it work with Grandy. Granted they fought a bit, Pops always gave the same answer, “She’s my sweetheart, I am so fortunate, and I just want more time with her.”

A simple thought, powerful and indefinite– that kind of love. Why don’t I see more of it though? It baffles me and makes me sad when I watch a movie or read a romantic book and then feel the disappointment when it ends that real life isn’t like that. That “movie love” isn’t real. Why can’t it be real? Why do people lose the passion and desire and fire? What is the secret for those of you who feel like you haven’t lost the fire? For me, I’ve always thought spirituality has a huge role in a relationship. If two people are united under God, they are always striving for love, and the love will always be powertful. But for others with different beliefs, I wonder how they feel about love. My question for you single and taken and married and divorced readers is this: DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE? Real love. Over the moon love. Aching love. Sacrificial Love. What about love at first sight? DO you believe that there is one person for all of us? A soulmate? And for those of you who have it nailed down and are experiencing it…. share with me the feeling of being with that person. 

This is an extremely personal blog post for me, but I’ve been dying to discuss this with friends and family (all of whom are miles away due to my job). I think all of us want more than anything to be able to experience that LIFETIME love. Where you don’t have to hold back. When you can POUR your emotions out there and feel nothing but love in return. Who doesn’t desire that? I remain positive in my search for answers and how the greatest marriages and unions in this world make it work. Don’t assume I’m ready for marriage or crazy commitment– I’m not. But I am ravished by the idea of love and what it does to humans. It’s a fascinating thing. Speaking of love, I LOVE ALL OF YOU for taking time to read this and share with me. Don’t hesitate to comment or message me on the blog or on facebook. Share what love means to you. 

Goodbye for now,

Kayley Jayne