When I was younger, I understood the concept of practice in the context of the Merriam Webster Dictionary definition: “to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient”. As a child who participated in many sports and played multiple musical instruments, practice referred to the events I worked on to improve my technical skills. At practice, I would learn how to do better through acts of repetition and intentional change.
Eventually, I chose to centralize my practice towards my passion for dance. With my goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer, practice took on a whole new layer of meaning. I worked daily and repeatedly at a set of physical movements in ballet to improve and refine my technique. This repetition led to growth and mastery within ballet and my practice became understood as a necessary means that would result in self-improvement.
As I got older, my conception of practice began to evolve. My practice became grounded in the habitual sense of coming back to something. There was still a level of mastery that I was after, but it was more so realized as a continuous and infinite pattern that I felt compelled to return to. Year after year and almost every day, I would start again at the ballet barre where I would repeat the same series of physical movements. But the sameness of this repetition never bored me, because everyday was different and I was different everyday. Every day brought its own joys and challenges, and everyday I came back with 24 more hours of lived experience. Everything surrounding me was in a constant state of change and the stability of my daily practice became like a refuge for me, one that I could always return to and find comfort in.
As I reflect on how I approach my practice in the present, I have found that in many ways, practice is similar to a routine. The habitual nature of both concepts are the same, but practice puts an intentionality to the repetition and implies a sense of growth. The contents of our daily routines can be the same as our daily practices, but approaching our daily routines as daily practices can drastically reframe how we approach our lives. For me, practice no longer only refers to the physical practice I put into my dancing body. My daily practices encompass how I approach my life, what I eat, what time I go to sleep, how I take care of my body, and how I take care of my mind.
It seems like just yesterday, the world stopped in response to the pandemic. For the first few months of social distancing, I lost track of the days. Before I had time to perceive it, weeks had gone by. All plans were thrown out the window, and the year that marked the third decade of my life has been nothing like I originally expected. I could have spent all of my time dwelling on the lost moments and experiences, but instead I chose to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, after giving myself time to reflect and acknowledge that my home would most likely be the center of my whole life for the rest of the year, I worked to find my motivation and passion.
At the beginning of the pandemic, things weren’t so bad, as I had school to occupy myself with. Society as a whole went on an exploration through the world of Zoom. There was frustration and even hatred towards technology, and for many learning technology has been like learning a new language. However, once we all settled into the basic framework of living in an online world, technology became the bridge connecting everyone via a virtual landscape. Lately, Zoom has been a key feature in my life. From classes to weekly meals with my friends, it seems that we are all in long-distance relationships these days. We have found a way to connect without the need for physical presence.
The first time I went to Taiwan was during the summer of 2017. My mother is originally from Taiwan and is quite an interesting character. She is selfless and loyal, but growing up she would work late hours, go on work trips, or go back home to take care of her mom. Because of this, I didn’t really see her that much when I was younger. In Asian culture, supporting family comes first even if that means not seeing them for a while. My dad and my aunt became the “mom” figures in my life. They would always take me to school, take care of me, and play with me. I was never mad that she wasn’t there, but I was often sad and a little confused when she would leave. She would miss every holiday and family trip. I remember one time my mom left for a modeling trip in Asia (she was a successful Asian model back then). The night before she was supposed to leave I asked her to stay, but she couldn’t and she also had to make money to support us. And in the morning when I woke she had left. She would always call and cry saying that she missed me.