Saturday, February 27, 2021

Positive Affirmations

I was talking the other day about positive affirmations. I think its a wonderful thing to be able to bolster oneself up by looking in the mirror and saying positive things about one's life. I however cannot for the life of me, stand in a mirror and say things and expect them to be true. I have a very hard time forcing myself to believe in things that i innately think are untrue. And its also hard for me to look at myself, past the flaws that my overly scrutinising self sees to focus on the good things about myself. 


I do however have an alternative way of incorporating positive affirmations into my life. Ive always found deep comfort in Lyrics. So alot of songs that i listen to end up becoming my comforting sayings to build myself up. It acts much in the same way i think affirmations do, getting that warm glow or positive feeling to carry on with the day. A motivational trigger that helps one soilder on in the darkest of times or the most mudane of days. 

Alot of the times, lyrics become my affirmation after it triggers a feeling within me after a certain event in my life. Sometimes the power of the lyric itself is enough to make it one of my affirmations. 

At the worst of times i can be a pretty pessimistic person by default so it takes alot for me to self motivate. The power of music and lyrics helps me spin my attitude into positive thinking and self empowerment. 

Just to share some of my lyrical affirmations: 

MUSE - Uprising

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious


HAMILTON(MUSICAL) - My Shot

"Hey yo, I'm just like my country I'm young, scrappy and hungry and I'm not throwin' away my shot...

"The problem is I got a lot of brains but no polish I gotta holler just to be heard with every word, I drop knowledge I'm a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal tryna reach my goal my power of speech, unimpeachable...

"I'm past patiently waitin' I'm passionately smashin' every expectation every action's an act of creation..."


JESSI - Drip

Fuckin' wit no bitch
Don't act like you know me
You funny with money honey
Don't act like a poor bitch
I'm sick of all these fakes (Fakes)
I'm sick of all these phonies
Everybody same
They be lame
They be clonin' 
Ay, who you think you frontin' on?
All you little kiddies run along
I ain't goin' anywhere
Ah y'all can kiss my derriรจre


ED SHEERAN -You Need Me, I Dont Need You (Chorus)

You need me man I dont need you
You need me man I dont need you
You need me man I dont need you at all


STARSHIP (A StarKid Musical)

Who wants to be like the rest
And deny the best that I'm meant for?
I will show the status quo, 
who cares about normal?
I'll never conform
I will be content to resent the status quo.
I kick down the walls around me
They don't know how strong I am
I'm not defined by boundaries
They could never understand
I'm so much more than status quo


Thursday, January 28, 2021

2021: A BRAND NEW YEAR--oh wait....never mind. (aka 2020 Mock II)

A New Year, so it must be time for a new blog post!

Nanowrimo has been and gone, so all my writing energy was sucked up in the 30 days of November. I'm proud to report that I have successfully written another Novel, and I went over the target of 50,000 words, AND I still have a sequel to write for next year! Thank goodness for epic fantasy genre stories. 

Then the British Nation had to deal with "Lockdown Christmas" which was a bit of a whirlwind. Where we live, we started off December with lighter restrictions for good behaviour--able to go out to Restaurants and shops with social distancing measures-- but then that quickly turned into a bad idea and then the nation as a whole was told nope-no Christmas for anyone. So, in true British fashion everyone complained about not seeing loved ones for Christmas, but then actually felt so comfy indoors that we forgot people outside our four walls even existed for about a 2 week period.

And then January happened...and we're still not out of the woods yet, being put on another National Lockdown for the foreseeable future. So, even though I've been stuck at home, I've kind of been busy with the ever growing restrictions/lockdowns the UK has been under. 

Let's face it...I also get so busy I forget I even have a blog. That sums up my life in general, but I certainly feel that way during this past year. Living life in a pandemic is a weird parallel universe where things are the same, yet not the same at all. 

We've been lucky that, although we've been cautious, we've actually managed to keep some level of normalcy around our lives the past year. 

Rob, although not been able to go out and do Races, has still been using time at home to go out running. 

I've been able to visit a small selection of people this year during the pockets of time where the government allowed socialization and give Henry some sort of 'Normal' example of outside life. 

And Henry for the most part has still been able to socialize with kids his age regularly through Nursery. 

I was going through my diary and the pictures and videos I had taken throughout 2020 and I could easily count the amount of days that I had been out in a social setting. That made me sad, but I did realise that it was a pandemic year and also I spent the better part of the first 2 months still wrapped up in baby madness and didn't go out except for baby classes and to celebrate my birthday. Then I noted the times that I was just out of the house for ANYTHING where I could be in close proximity to other people (grocery shopping, petrol station, into town, picking Henry up from nursery, going to work, going for a walk etc)....it scares me that I estimated, the amount of days I was 'near people' added up to about 20% of the days in the year. On one hand I'm very depressed that I only got out of the house a 5th of the year, but on the other hand, I'm scared that I LET myself go out for that much while a global pandemic was happening. 

Don't get me wrong, we've been safely keeping distance where possible and wearing masks, washing our hands, and trying to be responsible for the most part, but life goes on. I know that when I've been out (however little or however much that is...depending on which mood I'm in), I've been trying to be safe and my sort of way forward is that I'll be continuing safety measures long after the mandate has been lifted by governments. 

In my opinion, there are going to be loads of people who refuse a vaccine to COVID-19. There's also the rule that no one under 16 in the UK will be vaccinated so there still will be transmission between households. And at some point 'Herd Immunity' could take hold, but no one knows for certain when that will be. SO I will err on the side of caution and I plan on still distancing and wearing masks and not travelling for a good long while after life 'resumes' again. 

I will take small liberties when I feel brave enough to go out when we are allowed, but I shutter at the thought of anything grouping large people together. I've got a concert that was rescheduled to this June and I really hope it gets postponed again because I don't think I'd be able to go that soon after the way things are now. Same with travel. I know loads of people who are planning their next vacation and dreaming of going abroad, but I'm still very hesitant to get on a plane anytime this year. Maybe by 2022 things will look better and my anxiety won't be making warning sounds to my brain. 

Everyone has their own way of dealing with this pandemic. I've put them into 4 categories of what I've seen and I think that everyone fluctuates between these four mindsets: 

The Overly Cautious--Don't leave the house. Obey the law. Stay at home. 

Reasonably Cautious -- Obeys the rules most of the time, but thinks some are down right ridiculous and will do what they want within reason. They're sensible people, who break the rules, but with good rationale. 

The Ignorant-- Nothing registers on their radar and they go along in ignorant bliss. Either that or the ones who think Covid is a Hoax, or that the rules don't apply to them

The Rebels-- They know what's going on. They just don't care...because FREEDOM > consideration for health--theirs or anyone elses. 


The people I know usually fall between the first 3 categories on different days/different circumstances. Some people fluctuate more than others. I have yet to come across someone personally who fits into the 4th category but I have heard stories of those types of people. I can't say that I understand people's rationale for one extreme or the other. 

All I know is what works for me and what I'm comfortable doing. And for me...what I'm comfortable doing is being that mom who sprays all the playground equipment with antibacterial spray and going when no one else is in sight. 

I'm not so fussed for myself. Besides the downfall of not seeing friends, I'm quite happy to hide in my own little bubble reading books, crocheting and watching streaming services until the end of the world. Let's just say I can't wait for things to go 'back to normal' so that I feel more comfortable taking Henry out. Sometimes it's like Henry sees 'the world' as our house and Nursery and I can't wait to introduce him to more now that he's old enough to start absorbing everything he sees. 

The other day we had someone come around to clean our windows, gutters and solar panels. Henry was FASCINATED. He couldn't stop starring out the windows and knocking on them. It was like Brenden Fraser in 'Blast From The Past' coming out of the bunker for the first time and seeing other people besides him mom and dad.

"LOOK! PEOPLES!!!!"


 


Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Story of Love, of Loss, and Disappointment (Manifesto Part 3-My Personal Take on Events)

I've been the champion for others, and making sure their issues were heard in my last blog. I did this as professionally as I could and that was what I would have presented in the business meeting, should it have gone ahead. Now, it is time for a good old fashion Jen's storytime blog.... Settle in kids. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

My story: 

In the beginning I was happy. I found something I loved to do, in a friendly small studio that was reasonably priced and something I could afford to do once or twice a week. My love for aerial grew, the studio grew and that’s where things got more complicated.

The bigger the place, the more classes could be offered, and with the owner being the only one who did admin, lots of mistakes happened. Cash transactions became messy, money misplaced/or services mismarked as unpaid still. Information got misconstrued. Products went missing often, and instead of taking the loss the business owner openly shamed their customers on social media for the missing supplies trying to get to the bottom of it. There is nothing wrong with putting a PSA out on a Facebook page but the wording used was not unlike a ‘name and shame’ tactic. Patrons would be publicly tagged on posts which shamed them into explain that they did pay, stating when and where, all because the admin wasn’t as solid as it could be.

For every little mistake that was made or every poorly worded Facebook post uploaded it still didn’t overpower my love of this place. I ignored the Faux Pas and carried on with life….. that is until the offenses stacked up like Counterbalancing Stones.

The first big stone to be placed in my path of discovery came before I fell pregnant. The studio had to be closed for a month due to maintenance and instead of cancelling/refunding memberships, the proprietor decided to hold workshops the following January and offer 4 workshops—the equivalent cost of a month’s membership-- free to those who were on memberships.   Some workshops were held more than once due to popularity, so specific times of workshops were assigned to attendees to prevent overcrowding any one session.

It was a perfect way to arrange a work around for having the studio closed for a month, but still have people pay for their memberships. However, the times of workshops people were set to attend suddenly changed without much notice. Due to me living further away from the studio the time changes on the day made it difficult for me to attend half of them after I had signed up. I was surprised that the miscommunication in time was seen as my fault and that I would not be granted a refund because I was not the only one who had noticed the time changes. Many other students noticed the time change of workshops, it just happens that they were more flexible and could make the new time.

Not only that, but when I attended the 2 workshops I was able to make, I didn’t enjoy them because the instructor/owner had a very aggravated attitude, calling me out in front of the class-publicly shaming me-and it did not make me feel welcome at all. I could not wait to get out of there. I left feeling so belittled.

The encounter left me emotionally shaken enough that for the next 2 days, I avoided the studio because I did not feel comfortable. On the 3rd day, I returned to classes because I had private tuition booked and paid for before my classes that night. I was planning on entering a competition so I really needed to practice, but I still felt awkward and undervalued during this private lesson. At one point I discussed with the tutor my apprehension of putting a particular move in my routine, only to be met with hostility.  Private lessons for competition pieces had always been about collaboration and making a routine best suited for the individual competing, but I felt like my concept was taken from me and they were trying to morph it into something THEY wanted, not something I was proud of. It was clear to me that at this point I wasn’t seen as a real person with thoughts and feelings, but I was made to feel like just another number, another potential breadwinner…..someone who was instructed to be the best to bring home another win or an improvement project to be shown as a before and after, and quite frankly, just another source of income.

My confidence really suffered at this point. I didn't feel valued, I felt very out of place by the comments that were made in that private lesson. So, I hit another low point and really didn't feel like I was doing my best because I wasn't able to do what the studio owner wanted for my routine. MY routine! Again I tried to shrug off these feelings of dejection, saying that it was just my social awkwardness/anxiety brain playing tricks on me. I was so blind to the shiny facade of this place that I could not fully put all my experiences together to see the bigger picture of what was going so wrong. I carried on for another month of harboring this slight unease, not knowing why because this was my ‘happy place’. Then I found out I was pregnant and I could no longer take part in classes—so my 1 year sabbatical from Aerial began….but somehow I wasn’t devoid of the drama.

 

During my Pregnancy: Absence makes the heart grow fonder….or does it?

A work colleague of mine signed up for a 6-week Chair Dancing Course with me that was due to start the week I found out I was pregnant . Regrettably, I couldn’t join her and not that it was my job to, but had I been around I might have been able to cool the situation before it got heated. As it was, I had not been gone from the studio for a month before I was forced to get involved by the owner of the studio. I was called and begged to ‘fight [their] corner’ since it was someone I referred to the studio.  This situation put unnecessary stress and worries on me while I was already 3 months pregnant—which FYI is the worst time to be stressed when carrying a child—and it made it appear as if my wellbeing paled in comparison to this owners reputation.

The issue in short was, the description of the course being advertised was recycled verbiage from a specific showcase routine back in 2015 and was not changed to fit the current course description(for the 2019 class). My friend signed up for a class that was not as advertised and wanted a refund. Normally these classes are ‘Non-refundable’ 6-week courses, but seeing as how the course was falsely advertised and totally NOT something my colleague wanted to continue, one would expect a refund or exchange to be given freely, without challenge. That wasn't necessarily the case. Offers to swap courses, insulting a potential customer's mental health, and one mention of calling trading standards later, a refund was finally given.  From an objective standpoint, knowing both individuals, I can understand why they said what they said to each other, albeit they didn't communicate that well enough to one another. This does not diminish the fact that there have been several occasions where information was either changed, misinformed, or not as advertised that could seriously get this business into trouble. While I was on the outside looking in, I started to realize that my discomfort wasn't all regarding poor admin mistakes either. The issue with my work colleague opened up a whole 'nother sector of feelings. I felt embarrassed by the studio owner's behaviour. I felt pressured into taking a side. I felt sorry to my colleague that they had to deal with this unfortunate occurrence. It made me feel glad that I didn't have to deal with the studio owner face to face because I probably would never hear the end of it. At this point I still championed the business (sharing links supporting the business online, liking/commenting on the latest IG or FB post, etc) but I was becoming more aware that it was better for my mental health NOT being there. It wasn't really until the drama surrounding the yearly showcase that I really started contemplating whether or not I wanted to go back to the studio post-pregnancy, or if I was better off not involving myself cause I'd only get more upset. But more on that a little later..... Over the months of my maternity, through following the studio online and hearing tales my friends who frequent the studio had told me...it jogged my memory to things that had either happened in the past, or similar such occurrences while I was a regular at the studio. I started thinking retrospectively and came to the conclusion that this business wasn't the happy place I had once claimed it to be.

 

Mistakes/Past Grievances now realized:

1. EXPLOITATION OF EMOTIONAL PAIN:

The last showcase I was a part of before I left had been a grand affair. Most of the acts were full up with people from each section of aerial discipline, but the studio owner had an idea for the finale act. They posted a facebook message on the group page looking for people who would be willing to take part in a very small (6-8 people) group project....but then they actually tagged a handful of specific people, including myself. The act was to be self-choreographed, with the thorough line of 'This is who I am and I am not ashamed'....to, you guessed it "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman.

At first, I was hesitant to say yes. I loved performing but I already signed up to be in 8 other acts in the show and I wasn't as into the song as other people were. Through speaking with the studio owner I finally relented and said I'd be happy to do it. Later on during the process we all had to write 1 sentence to sum up "This is Me" for the introduction speech for this act. Wordsmith that I am, I thought about it and came up with my 1 sentence, shooting it off to the studio owner via private facebook message. They came back to me and said "can you just tell me about why you wanted to be in this is me then I will write the sentence". Obviously, mine wasn't good enough. It doesn't matter my reason/answer because it was never used in the introduction anyway, but for the record, here's my reasoning: they made me feel so special for singling me out to do this exclusive act that I didn't want to let them down.

Initially, I thought the people tagged by the studio owner were people who liked the song/movie ALOT, or who were like me --people who loved any chance to perform. This may still be the case, but I fear we were singled out for a far bigger reason. This is MASSIVE speculation of course, but i feel it deep down in my bones..... all of us who took part in that act were having our pain exploited in front of an audience of 400 people.

Being backstage, I couldn't really hear the introduction to out act clearly and the adrenaline from the night probably didn't help me focus on exactly what was being said when we were introduced. It was only after the fact, when I was watching the recording of showcase that I actually heard the whole speech before we went on. I'm ashamed to say that the dots didn't connect until after I took my little pregnancy sabbatical from the studio.

I won't quote the whole thing, but it started off with the studio owner being bullied, and how this place is so important to them and so many people who have suffered. Eventually it segwayed into them asking a 'group of particular people to come on stage and share their stories.

"the people in this group have been through alot in their lives, we have someone who lives with a life-shortening debilitating disease, that's Laura who you just met, someone who has dealt with 30 years of addiction of alcohol and drug abuse....someone who has dealt with a traumatic childhood experience and who is dealing with the death of someone extremely close to them. Someone who has had years of domestic abuse and is finally free, someone who has had years of being surrounded by emotional and physical abuse by people close to them, someone who is suffering from years of depression, taking them to the brink of suicide with anxiety and depression along the way.....At [the business] we build each other up....we build their confidence so much that they get themselves onstage to perform in front of 400 strangers."

When I watched the recording of the show back, it clicked in my head...."okay, that's this person they're talking about, that bit is about this person"...and went down the list of the 7 of us. At that time I thought maybe I was the 'one dealing with the death of someone close to them' because my dad was losing his battle with Cancer at the time. In hindsight, I don't think I was noted at all in the little speech because I didn't give the business owner a 'reason' to exploit. I however feel for every person who shared that stage with me because I know some of their stories and it was a clear show of exploitation from the business owner...hey...you have a shit life, but I still turned you into a performer to deal with your pain. And on so many levels that is wrong.

That was the most hurtful, because I empathized with everyone who bore their heart on that stage, not knowing it was just another in the long list of ways of the business showing off their 'cash cows'.

2. NARCISSISTIC TENDENCIES

Another thing that clicked during my time off was seeing the business owner for what they really were. Someone who talks a lot of talk, but it's all for show. The sad thing is I honestly can say that this person is a narcissist who doesn't want to be helped. I surmise that's the reason why they disengaged in conversation with me instead of going through with meeting and discussing grievances. It's because they know I will be blunt and point out all their flaws and they're too scared to face them. They would rather fill their space with 'yes men', people who will give them constant praise and attention rather than see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. To me, that's sad but in the end it was their choice and I respect that. So, they didn't want to hear it from me? I guess anyone who reads this blog and rumours going back to the studio will make them hear it from someone else...which is something they abhor anyway. Oh well, you reap what you sow.

All the classic signs of narcissism are there and one of the biggest things that drive them is self preservation. That's clear in the way they make so much money and keep begging for more because they don't want their (presumably) successful business to go under. It's evident in the fact that every trophy that comes back to the studio from a student who places in a competition is actually a win for the business owner. Myself and others who have choreographed routines and collaborated with this instructor to perfect a competition piece have been robbed of our victories and our creativity when they claim the routine as 'theirs'. They will forever be focused on how much they have done for other people like they are god's gift to the world, when in reality they have done as much harm as good in falsely claiming other's victories as their own, among other wrong-doings.

3. FAVORITES

This very small purview of 'me, me, me' doesn't allow much room for other people, and usually the people that are cared about and nurtured are the ones feeding the business(with money and praise) or stroking the owners ego. I've definitely noticed a pattern over the years of people who are deemed 'favorites': ➤People who constantly praise the studio (free advertising, appreciation posts, etc) to a nauseating degree People who spend the most money at the studio (signed up for multiple classes/courses or have a monthly membership, but also hardly miss an opportunity for a photoshoot, workshop, weekend event, private lessons, merch, etc) ➤People who own their own business (because they can 'relate' like no one else can) ➤People who have a special skill the studio owner can utilize (Photography, Graphics/Advertising, business contacts, qualifications, apprentices, etc)
➤People who can act as an example/trophy for the studio owner (improvement projects-aka someone who is low confidence, or weak/overweight, or they have a preexisting medical condition where it appears like they couldn't do things others can. Basically anything that the owner can work on and say 'look, I helped them. this is all my hark work', etc)
➤People who are in the 'Inner Circle', aka personal friends or other loyal instructors

        

At one time or another (it was off and on but I think the height of it was in 2016 when I was doing ALLOFTHECLASSES & extras) I think I would have been considered a favourite. I spent loads of money, did private lessons, achieved some great things, constantly praised the studio and it's owner. And my benefit was that I was getting paid attention to more, and I was treated with more respect and admiration. I was praised for my achievements...I was encouraged to do more...I felt like more of a friend than a patron of the business. However, all this light suddenly dimmed or was extinguished whenever personal circumstances in my life came into play (when I got into a car accident and couldn't come back to the studio until I healed, when I had to take time off to go visit family, or just when life got to busy that I couldn't devote 3-4 nights a week at the studio anymore).

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of times where I felt very valued as a human being by this person...but I can't help but think there was a catch every time. I was at the studio when I got a text from my mom saying that dad had passed away...and the business owner tried to comfort me, and drove me home since I was in such a state of shock. (at that point I think I had fallen back into favor spending copious amounts at the studio, but it was still very appreciated that someone was there for me. Although I question now whether it was genuine, or if it was in self preservation--'look at me, I care ' or 'i don't want someone to die cause they crashed leaving my studio'). I was specifically asked by them to perform my 1st competition piece at the yearly showcase the week after when NO OTHER STUDENT was performing a solo act (only instructors). But again, in hindsight, was I only seen as a cash cow because they could tell from private lessons that I was a winner and they wanted to showcase that achievement (for them..not necessarily for me).

Maybe I'm just being cynical (although that is definitely not my personality type so for me to go down this negative path there must be some validity in it). It begs the question that if there's not something in it for them....do they actually care? Most of the time, they just have a blatant disregard for other people who don't have anything to offer.

The date changing for the 2019 showcase is a good example of this. At the 2018 Showcase, a whole year in advance, the date for the 2019 Showcase at the courtyard was announced to the audience of the show—to the general public. Even though it had been advertised in the public sector, the date was changed and notice was only given on the studio’s Private Facebook Group page only 3 months ahead of the 2019 showcase date. Additionally, it was only posted on the private group, after only spreading by word of mouth at the studio. Someone mentioned that it probably needed to be known to everyone...not just those most in the studio.(I've noticed as well that communication issues happen mostly because information is spread in the studio, and only put online as a PSA afterwards; so, if you don't come into the studio frequently enough you could miss major news).

It was then posted on social media by the business owner that ‘one of the main reasons’ the date for the 2019 showcase changed was in order to fit certain students’ schedules, which is highly unfair seeing as how not only was the date announced to the public, but other ‘less favoured’ students had planned holidays around the date so they wouldn’t get shouted at for missing rehearsals leading up to the show, as this happened in previous years.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

COLD HARD FACTS (Manifesto Part 2)

Following on from my last blog....

            RECAP: After my recent disappointment in a certain business owner ghosting me on social media, I sent them an email stating that I would still be willing to give the feedback they asked for. 

               Their response was possibly the most professional piece of writing I've experienced from them. It was suspiciously like it was written with aid from someone with more business aptitude, tact and diplomacy (and rightly so) while still retaining their down to earth tone of speech. They fully admitted that they ghosted me although it seemed like they took offense to my use of the word 'block' and insisted that they didn't do so on social media, only 'muted' me. Strange....because I was pretty sure that when someone's profile disappears from even the generic Facebook search bar, that's because someone has blocked you from finding their page. Maybe I'm wrong, but I digress. 

 Anyway, they explained that they've chosen to disengage in conversation with me because it's bad for their mental health and that their 'admin' team will be dealing with any further emails from me. As someone who suffers greatly from mental health issues, I responded that I completely understand and respect their decision, and that this would be my final correspondence. I added that I wanted them to have every opportunity to hear me out as this individual has said repeatedly in the past that if people have an issue with them or the business to "come talk to me first".  

I had hoped when I got that initial text that the truth will out and I would finally be able to unburden myself of the long buried grievances I held and be a martyr for those who wanted to speak up but were afraid to.

I spoke to dozens of close acquaintances & friends from the studio whom I knew had issues in the past and present, hearing their stories and addressing their concerns. I have compiled a concrete list of poor business practices, and personal shortcomings that have been a detriment to this individual’s business. I had hoped that I would be able to bring forth this agenda to the studio owner in a calm and constructive way. This was not meant to be a ‘bitch fest’ (although with the level of unprofessionalism shown in the past it very well could have been). This was meant to be a chance to hear feedback, open up a discussion, and move the business forward so that no one would have to suffer the same way I or anyone else did.

There are those who have drunk the cool-aid for far too long, but I’m hoping that anyone who knows the business and reads this in disbelief will wake up and run like many others did. Believe you me…once you are out of the hazy mushroom cloud of toxic behavior and sketchy dealings, you begin to see a lot clearer and things from the past start to click and make sense. So without further adieu, here are the reasons why I and others turned away from this business after years of loyalty and support. 


Please note the following key: 
๐Ÿ”ผThis is to note a first hand account, meaning I have witnessed/experienced this myself. 

➤ = This notes a 2nd hand account, or something that someone else whom I've spoken to has personally witnessed/experienced, so I'm trusting them that it truly happened. 

๐Ÿ’ข= This is something that has been filtered down through a couple of people, so it may only be rumor, but there is plausibility that this actually has happened.

POOR BUSINESS PRACTICES:

There is something to be said about small businesses, that their charm lays in the very human mistakes that get made. They aren't big companies that thrive on a perfect image and cannot afford to make any minor PR mishap. However, when all of the minor offenses all add up it seems more like poor business decisions rather than careless mistakes. 

  • There are no policies on pregnancy or post natal procedures on the website, health waiver, or any other public forum. During both my pregnancy and post natal period I was told that I could come back, but I couldn't do most anything. I was told on the spot and expected to follow the rules even tho there is no procedure on this. ๐Ÿ”ผ
  • The Course Descriptions on the booking page are rarely updated and significant changes can be seen as false advertising. Someone I know signed up for a 'sexy music video style' chair dance class and was very disappointed when they were taught a contemporary piece. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Reluctance to offer full refunds/admitting admin mistakes. Many MANY times students have been told they 'read information wrong' when they have evidence of admin mistakes that effected them. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Changing dates of events (showcase) with short notice and only in a private sector (private FB group). The annual showcase date was announced a year prior in front on a public audience, however mere months before the actual showcase date, the date was changed and only those in the private Studio facebook page were notified. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Changing dates/times of classes/workshops. Again, MANY times a class or workshop's time would be altered with little to no notice and the business owner denies changing it even though they are the only person who does the admin. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Extortion/Charging students to get the business free advertising. A personal bulletin was made by the studio owner looking for people who were willing to have their photo taken (on the equipment in the studio with a professional set up) that the business could use on advertisements. Volunteering should have been enough, however, they not only needed to give their consent for their picture to be taken and used publicly, but they needed to pay the professional photographer, absolving the studio owner of all advertising costs. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Flippant employment status: A few employees/past employees of the studio have made it known that the employment practices of the business owner are less than desirable. This ranges from changing a clause in the employment contract (ie: period of leave) or student agreement (restricting any competition by banning students from opening their own business or teaching within a period of time after leaving the studio) all the way to the confusion over status of employment. For example,  the business owner insists that all instructors are self employed, however they are still treated like normal employees with certain contract agreements in place. Another example of this is that instructors were paid per class(including a cushion period before and after the actual class) instead of per head, which is how most self employees exercise classes work. 
  • Double Standards/Favoritism: There are so many examples of this, and although it's not a bad business practice that would hold up in a court of law, it's still worth noting a few instances where double standards could be sited specifically instead of relying on speculation: 

    1.       Changing showcase date for a certain individual--This was self admitted on a facebook comment by the studio owner that "one of the reasons" the showcase date changed was due to a certain student's availability. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
    2.       Double standards when it comes to paying for Grip (an item from the online shop). The studio owner is forever chastising people for not paying for grip that every time someone asks to have grip, they have to show proof of their purchase of it from the online store. However, the people who hold favor with the studio owner will be told "oh don't worry about it, just pay for it later". ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
    3.        Rigging a raffle to ensure the studio gets the top prize. One showcase, the top prize was 'won' by an instructor's partner. Since they had no interest in the prize--an aerial apparatus--they gave it to their partner, one of the studio's instructors. The instructor then 'decided' to 'gift' the prize to the studio. Allegedly this was all according to a plan for the studio to gain new equipment for free (since the prize was donated by the company who makes the apparatus). This has been corroborated by 2 people who heard the story from the instructor who gave up said prize, but since this is a 3rd hand account, I've marked it as speculation.๐Ÿ’ข 
    4.        It is an unwritten, but verbally announced at every class, rule that you 'DO NOT TEACH EACH OTHER' and 'DO NOT TRY SOMETHING YOU'VE SEEN ON A VIDEO'. However, the studio owner has contradicted both of these statements. The first by calling me out for not 'helping' a fellow student with the choreography, when I shouldn't be teaching my peers. The second by producing videos of showcase routines and telling students to learn it themselves. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
    4.        Allowing favorites use of the studio out of hours: During this pandemic, a comment was thrown about on a FB live video by the studio owner that they know everyone is missing aerial, 'so are we' and going on to explain that the instructors don't have their own equipment at home to train on, so they are deprived as much as the rest of the students were. However, I know of at least 2 people--๐Ÿ”ผ➤1 confirmed, ๐Ÿ’ข1 speculated by timings and locations of social media posts during lockdown (there may have been more)--who used the studio while it was allegedly shut. Not only would this potentially be breaking the law at the time, but it doesn't look good to have lied about it. 
  • Poor inventory management. It's a common occurrence that 'things for sale' go missing from the studio without payment. Whether this is poor inventory, or poor cash handling I don't know, but this is FAR too common an occurrence to just be a simple mistake or someone has stolen merch without paying. ๐Ÿ’ข
  • Double Booking/No Shows: Due to the business owner's poor admin skills, there were numerous times where private lessons overlapped or were double booked. There have been more than one occasion where a private lesson with them had been booked, only for the patron to be stood up by the studio owner because they forgot they booked someone in until they were called out on it. In addition, I myself have pointed out admin mistakes as a kindly gesture where 2 classes were put on the booking system at the same time in the same room.  ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Pricing. This is a personal pet peeve of mine because the studio owner would, on more than one occasion, say to me "It's always about money with you, isn't it Jen?" .... My father was an accountant. I'm just interested in where the money is going. I have NO problem paying a price, otherwise I wouldn't have paid it, but I like to know where my money is going and keep my books in order...so forgive me if I ask questions revolving around money. But...my due diligence has shed some light of the following: 

    1.       SHOWCASE:
              First of all, it is unfair to ask for rehearsals to be mandatory and have people pay for said rehearsals. Showcase rehearsals should either be mandatory and free....or they can charge per head, but then people can choose whether they pay to rehearse. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤

              Secondly, if you are charging per head for a rehearsal (to pay for the cost of keeping the lights on, the instructors time, the equipment upkeep, etc), then it needs to be reflected fairly instead of picking an arbitrary number. It's a elementary maths problem: If the cost of running a rehearsal in the studio is £50/hour, and you have 10 students, how much will each student need to pay?(£5/student) What would be the cost per student if there were 20 students? ...you'd think it would be £2.50, right? But no....still £5, that arbitrary amount that ensures a 50% profit margin at the expense of your gullible students. ๐Ÿ”ผ

               The Third issue surrounding pricing and showcase happened while i was away, but I had more than one of my friends still participating in showcase tell me that instead of attending rehearsal where the routine was taught to you... a few routines were not 'taught' in rehearsal. You were sent a video of the routine, which you had to teach yourself and know it ahead of the rehearsal time slot. Part of the cost of rehearsals is the TUITION/TUTELAGE you get from an instructor, otherwise, why are you paying for their time to teach you? 

    2.       MEMBERSHIPS: 

              ๐Ÿ”ผ➤The price of a gold, all-inclusive (and by all, it meant mostly) memberships when I was paying for it was steep, but I couldn't do aerial anywhere else so I didn't mind paying for the privilege. It made more sense to me than paying per class and spending loads more. Aerial is a *specialist* form of exercise....with specific equipment that you can't find in a gym. I know this is what SHOULD have been said by the studio owner, but instead they used the word 'elite' when describing the new pricing regime post covid lockdown. 

                This may have been a case of misusing the incorrect word, but I think it was more of a Freudian slip because what followed was disgracefully elitist, said with an air of superiority when explaining the price increase was "Because we're worth it". 

                It was explained in an online zoom meeting that the old regime was out. Memberships are a thing of the past and a new block booking system would take it's place....EXCEPT for people who were financially secure enough to keep paying their full price membership during 'lockdown'(without use of it) while the economy tanked and people were either sacked or placed on furlough. Those who kept funding the business by paying their memberships while the studio was closed would be rewarded with a freeze on their membership price-- so long as they kept that membership ticking over, they would never face a yearly price increase. But prices would continue to rise at the desecration of the business owner for any other patron of the business. 

                 I am outrageously appalled at this action. It's essentially Socioeconomic Status Discrimination and it is disguising. The business owner is very quick to think about their own financial security by begging the government to reopen their business, or by explaining price increases as 'I have to pay myself too." However, when it comes to other people, there is no financial consideration, and it's all take take take and bled them dry. I've known people to pay for a one-off workshop or photoshoot instead of spending the rest of their very tight budget on the last food shop of the month. Now, that's that individual's choice; however I don't think the business owner knows how much of a slap in the face this 'reward for keeping membership through lockdown' really is. 

                People are real life
    individuals who require a job to pay for things, and while I appreciate that this business owner is a person, they were still making money during lockdown by offering online zoom classes. Whereas students might have been furloughed during this covid pandemic, couldn't afford a nearly £100/month membership without using it and now they are being punished for their poverty. Elite sport indeed....


ALL BARK AND NO BITE:

This business owner has a very large social media presence and they talk a big game about body positivity, mental health, women’s advocacy, but all of it does seem a bit of hot air. Things that have been said on social media to big up women, to inspire confidence, to be a positive influencer has to look a bit hypocritical next to the way this person acts in real life.

  • There have been posts about women building each other up, but then I've heard them talk about students behind their backs. And I know that this may sound hypocritical coming from me who's blogging about the shortcomings of another, but I've never claimed to be a saint. I see it, I say it. I'm that blunt American with candor for days. ๐Ÿ”ผ

  • There have also been speeches in person, social media posts, and business mottos online that state People of all shapes and sizes are welcome at the studio. However, I have witnessed passing comments in class about someone's shape/size being an issue in executing a move (technical things about weight distribution, not enough 'pocket' (skin/fat) to grip the pole, but then the odd comment that only eluded to the subject of weight loss in relation to stamina or progress).๐Ÿ”ผ

  • I personally have not felt welcome because of my pregnant/post partum status.When I got pregnant, I made this known straight away as it would be a health risk undertaking physical exercise without my instructor knowing. However, this condemned my aerial career as I was not welcome in the studio whilst pregnant due to insurance purposes. Meanwhile, through social media and being told first hand by the business owner, there had been other girls who continued to train whilst pregnant. I was very confused as to whether this had been discrimination against pregnant women and the ‘favorites’ were an exception, or if it was just me who was being outcast. ๐Ÿ”ผ

  • Then there is the feigned apathy for mental health.  One example of this was when a work colleague of mine decided to give chair dancing a go to boost her confidence. However the class (not as advertised) was not for her. When she brought this up to the studio owner in an email, and expressed that she felt very out of place with the fit young girls who obviously had been regulars at the studio,  the reply had been “to try a different course in the future however the issues you have brought up seem to go deeper than the fact this was a contemporary course”. This was disheartening for a number of reasons, not least of all was the insinuation of ‘you got problems and that’s not my fault’ attitude of a business owner. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤


Another issue that could fall under poor business practices as well as attacking people's mental health is the amount of Public Shaming that this business owner initiates. 

  1. There was a news article where they publicly shamed half of their customers for not being able to afford memberships during an economic crisis. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  2. Reprimanding students in front of the whole class for a variety of reasons (being on their phone, not paying attention, etc) This is not school. We are paying for a service. If someone wants to waste their money by not participating in the class, that's their own prerogative. It is not their place to shame their students in front of others. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  3. When the aforementioned 'grip' goes missing, the business owner usually posts a facebook message to the group page and tags certain individuals in the message. Then people are forced to embarrassingly explain that they paid for the grip they took so it wasn't them. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  4. During showcase rehearsals, the business owner/instructor took the time to single out the individuals who were not doing well/holding the rehearsal up. This lead to threats of cancelling the whole thing if those doing poorly couldn't get their act together. ➤
  5. Showing competition videos to students of bad performances the instructor has had to judge for a competition, openly making fun of the routine and the performer. ➤
  6. The business owner's social media presence is a PR nightmare because I would say at least half of the comments they make online is either flippant, misdirecting, or sardonic to customers/potential customers. I think that sometimes they forget they are a business owner and  how the things they say/do will be perceived. Which isn't a crime, but their comments on social media have left more than one person feeling dejected and unworthy of their time. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤


Like I said before, these are all things that I myself, or my sources have stated as reasons for discontent with the business. Most of us either leave or suffer in silence. I truly, truly hope that those who read this and are still immersed in the happy bubble, begin to realize that these things ring true and reevaluate going back if any of it has caused you past distress, or consider addressing the problem. 

Next Time...I will go into detail about my own personal experience from a mental health perspective. Stay Tuned. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Its a Small World after all (Manifesto-Part 1)


One of the hardest things for me to do is keep my mouth shut when there is injustice. Seriously, I once got detention when I was 12 for getting into a physical fight with a bully after she wouldn’t stop tormenting a girl younger than us at school. Was it right to fight verbal violence with physical violence? Probably not. But I couldn’t just stand there and watch while this younger girl was being bullied. I don’t tolerate bullies.


As I got older I learned to hold back my fists and try to talk things out whenever I was faced with a problem. Slowly over time I learned to pick and choose when to speak up about my discomfort in something, and when it just wasn’t worth it to leave well enough alone. For the past 2 years I've had an onslaught of bad interactions with a local business that i used to love. I feel like ive turned a blind eye to some bad business practices, shrugged off some less than desireable conversations and just learned to solider on. For probably longer than two years, I’ve been supressing my thoughts about this establishment, because if I spoke up it would be a futile effort and the outcome wouldn’t be the most desirable.

Do you know those people that just can’t take constructive criticism? That everything you say in trying to help them is seen as a personal attack? For example, a director might tell an actor that they need to enunciate their words better when reciting lines on stage. A good actor would take the note and enunciate their words clearer, while someone else would grumble and moan about it being the director’s fault (bad hearing, etc) for not understanding the words. The business owner I have grievances with is an example of the later and it’s the main reason why I haven’t said anything until now.

To put it even more in perspective, I once complimented this business owner for hiring such an amazing member of staff in regards to a new employee. Instead of feeling pride for their ability to hire the right people that heighten their business, this owner looked offended. It was almost as if they thought I held their new employee in higher regard than I held them and it was completely unacceptable. What was meant to be a complement of their hiring skills was taken as a personal attack.

So when I say that I haven’t spoken up for fear of the backlash, just know this: Even when I mean to compliment them, their narcissistic tendencies somehow have twisted the compliment on their staff into a negative reflection of themselves; therefore, anything actually negative about them would surely have a more volatile outcome.

  The reason I speak about this now is because I see so many of my friends suffering with the same or similar grievances and it breaks my heart. I’m hoping that by writing all of this down that not only will I be unburdening myself of all these toxic feelings I’ve been harbouring, but anyone who has suffered the same wrongs will not feel as alone. 

Know that you are welcome to come and talk to me freely without fear of judgement or retaliation – a safe space to air your grievances instead of holding it in inside.  

First of all let me preface this by saying that anyone who knows this establishment and knows me will know exactly who and what I am referring to. I know that for every one person who will be on my side because they have experienced similar things, there will be an army of loyal followers who will rally against me…and that’s okay. I would just ask those who will take up arms against my words that you truly look deep within yourself and ask ‘Is it necessary?’ , ‘Is this my fight?’, ‘Will it change how I feel if I bully someone for stating their opinion?’ I am not here to tear people down or tell you what to do, I am simply stating my opinions and that facts I have to justify those feelings, so please choose to be kind, not blindly loyal.


I have known many strong independent business owners, and while they may not operate on a ‘perfect image’ corporate level, they still all have a level of tact because they know they are the face of their business. I have NEVER experienced the level of unprofessionalism that this individual presents as a business person. There is a long list of grievances that I have both personal and about the business practices. I won’t dwell on the petty “he said, she said” antics, but I will express how this establishment has affected my mental health. And because I have a lot to say, I will be separating these into different blogs so they are easier to digest.

For now, here is the vaguest overview of the turn of events that brought on the need to write this series of essays and air my grievances:

In the last year and a half, I have not given my patronage to this business more than twice due to my pregnancy and being post-partum, however I have been roped into drama unnecessarily.

I haven’t physically set foot in the business since January. I have not engaged in any contact with the business or its owner, even on social media, in so long because of the toxic atmosphere I feel and wanting to remove myself from that circle and move forward with my life.

The last time this business owner was in contact with me via message/social media was June.

 I received a Whatsapp message from said business owner, asking if I could let them know what they’ve done to upset me.

 

Up until now, I have stuffed down my feelings. I have silently removed myself from the situation to save my sanity and not rock the boat in the process. But due to my past of having been ‘ghosted’ without explanation by so-called-friends, I felt it would be hypocritical of me to do the same. So, in the most kind and articulate way I could muster at 10-o-clock at night, I sent that person a message back, saying just that.

What I was sent back was somewhat of a surprise- an olive branch. A chance to meet up and air not only my grievances, but present the concerns of many other patrons I’ve talked to on the subject. I think the exact words i got from the business owners response was “…I would actually love to hear more about this so I can work on this and hope no one ever feels this way in the future...”

                Although I was not happy to be a bearer of bad news, I was excited at the prospect of this individual finally being open to feedback. Myself and countless others who have been jilted by this business would finally have a chance to be heard in hopes that things would change for the better. But this dream may have been to short lived. In the midst of back and forth messages trying to arrange a time for a meeting, my final message bounced back. It was sent, but never delivered. The message was never seen.

In fact, it took a friend of mine to casually mention that she was blocked on social media by this same individual, for me to actually investigate if I had been blocked in the same capacity. I checked my Whatsapp message….found it wasn’t ‘delivered’ and then noticed that this person’s contact picture had disappeared from the conversation ‘bubble’. I checked facebook…can’t see their profile (aka blocked). I checked Instagram…also invisible to me (aka blocked again).

Just when I imagined that things could be resolved, and a meeting would be held to have a civil conversation I surmise that it was all pomp and circumstance and a meeting was never going to happen anyway. In a last attempt to make things right, I sent an e-mail… something that hasn’t been blocked…to the business and announced that although the act of blocking me was unprofessional, I was still genuinely willing to give them the feedback they asked for.

 I don’t know what will come of this, or if it will be an never-ending saga. I don’t know if they ever truly desired the feedback and to grow their business into something better for the future, or if it was all a faรงade. ….All I know is that it has gone this far and I would be remiss if I didn’t speak up for the dozens of people I personally know that have suffered trauma, mental anguish, exploitation, low self-esteem, injustice, and unfair encounters with this person and their business, especially when so many have claimed it to be their ‘happy place’ in the past.

It begs the question...was it ever a happy place? Was it my version of Disneyland? Or are we all looking through rose tinted glasses and eventually find out that its Dismaland after all?