The classic superhero trope–one person, two markedly different identities–is even more impressive when it manifests in reality. I’ve always admired people who make space for their duality in intentional ways, juggling multiple passions or jobs or versions of themselves at the same time. What it lacks in ease it can make up for in enrichment, as demonstrated by three women who generously shared the stories of their double lives with me below. Scroll down to read about the thrills and the challenges of this balancing act, and how the pandemic helped clarified what they want to prioritize.
Selena is a market research analyst who moonlights as a go-go dancer…
Follow Selena on Instagram here.
I started go-go dancing when I was living in Philadelphia as a sophomore in college. I was working a couple campus jobs but felt like I needed another job to have some additional spending money and a little more flexibility with my budget. A friend told me about this bar where she was working as a go-go dancer, called The Trestle Inn. I looked it up on a whim, and they happened to be having auditions the next week.
After college, I decided to stay in Philly because I love the city, but also very much because of go-go dancing–I didn’t want to stop. I had a full-time day job in healthcare market research. Some of my colleagues knew about the go-go dancing, but the majority of people didn’t. I wasn’t actively trying to hide it, but I would only bring it up if it came up organically. People have different views about whether it’s empowering or objectifying, so it can be tricky. There were a few times when someone from college came to the bar and saw me dancing and was really surprised. One time, I was dancing at this private party for a Penn Law event organized by the school, and a guest actually asked my manager to have me stop dancing because they thought it was sexist.
I feel fortunate that I’ve never gotten a bad reaction from another workplace or day job when I’ve told someone about it, though–the companies where I’ve worked are usually pretty supportive. And I’m grateful to be able to pursue two very different passions. I’ve always been really interested in dance and ’60s and ’70s music, but another huge passion of mine is being involved in public health research and workplace wellness research. I recently moved back home to the Bay Area, where I’ve continued working in healthcare market research, but I haven’t been able to find go-go dancing gigs because of the pandemic. I’m looking forward to doing both again in the future.
Léa is juggling her dual careers in dance and “dream weaving”…
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I live in Brooklyn, and I direct and dance and choreograph for a dance team and company here. In October, I also started working shifts at 11 Madison Park as a dream weaver. My job is to design surprising and magical custom experiences for people at the restaurant. Every day is completely different. A famous example from the past was this guy who emailed in advance and was like, “Well, I would rather be golfing than going to this fancy dinner,” so the team set up an entire golf course for him in a private dining area upstairs. But the most common thing that we do is make cards and paintings of people’s special memories. We typically start prepping at 3:00 p.m. in advance of the dinner shift, meeting with all of the head people in the restaurant–the chefs, the pastry chefs, the captain who is doing service–and we talk about every single guest who is coming in that evening.
I’ve always kind of subconsciously kept dance and dream weaving separate, just because I was like, “Oh, I want people at this particular job to really know that I’m fully committed.” That’s definitely the culture in both work environments: “Our whole lives are about dance” or “Our whole lives are about making this restaurant the best in the world.” I didn’t want my colleagues to think I was splitting my focus, and sometimes it was difficult to navigate which parts of my personality fit where. On the other hand, I feel like I bring so many of the skills I’ve learned in each workplace back and forth between the two jobs, so there is some crossover in that sense, even if it’s not obvious to anyone else.
The commute time is the hardest thing about juggling both jobs, though. I live in deep Brooklyn and the studio is kind of far north. Eleven Madison Park is somewhere in between. Also, the hours at the restaurant can be really challenging. Sometimes I would be there until 2 a.m. and come home around 3 a.m. It’s hard to not sleep in really late the next day. I also have a really weird eating schedule.
Right now the restaurant is closed because of the pandemic, but the dance studio is still open. I miss doing both at once. I’ve always wanted to do both things–dance and something that feels more professional and structured. That’s what true balance is to me.
Karuna plans next-level weddings and gets her hands dirty as a potter…
Follow Karuna on Instagram here.
I enjoy doing up spaces, and I really thrive in a people setting, so wedding planning came naturally to me. Indian weddings in particular are completely over the top, and sometimes overwhelming, but I love them (I’m such a hardcore romantic). I split my time between that and pottery, which is important for my mental health because it’s so different from weddings–I’m in this little studio, alone with just the clay.
People have encouraged me for a long time to turn the pottery into an actual business, but I’ve always been worried about having enough bandwidth. It would mean being more selective with the number of weddings I take on, but that’s something I’ve been seriously considering, especially over the past few months now that I’ve had the privilege of being able to devote more time to it. I don’t take that for granted. It’s a hard decision, though, because the wedding planning is already a full-blown, existing business with a reliable income. My partner and I are booked almost a year in advance. I worry that if I scale back or take time off, we’ll be losing out too much financially.
I don’t think I would ever completely give up one for the other. Weddings are such a chaotic environment, and I’m micromanaging every detail. Everything has to be perfect, and it’s absolutely nerve-wracking because you’re never at peace until the event is done, and then you do it all over again. Clay takes its own time, though. You can’t really force things on it. Pottery is how I practice letting go.
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.