A message from the editor: Happy Valentine’s Day! On this day it has been a long-standing tradition to celebrate your love for your friends, partner, loved-ones, etc., but what about taking a day for SELF-love? As Brenè Brown, University of Texas research professor, so eloquently put it: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” Enjoy this story of a former Fly Studios student’s journey as she found her confidence through aerial.

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I discovered aerial arts when I was just nine years old. Who I was then seems like a different person. I was shy, sensitive, and very insecure. But what I did know was that I had a passion for performing. Every aspect of the arts intrigued me.

So growing up I tried them all. I found myself in multiple dance classes. I loved the idea of expressing myself through dance but the environment around me was intense and competitive. I grew anxious about making mistakes and being considered weak in class. Over time I lost my love for dance because of it. That was when I was introduced to the world of aerial arts.

Immediately I knew there was something special about aerial. The energy in the studio was unlike anything I had experienced before. It was welcoming, vibrant, and full of inspiration. As scary as it was entering a new class full of strangers I felt a sense of security in my peers. The pressure of fitting in faded away as I learned how valuable it was to embrace my differences. 

I found aerial arts to be challenging and sometimes frustrating, but in the end extremely rewarding. I noticed that every student was improving at their own pace and we thrived as we were encouraged to support our friends, not compete with them.

I noticed that because my classmates and I learned at different paces and were at different levels, I learned to celebrate everyone’s differences. I learned how to communicate my struggles and express my obstacles. The aerial arts community always made me feel heard and appreciated. It truly gave me my voice in the arts and taught me to be confident in my own skin.

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This memoir was written by Ashley O’Connor. Ashley has a passion for performing and recently graduated from the Orange County School of the Arts in the acting conservatory. She now attends Azusa Pacific University in the BFA acting for the stage and screen program. Ashley has trained in aerial arts for ten years and later became a teacher! She loved teaching and working with kids and hopes to continue working in the entertainment industry.

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