Behind the Scenes of Flying Dreams
By: Juliana Richards, Aerialist based in Gainesville, Fla.
Watching a short documentary of my life in a pretty, painted nutshell feels great. I am very proud of who I am, and am especially honored to be able to tell a story that might inspire others to chase their dreams in hopes of actually catching one.
The rest of the story, not portrayed in the video, is not so beautiful. The road I traveled to finally find myself in an upright and flying position was rocky and full of tough times, suffering and turmoil.
Growing up, my childhood was dance. I danced more than I walked. I trained at the studio way more than I ever went to school. I hung out with dancers way more than other kids. And I did indeed love it!
When I was really young I used to wake my mom up every morning to ask her, “Mom, is today a dancing day?”
Receiving my first pair of pointe shoes was one of the happiest days of my life. When I started competing at age 11, I became small-time famous. Being “Juliana the Ballerina” was the definition of Me. It was my everything. Everyone expected greatness from me I never wavered from this career path that essentially built me into the person I was. Ballet was my entire identity.
But, then I hit puberty. This body change caused me to gain some curves. In my mind at the time, it ruined everything. My teachers started telling me I needed to lose weight. This small-time fame was quickly slipping through my fingers because I wasn’t growing into the perfect shape.
I decided I wasn’t going to let this happen. My cycles of eating disorders started at the age of 14, when I barely ate for an entire year. During that year, I never put a lick of sugar in my mouth even once. I dropped 20 lbs. This was the peak of my career. I was recognized internationally, I felt on top of the world. But. after a while, this was too hard to maintain.
I started high school and became curious about life on the other side of serious, barely eating, always- training, dancer life. I started to explore a bit. I started acting like a normal kid, which caused me to gain back some of that weight. That was when my cycles of bulimia started. Even though I didn’t realize it, I had declared a World War within myself. Despite my efforts of purging what I ate, I gained even more weight. The voices of reason around me kept pushing me to do whatever I was doing before. To look the way I did, so I could be the best I could be. It was a vital point of my ballet career. They thought they were helping me since this is what I supposedly wanted to do.
I hated looking at myself in the mirror every day. I knew, I knew what I had to do in order to be that great, perfect shape and successful. But deep down it’s not what I wanted anymore. Since my identity was wrapped so tightly in with “Juliana the Ballerina,” I couldn’t realize that. I started sabotaging myself. The thought of not dancing never even crossed my mind, it wasn’t an option. Instead I fought with myself every day. For a long time. Finally, even more drastic measures were taken by me bucking the system, to escape my reality. I lost my mind. Spun completely out of control, with details I won’t be including in this uglier version nut shell of my life. But I lost everything, including my sanity.
It wasn’t until I woke up in a place of healing and realized I was in a whole different world with a clean slate, that I had options to completely change my life at the drop of a hat. The reality is, if we want to, we can be whoever we want to be, and live a ton of different lives within this single one we are given. I decided I wanted to explore many different walks of life, see what inspires other people and become full of endless possibilities of adventure! Now if I ever find myself unhappy, I know I can change everything and make it right again, and also that life is way too short to stay stuck! Life is a game, and we must set our pieces up so that we win.
I took a significant time from any artist involvement. I was nice to my body and learned a lot more about myself, and others, and life. Then I felt a void that longed to be filled again with creative expression. This time it was my decision, completely for me and it made me very happy. Easing back into the arts in a super caring and nurturing environment under my beloved mentor and ballet instructor, Ms. Alora was no doubt orchestrated by God. My passion came back. I used dance to cope and feel free again. It was then, in this healthy state, that I had the dream of aerial dancing. Now, ever since then I followed that dream and found the circus flow of passion in my life, every aspect has fallen into place perfectly.
I have ever experienced such a perfect fit. I’ve made the best friends I’ve ever had in my entire life. I enjoy what I do so much. It’s what I look forward to everyday when I wake up, the opportunities falling into place let me know I am in no doubt moving in the right direction with bountiful blessings from the universe. Sometimes I find myself wondering how in the world one girl could be so blessed and lucky, and then I think about everything I’ve gone through and realize, I created this. I’m beyond grateful for where I’ve come, where I am, and what I’m able to share with you now.
Don’t stay stuck, the universe wants to help every single one of us fly.