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Dancer, Nicia John for The Ballet Brain Blog
Vienna

Knowing Father

Earlier this year, I felt a burning urge to hop on a flight to Vienna, Austria without knowing why I’d be going or how I was going to get there. I remember anxiously waking up one morning at 5:00 am and thinking, I have to get to this city and if I don’t go, I’d be missing a chance at something. I don’t know what.. but something! After constantly being bombarded by visions of this trip and seeing a woman wearing a bag with “VIENNA” printed boldly across the front1, I finally felt convicted enough to open up Airbnb.com and just take a look at my options.

One place stood out to me. It was a little cottage-style studio apartment in the outskirts of the city whose interiors looked like someone did a break-in-and-entry into the aesthetics of my brain, to pour it all out into a 12×12 square foot room. It was a rare find, already booked for months ahead. I knew there was no room for delay. The moment felt emergent and desperate, like I had entered into a time warp with a rare, one-time opportunity to change the course of my future from that point on, forever. I booked immediately and paid the first instalment. By then, it was 7 am, and I knew I was crazy. No flight … no plan. Just a booked Airbnb located over 7,000 km away from home.

Now, in the last year and a half, God shifted my finances in a way that I could have never imagined. I’m not rich in the slightest bit — that’s almost impossible to attain as a second-year Master’s student who submits research proposals and works TA (teaching assistant to undergrads) hours to earn a living for day-to-day expenses and tuition. However, despite the hard work and the way it sounds, every single one of my needs is covered and paid for without worry, for months ahead. I’m truly in a state of rest while doing the things I love and learning so much every day. I graciously received extra income that would cover 20 hrs/wk of pre-professional ballet training2, and it doesn’t hurt me to spend a little extra on something nice — within reason of course. All of this is possible by God’s grace. It’s the only reasonable explanation. He gave me the the most wonderful and sincere research supervisor, an influx of entrance scholarships and success on a research proposal! Truly, I’ve done nothing to deserve this, He knows. Yet, He just keeps adding favour to my life in ways I just can’t comprehend.

By now, you must be wondering, ok so what? You’ve been blessed… what does this have to do with going to Vienna? Hold on, don’t interrupt my storytelling skills. You needed context for what’s about to happen next.

Ok…

So, I got to ballet at about 9 am on the morning of booking the Airbnb and happened to check my email between classes. At the very top, there was an email from the research funding agency I was under, that is, the agency I receive primary income through, for the 2022/23 year. I’d spent the last year working with their team as a lead volunteer. So, surely, this email could only be good things.

Wrong!

The email was the most bogus, ungenuine, indirect, classic corporate-style message I’d ever read. It was equal parts a “Congratulations!” for receiving funding from a different agency for the 2023/24 academic year (NB:…a different year of study) and a notice that they’ll be canceling the remainder of my 2022/23 funding. This was was then wrapped up in a thank you for your help this year… plus a, you have to pay us back for the last instalment. I was so confused and so disgusted. The email really through me off. Like, actually. Ballet was going great before. What do you mean “pay back”?? I’ve been working with you and giving my best for months.

*Grad tip, always read the fine print about concurrent funding with research awards. Agencies will make it a priority to catch you if it seems you’re earning “more” than you should. More is a problem word. The income rate for graduate students in Canada has’t changed since 1970. Hello, 2023 inflation! I don’t know how anyone else who’s not in Christ gets by. How does that work? For anyone who’s truly not ok: Send me a message — I’m not kidding.

Back to the story.

It took about three hours, a slightly shotty email response and a second email apology for my harsh tone to help me come to my senses: God will provide. He’s proved to be way more than faithful time and time again. I have so much proof!

It’s crazy how humans are so fickle. We so easily forget the goodness of God’s grace and default into worry and panic at the slightest inconvenience. God should be so tired of me. I told you, I don’t deserve His blessings.

I was sitting at my workspace in the lab after lunch and like a truck load of bricks, everything else dawned on me: This morning, I somewhat impulsively booked an Airbnb in Vienna. Vienna. In Austria? *checks bank account to see if the payment actually went through. It did.* A significant portion of my summer funding is canceled, and I have to pay back a large portion of last month’s income. In light of this morning’s spiral of events, I’m pretty sure I have to figure out the rest of this trip and… I’m supposed to survive the summer with no TA income (I’d recently found out I also couldn’t work as an assistant over summer).

Ok, so yes. Back to the panic. I’m sorry, but it’s just been a lot of emotion to transpire in the span of 7 hours. The summary –>

  1. Overwhelming pressure to go to Vienna
  2. Surrender to pressure, commitment + relief
  3. Excitement for Vienna, maybe this will be fun!
  4. Back to reality, I have ballet and school… I hope I’m not late.
  5. Anger in the middle of ballet
  6. Stressed and sassy at school
  7. Finding contentment
  8. Ambiguity between more panic and seeping bouts of contentment

The truth is that if I had waited until later to start acting on my thoughts for Vienna, I wouldn’t have booked the Airbnb. It probably would’ve been unavailable too. Here’s why:

With the little I know about myself (more on this in a later entry), I surely would’ve been too scared to book a trip under the weight of momentary financial loss. It had to be done right then, earlier at 5 am that morning. I didn’t mention this before, but after confirming the Airbnb that morning, I did a quick peruse of the neighbourhood and then, obviously, of the dance schools and ballet classes in the area. Lo and behold, among the ballet school options sprinkled across the city was a small privates-focused ballet studio sitting at a whopping three-minute walk from the front door of my rental. Privates are one-to-one training sessions done with a highly-trained dance professional so that dancers can receive extremely detailed feedback on their ballet technique. I need that, desperately! I knew this was God.

So then, are you telling me that the plan for this trip includes the most perfect apartment in Vienna paired with an accessible ballet studio waiting at my front door? There’s no way I could’ve seen this coming.

I could have canceled the Airbnb reservation. I heard they give you 24 hours to change your mind. You know? Just in case the positive mental state of your financial security completely evaporates into thin air and it seems more wise, on paper, not to throw what’s left of your finances into a hole of unknowingness. I couldn’t cancel. I can’t exactly explain it, but I wasn’t allowed to.

By 2 pm, I felt ok.

I’m reflecting on the the fact that the kingdom walk is stressful and hard and filled with a million emotions a day. I think one of the most wonderful things about the journey, however, is that it only asks one thing of us: to hold faith in the One who knows all. If you really think about it, it’s like we get a cheat card and are promised a win no matter what.

At this point, I had no idea what the plan was for this summer. I’m a planner. I schedule my days in blocks and by the hour, so this was odd.

Stay tuned for the part where God pushes me to create a month-long self-funded dance program in the midst of my unnecessary financial worry, just before my trip… yeah! See you then.

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Footnotes

  1. How peculiar is that? This happened on my way to school a couple weeks prior, minutes after praying about the trip and trying to stop myself from obsessively thinking about going. I told myself it was the devil. God, I’m so sorry. ↩︎
  2. In case you don’t know, ballet actually costs an arm and a leg per hour of personal interest…literally! ↩︎

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