We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Jones and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Balance is something, I believe we continue to navigate through as we go & grow through life experiences. I was introduced to this meaning early in life, but through the years it’s changed in ways that have required for me to ‘prioritize, rearrange, or simply eliminate plans in order to apply balance in my life. Being that I was out of my parents’ home at a young age, balance for me at eighteen looked so differently than it does now. I have gone from working a nine to five job, while putting myself through school to becoming a ‘severe multitasker’; all for the sake of getting more done and risking my own sanity in order to do it all. While in community college, and working to pay for my school/life expenses, balance didn’t exist in my life in the way I hoped, I was taking an overwhelming number of classes, trying to maintain my dance retention, while figuring out what life ‘on my own felt like’. Not long after, the severe multitasker, I call her, was incredibly ambitious, did it all, and any cost. I found that this version of me allowed me to be fooled into thinking this was the way to live, I mean who was I kidding more than half the people in Los Angeles function this way. I quickly learned that the exhaustion, and lack of efficiently executing was not worth it.
The balance I’ve newly come to familiarize myself with as of the last few years has been the most rewarding, I call it, “actual balance”; with it has come peace, intention and a focus that had never fully been there before. I found the happy medium, and this has been the easiest navigation yet. I think of the evolution of balance within my own life experience and I am grateful to have had each segment in life teach me, the differences, the changes, but overall, how to achieve it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a proud Puertorriquena, and Los Angeles native, who’s passion for dance has led me to the journey I am currently on. My ‘dance journey’ began as a child, my mother put me in as many dance styles as you could possibly think of, from Ballet, Jazz, Tap, and Hip-Hop. Through the years, I explored different styles, and even cheerleading. I loved allowing my body to move to different kinds of music. As an adult, my path took a slight turn when I learned I would have to move out of my parents’ home, right after high school graduation. I had no idea what would happen with dance, or most importantly how I would “survive” on my own. I have always considered myself a multifaceted person, one who has always had many different passions, so I allowed that to serve as a reminder to myself that some way, somehow I would find my way back to dance. I started off as a Psychology major, at East Los Angeles College, mental health was the basis for everything, the only thing I ever felt passionately about, academically at least. I knew that if I wanted to continue dancing, I had to have a “back-up” plan, a degree that would open up job opportunities, since supporting myself was at the top of my priority list. Through that time, I constantly lived in frustration, never really knowing fully, my next step. I did not know where to go from there. I had no idea of the dance world that existed outside of the small city I had grown up in, I was oblivious to the incredible talent, and the amazing studios that existed. After graduating, I transferred to California State University, Los Angeles; there I continued my path towards mental health. I found myself dedicating all of my time towards becoming a mental health advocate, the more I learned the more I wanted to help. I contacted Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, became a certified Suicide Prevention Counselor, this was probably one of the most significant moments of my life. I dedicated one shift per week, a few hours of every Saturday, I spoke with individuals through this hotline, and it was here that I began to understand my purpose, within this field. My time there contributed greatly to my growth, and understanding of others. My empathy grew, and after spending two years of my life there, and as hard as it was for me to leave; my life became too demanding; duty-called and I continued my studies. It was at CSULA when I began taking dance classes; except this time, I was driving out to North Hollywood, Burbank, and Glendale. I quickly realized how; I would have to play “catch-up” if I wanted to have any success within this world. It was at this time that I came to understand that, that exact world that I knew existed was the one I was now a part of. I graduated college, maintained three jobs, and decided to fully “jump back into dance”. The dance world had changed so much, it wasn’t what I thought I knew, but I indulged in the challenge, fought through the set-backs, and harsh experiences. My heart knew, it knew exactly what it was looking for, I worked hard to overcome the challenges by learning myself better. I took the time, especially when frustrated to understand what I was lacking in my performance, presence, and that it wouldn’t sprout overnight; but having a clear understanding of myself gave me the ability to find my way so to say. I learned, the stronger trust that you build within yourself , the confidence will follow suit . In no time, I came to the understanding that things that I was learning were falling into a perfect line, the dots were finally connecting, and it all started with me. My unconventional journey had all to do with it, it wasn’t a set-back, it contributed-to, and allowed me to find me. As a dancer, all you’ve got is you, no one can be you; so why not be the best you possible!? So, when you ask, “has it been easy”, my response is always no; but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Today, I am training at least three times a week, I have been part of projects that I never thought would’ve been possible, and it is only the beginning. I have so much more left to accomplish, and so if there is anything I will preach is to ‘trust yourself’ always, and trust your timing; no one will ever take something that belonged to you originally. Patience is key.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
WOW—this is a hard one, Los Angeles has some of the most awesome, low-key spots to enjoy! Being that I live near South Pasadena, my go-to would be to start there! There are so many places to grab a bite to eat, for instance one of my absolute favorite breakfast places is Millie’s Cafe, they have everything you could think of! Aside from food, and drinks, I would have to make sure to make a trip out to the beach, having a picnic on the sand and enjoying açai bowls. Although, I know that the list of things to do would be endless, a few plant nurseries, rooftop restaurants, and hiking areas would be my go-to!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to the most important people in my life. This is for my strong, selfless, and amazing mother, Evelyn. My husband, Dom, I thank you for being my backbone, my clarity when I am lost, and my encouragement when I need it. My sweet uncle, whom I will carry in my heart, always. You have all made such a huge impact in my life, you’ve kept me grounded & filled with love. To the mentors that have guided my way, and steered my in the right direction & the friends who have offered their endless support, I thank you.
Brian Contreras Theresa Bouche