We had the good fortune of connecting with Marina Gwynn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marina, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
A: Exponentially… and I’ve been all over the spectrum! But what I’ve learned over time is that, sometimes we have to go from one side – to the other, in order to find that sweet place in-between the two parallel’s. Trying to maintain a work-life balance is something I’ve struggled with for a long time, and I’m still learning new skills to make it work for me! To give you an image of the spectrum of my work life balance and imbalance… After an abrupt ending to a music contract with an upcoming management, I went on a quest for new adventures and independence!
On I whim, I took off to San Fransisco and auditioned for an entertainment position in the cruise ship industry. After what felt like endless paperwork, I arrived aboard my chosen ship. And quickly experienced what I call a “job culture shock.” Prior to this, my job positions held pretty standard hours so this was quite an awakening for me. In this industry, having a work-life balance didn’t really exist. Work was each day, Monday – Sunday, and shifts were scattered beginning anywhere from 5:30am to ending at 2am (within 6-8 month contracts). We lived with, ate with, experienced the good and bad with, our teammates. Day in, and day out. Balance just didn’t exist. I would often be startled by the piercing sound of my cabin phone in the middle of the night, while in bed. Ring ring! It would be my supervisor, instructing me to get up, get dressed and cover someones shift – for whatever reason. No questions. After discussing my concerns and almost getting terminated for it, I started unplugging my cabin phone at night. (This was my attempt at controlling my environment and saving my sanity.) They of course caught onto my tactics later. And I have no regrets! *laughs. Granted, there was a little time for fun – if you still had the energy, and I got to see some really beautiful places.
Finally, arriving in my new and now current home, McKinney Texas! After completion of my two contracts on ships, I had to re-learn any balance that I’d acquired beforehand. Work-life balance has been a long cyclical struggle of repeating past mistakes, progressing, then going back and forth again within these two parallels.. Alas, I’m finally tapping into a system that works for me! I’ve learned to set clear boundaries with myself. And with my studio within the walls of my home – this can be tricky! I set my hours, class times, times to perform with my band, rehearsals, time slots to check emails, for business phone calls, preparing and designing new classes and time to rest. As of recently, I try to schedule a couple days out of the week (usually weekends) for free time. This means… Zero. Work. Stuff.
Even so, I still have to keep myself “in check” by compartmentalizing, meditating, or going on a walk. Simply, something to reset and refocus. Otherwise I often find myself tempted to check on emails or brainstorm new classroom ideas!
With the world as it is currently I feel fortunate to have the luxury of more free time to rest, recover, dream up new ideas, learn how to cook, bake and spend time at home with family – my partner of 8 years Anthony (and bandmate) and our fur baby Mily. We aspire to keep our work life balance continuing into the future. My advice to anyone who is wondering? Burnout is absolutely real! And it’s important that we all take the time to care for ourselves, find a good friend within, and always seek acceptance within first and foremost. Stay true to you! (Hearts.)
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
A: Absolutely! I was born and raised on the backdrop of Hollywood Hills…North Hollywood, California. To be entirely honest, my upbringing was quite untraditional from my peers on the other side of town, and what many imagine “Hollywood” might be… I suppose it’s anything and everything you can imagine, really. My family was very humble and conservative, but never involved in politics. We didn’t celebrate the major holidays as many American families do. The area was very cultural, and my neighbors were from all around the world. It was wonderful being exposed to different languages and to share cultural dishes and ideas. Granted, we all lived in very close quarters, sharing a small courtyard- with lots of room for disagreements!
At a young age I found an outlet – I became fascinated with the performing arts. My Mom took on piano and voice lessons and I enjoyed “imitating” the simple sounds of the musical scales. And with my “self training” developed a good ear. At the age of 4, I was enrolled in dance lessons, but unfortunately never made it to my first recital. I preferred creating “live shows” with my friends in the neighborhood to showcase to our families.
To be entirely honest, I never really excelled in the modern classroom setting. I didn’t enjoy my classes. Maybe they felt too competitive. Or perhaps, my teachers were critical of me and I felt often singled out.
Later in life, this was a common pattern I’d taken notice to, and felt uncomfortable in the classroom setting. Even so, I carried forward and enrolled in everything that I loved and contradictorily – truly scared me! I was painfully shy, and simply didn’t want to be. I feel very fortunate to have had a few really great teachers along the way but also, later learned that through adversity often comes strength and growth. Which lead me to a new fascination!
Psychology & Human Behavior. After years of self study, I decided that I would use the free time I had to create a performing arts program, promoting positivity for young students. (Staying mindful of others’ sensitivities. And being sensitive is perfectly okay.) This is where ‘Ballemarina’ came to be. I wanted to develop a series of dance classes that would promote growth through kindness rather than intense competition and harsh criticism. I’m not against this method, I do believe it has it’s benefits, absolutely. This method may have not worked for myself, but it doesn’t mean it will have the same affect on others. Ballemarina is a great option for parents who simply want their child to learn to love the art of dance. With that being said, a value I hold close to my heart, is Empathy. This is the ability to relate to others through shared experiences. Understanding that we are all alike in many ways and that each one of us struggles. I believe “one that shows kindness and respect, should be treated with kindness and respect in return.” We’re all born with a little light, and as parents, mentors and teachers alike, we have to nurture that light “that spark” in order to help it grow. We can be inspired by our students and learn just as much from them, as they can from us.
Creating a business from the ground up and continuing to be a “one woman show” hasn’t been a cup of tea… During this journey I’ve had/have to take many risks that sometimes scare me. I’ve experienced both set backs and (expected) several challenges along the way, but through these challenges, learned to prioritize and set boundaries. Very important lessons! I’ve also experienced many other wonderful rewards. And that, makes it all worthwhile.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
A: Oh fun! Let’s see.
Day 1: As the Historic Downtown McKinney Square is basically my “front yard” – we’ll start here! Perhaps a sit down breakfast at Snug or Spoons? Followed by some antique shopping? We’d be sure to stop by Emporium Pies for slice of pie and hot coffee! Later in the afternoon we’d unwind with some wine at Landon Winery or Lone Star Wine Cellars.. Stopping by Spice & Tea Merchants to grab some fresh loose leaf teas for relaxing later on my patio. Once the sun sets, I’d take my friend to The Celt and we’d be transported to traditional Ireland whilst energized by the sound and performance of The Bodarks – Hootenanny String Band! (And of course enjoy a delicious plate of bangers and mash.)
Day 2: Let’s set off to The Bishop Arts District and stroll through the local shops with a plan to later arrive at Revelers Hall, for afternoon mimosas and 20’s and 30’s live jazz! By late afternoon, we’d make our way to Deep Ellum to enjoy the variety of trendy shops.. for lunch Oni Ramen for a bowl of warm deliciousness, and end the day with hops to my favorite music venues – the Armory, and finally The Freeman to feast on some New Orleans gumbo. While finding inspiration and enchantment through watching the swing dancers…Care to join?
Day 3: At this time, knowing myself – I would likely need some quiet relaxation at home. (I am mostly an introvert, after all.) I would suggest to my friend to do the same, or to go out and enjoy exploring the square a bit more – and maybe meet for lunch at a favorite of mine, Square Burger? There’s honestly so much to do here!
Day 4: The Dallas Arboretum, to spend time relaxing, getting some vitamin D and enjoying nature’s beauty and sounds.
Day 5: We’ll head West to Adriatica Village for wine, baked brie, bread pudding and live music at Zin Zen Wine Bistro! And perhaps even catch Cafe Society Band? (*Wink Wink.)
Day 6: Take the beach cruisers out for a ride through our historic neighborhoods to share sights of my favorite historic homes. Then maybe visit Denton to stroll around their Historic Square? Or perhaps, decide to stay in McKinney and visit the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary for a light nature walk and some bird watching?
Day 7: Hmm.. Check out another local winery! I love Farm Resort. Or, take a detour to Tupps Brewery for a tour and a signature brew. We’d end our eventful week with a stop at Filter(ed) Coffee for a hot cappuccino and then grab a pizza from Cadillac Pizza Pub (to-go) for some night time Netflix binging!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A: Yes! Anthony, my partner in life – band mate – and the other half of our home business ‘The Piano Dojo’ directly across the hall! He challenges me, always providing me with new tools for self growth helping me see things in many different perspectives. Mily, my little buddy! Yes, the sweet Calico in her tutu!! My Mom and Dad, for enrolling me in my first dance classes, and then kindly allowing me to choose my path. But ultimately, for planting that seed of interest that I would later come back to. Shoutout to all my kind hearted friends & family alike, who simply “get me.” And to those who don’t, teaching and reminding me, that not everyone will like you! *laughs. What’s important is that you like and accept yourself. Find a friend in yourself. Make yourself proud. This was an invaluable lesson for me! To all my Ballemarina Students and Parents. Thank you!
Other: https://cafesociety.band/ https://www.facebook.com/thecafesocietyband https://www.instagram.com/thecafesocietyband/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6kMdEgkqf86OJ_v5ejpWwQ
Don Simmons, Kanyi Rags