How High is Your Ambition?

Jul 13, 2015 by

          “Maria, do you want to lift your swing back up to your chest?” Jocie, the owner of my pole studio, asked me last Monday.

          She was instructing an aerial fit class, and I had just returned to plank position from a pike within my swing, causing the fabric to fall down to my waist. I was hoping she wouldn’t notice.

          “Getting it back up is always the hardest part,” I sighed as I held my plank with one hand, freeing the other to lift the fabric up my body.

          “That’s what he said,” Joce replied.

          The class was silent.

          “No? Inappropriate?” she questioned.

          You know when you don’t initially hear something, and then your brain later registers what your ears didn’t a minute ago?

          I bent over my swing laughing in delayed realization, almost breaking my plank.

          “There it is!” she raised a fist in success.

          I continued laughing through our next set of ab exercises, the rest of the class never getting in on the joke.

 

***

 

          Ten years ago, at age 26 and shortly after the birth of her second son, Jocie Pacey took her first pole dancing class. She did not go in enthusiastically. I remember her telling me when I first began going to her studio in January that she had been dragged into it by her mother. Given that she now teaches pole and aerial for a living, her perspective clearly changed. I’ve been meaning to ask Jocie about her pre-pole life and how she started the studio. I’m always down for a good story, especially the quit-your-job-for-your-passion kind. Coincidently, after last Monday’s classes, it came up – by which I mean she commented that the studio is nine years old and I got nosey.

          “The studio is nine years old?” my mouth dropped. “Haven’t you been pole dancing for nine years?”

          “I’ve been pole dancing for ten years,” she corrected.

          “You’ve been pole dancing for ten years and you’ve had the studio for nine?” my mouth fell further. “You started the studio only a year after you began pole dancing?”

          “Yeah, it was really stupid. Well, not stupid, but not thought-through. I had no business experience.”

          I was already impressed. I love potentially stupid decisions. They’re the bravest ones.

          “What did you do before the studio, Joce?” I wondered.

          “I bartended,” she answered. “And I was a vet tech.”

          “What?” I replied in shock. I would have guessed hairdresser, but only because she did the girls’ hair for a recent photo shoot at the studio.

          “Yup, that’s what I went to school for.”

          “You didn’t like working with animals?” my pole partner asked.

          “I loved working with animals, but I hated telling people that their pets needed to be put down and I hated doing surgeries. I was really sensitive to the anesthesia, so sometimes I’d black out.”

          “Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “Were you still working as a vet tech and bartending while getting the studio started?”

          She nodded no.

          I was even more impressed.

          “How did you do it?”

          “I got a loan,” she said.

          “For how much? If you don’t mind me asking.”

          “Thirty thousand.”

          “That’s it? You were able to start a pole studio with only $30,000?”

          She began Brass Belles with three removable poles that she installed and took down before and after classes held in a rented yoga studio.

          “I was a single mom, but the rent was cheap,” she explained. “It was all about how I was going to make this happen. The bank said no to a loan? Well, how do I get the bank to say yes? And when I couldn’t get enough training here, I went to London.”

          “England?”

          “Mm-hmm,” she answered as she sipped her water.

          “Were you profitable?” I asked.

          “Profitable enough to get my own location.”

          Even though I knew that part of the story was coming, I was in awe.

          “How high is your ambition?” she asked rhetorically. “Mine’s usually at about four, if I’m being honest. Am I going to do the laundry?” she posed as an example before nodding no. “Am I going to do the dishes? Mmm, I’ll sweet-talk Matt into doing them or something,” she shrugged. “When I started the studio, it was a good three months of my ambition being at ten.”

 
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