top of page
  • Writer's pictureJessie Cheng

holding space for the unknown (& missing vegetables on tour)

Thinking is safe; our imaginations live within the boundaries of our minds. Living, however, takes risk.

It’s currently 10:37pm. I’m in my hotel in Madison, and I let my tired body sink into the comfiest sofa as I wait for my hair to dry. In my hotel room, there is a beautiful painting of the Wisconsin State Capitol on my left, and there is a coffee machine I don’t bother to use on my right. This room is nothing like my bedroom back home, which has posters and written affirmations from high school plastered all over its walls. It lacks the scent from the lavender candle I sleep next to, and the heater, which buzzes obnoxiously, makes me want to bury my head into soft hotel pillows. 

This hotel room is also nothing like the room I thought I’d be in by now. Ten months ago, I told my college academic advisor that I was looking forward to starting my post-grad life in the busy city of Los Angeles, one of the best cities to pursue a music industry career in. It sounds cliché, but something about Southern California’s bustle, seen in the endless entertainment and heard in the honking of aggressive drivers, makes me feel alive whenever I’m there. Meanwhile, its green landscapes and sandy beaches, where nature’s music is heard through chirping birds and crashing waves, offer places of silent retreat. 

Life is so funny in so that it often doesn’t go the way we think it will. I am in my fifth hotel room since this tour has begun, and while I am itching to have my own LA apartment where I get to decorate the walls however I like, I am overwhelmed with awe as I take my current reality in. I love my parents and get homesick every time I leave them, but I get to travel almost every week to a different city on my company’s dime. Each week, I rack up my Southwest mileage, enjoy free and freshly brewed coffee, and work with my teammates as we put on 10-15 hour dance competitions every day. By the end of every weekend, we are delirious and sleep-deprived. We find everything annoying and funny at the same time, our heads hurt and our bodies are sore, and we equally want to pass out on the floor and pull all-nighters just for the sake of it.

I sometimes look at my teammates and can’t help smiling as I observe the way they bond. Some of them are so funny, outspoken, and dramatic in the best ways. I think I am in awe of my reality, because I never imagined to be surrounded by such different company. It doesn’t matter that this is my fifth week on tour; I still feel nervous when I talk to my coworkers. I wonder if they like me, or if they think I’m competent at my job. Sometimes, we make small talk and I realize how bad I am at it. I want to discuss gender inequality, mental health, and current issues instead, or ask my teammates what books and music they’ve been inspired by lately. When I sit with them and eat our meals together, I take a backseat and let them drive the conversation. While they toss around stories and share their most unfiltered thoughts with an honesty that impresses me, I listen silently and register both the gratitude and stress I feel in my stomach. But then I remind myself that even if I were in Los Angeles, with a 9-5 corporate job and the same apartment to return to each night, these nervous jitters would be here, too. They are a part of being an imperfect human being who craves external acceptance to a fault. They are a part of being in community with others. And they are a part of growing up.

Adulting is hard. And we as people are so complex. I don’t know about you, but I have a million desires, some of which can never coexist. I want to be famous and I want to escape into the woods and live in a cottage. I debate if I should posture myself as a woman of aplomb at work, or if I should stay hidden in the background to avoid unnecessary responsibility. I want to move to LA already and live in a car if I must, and I want to procrastinate moving out for as long as possible because my fear of meeting new people exposes all my insecurities and preference for comfort. 

99% chance I felt dead inside in this photo

I am incredibly aware of this internal wrestle as I continue on this tour: my desire to learn and challenge myself with new opportunities fights with my desire to do something stable and familiar. Never once in my vision board did I see myself going on tour with a dance company - I’m learning French words like plié and relevé, and I’m trying not to fall apart despite being so exhausted after every weekend. This tour has been a major challenge both physically and mentally, but I smile at the thought that I get the privilege of taking on such a test. I frequently spiral when I think about how unstable this job is, but then I remind myself to trust in God’s plans for my life with the entirety of my being. Hindsight proves itself to be much clearer than the plans and predictions I create in my chaotic mind, anyways. I have no idea where I’ll be after this tour is over (actually, in my bed and recovering), but I know I will be okay. 

What I’m hoping to share is that even though the future can be scary, there is also excitement in the unknown, in the gap between what we plan for ourselves and what actually unfolds within our lives. One of my favorite authors, Brianna Wiest, once wrote that the most resilient people are those who move like water. The ones who adapt. Allow change. Expect change. Embrace change. They bend to life’s complexities and rude surprises. They don’t defy or reject change, as if they are gods with supernatural authorities. They understand that the plans on our vision boards may never be brought to life like in a perfect Disney animation. Instead, the most resilient people intentionally hold space for the unknown to become known, while they carry out whatever responsibility has been entrusted to them in the moment. This idea is also implied in one of my favorite Bible verses found in Proverbs: "The lot is cast into the lap, but it's every decision is from the Lord" (Proverbs 16:33). While planning and working hard is wise, such diligence also needs to come with an acceptance that there is honestly more we don't know and can't control than that which we can.

This idea of holding space for the unknown to become known is also why I feel genuine admiration when I learn about my coworkers and how they got to this touring job. Many of them have been dancing their entire lives and even studied dance in college. When I ask what they do besides tour, each person seems to have at least one other side hustle to sustain them. The instability of the entertainment industry would make the average person shake; yet, with them, there seems to be an excitement that gives them the courage to keep pursuing an unconventional career route driven by purpose and passion. I could write countless other essays about how this is a privilege in itself, thanks (not at all) to the growing socioeconomic barriers that make dancing, acting, and singing incredibly inaccessible and impractical professions for most. 

My POV at work!

Yet, I want to extract as much wisdom as I can from them, and I do see within each of them a very defined love for entertainment that makes every sleepless night and long work day worth it. This tour, despite (probably) taking months off my life span, has taught me a really important lesson: not only is it okay not to have everything figured out, there is actually wisdom in not having everything figured out. It may be rather foolish, actually, to assume every plan in our heads can be executed in perfection, as if we humans are capable of perfectly predicting natural disasters, accidents, health problems, and relationship fallouts, and how they will inevitably interrupt or possibly even destroy our plans.

I think one of the greatest shames in life might be thinking more about life than actually living it. This is so easy to do, especially if you’re also someone who has an ongoing internal monologue and loves daydreaming about anything and everything. Thinking is safe; our imaginations live within the boundaries of our minds. Living, however, takes risk. And if we wish to go beyond just living but thrive, we have no choice but to create room for the unknown. I figure we may as well do our best to receive the unknown with excitement, to see every closed door as an opening for another, and every unexpected surprise as something that can build our character and resilience.  

This is what I remind myself as I’m on this tour and I’m tempted to complain for the millionth time about how exhausted I am and how much I miss eating vegetables. I know in this economy, there are people who would do just about anything at this point to have a job, to have something they can exercise their abilities through. And I also remind myself that it is my duty to be a good steward of what has been entrusted to me in the here and now. 

Anyways, work starts at 7am tomorrow (literally screaming). I can't perfectly predict what tomorrow holds. Probably guest complaints, excessive caffeine intake, technical issues, and cold sandwiches. But there may also be special bonding moments, a dance routine that moves me to tears, and fresh fruit and vegetables (a girl can dream). No detailed plan or schedule can predict the unknown, but whatever comes, I’m going to do my best job in kindness and joy. 

Related Posts

See All


subscribe for more writing!

thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page