Stepping outside of your comfort zone could turn into an unexpected passion.

By By Sarah Suski as told to Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Updated: August 01, 2017

I spent last weekend hanging by my knees from a trapeze-flipping, twisting, and trying out some other pretty incredible airborne stunts. You see, I'm an aerial and circus arts instructor. But if you asked me a few year ago what I enjoy doing in my free time, I would never have guessed I'd be saying this.

I wasn't athletic as a child, and I'd grown into a short, asthmatic adult with weak joints. I even ended up needing knee surgery when I was just 25. After my procedure in 2011, I knew I needed to do something to take care of myself. So I started working out at the local community center, trying out the "typical" workouts such as yoga, weightlifting, and indoor cycling. I was enjoying the classes and feeling fitter, but, still, nothing was able to *really* get my adrenaline racing. When a friend asked me to try a circus arts class with her, I said 'sure, why not.'

When we showed up for that first class, my expectations were simply to have some fun and get in a workout. There was a tightrope, trapeze, and lots of different things hanging from the ceiling. We warmed up on the floor and immediately moved to working on aerial silks, hanging above the ground by hoops, fabric, and straps. I was having fun, but I'd just had a baby a few months earlier, via C-section no less, and my body was not on board with this new activity. I could have just left right then and there, decided it wasn't for me, and gone back to the standard gym routine I knew I could be successful at. But watching all the other athletes inspired me to push myself. It was a huge risk and a major change from what I'd been doing, but I decided to get outside my comfort zone and go all in.

Don't let professional acrobats flying around in the air with ease fool you-aerial stunts are not easy. It took me months just to learn basic skills like how to invert (go upside down) and climb. But I never gave up-I kept at it and steadily improved. I eventually got comfortable enough in the air that I found myself wanting to share this crazy talent/workout/art with other people. So in October 2014, I decided to take things into my own hands and start teaching classes. I'd never taught anything before, much less something as intense and possibly dangerous as circus arts. Yet, I was determined to make it work. Aerial had become my passion.

At the beginning, I taught an intro aerial acrobatics class alongside the codirector from the studio where I first fell in love with aerial work. I'd warm up the class, and she would step in to teach fabrics (meaning aerial classes involving silks, hammocks, or straps suspended from the ceiling). I watched and learned from her, and eventually, I was teaching traditional aerial classes. In these classes, students and artists perform acrobatics using long silk fabric suspended from the ceiling, and Lyra, which swaps the fabric for a large hoop. I even expanded my teachings to children! I love seeing them finding the same joy in acrobatics that I wish I'd found at their age.

My classes grew as I gained skill and confidence in my teaching abilities, and I developed an even greater personal fulfillment and appreciation for circus arts. What started out years before pretty much on a whim-a way to test the water in my exercise routine-turned into a true passion. I can't imagine my life without aerial in it, and I'm so glad I took that leap and didn't quit because it was hard. I pushed myself to tackle something difficult and totally crushed it.

Now, I tell everyone to try something new. Not only will you learn a new skill, but you could discover hidden talents you never tapped into before.

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