We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Adao and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My work life balance is a constant work in progress. As I get older, my approach to life, relationships, and work evolve. So thus my approach, experience, and knowledge to work life balance evolves as well. Many individuals who I look up to have various approaches that work for them. The biggest lesson I learned about this topic is to always identify what keeps me happy, mentally and physically healthy, and hungry about life. Prioritize surrounding myself with that, and life won’t seem as challenging.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started breakin (breakdancing) at 37 years old, entered my first breakin battle three months later, and am currently on a journey of training, learning and growing, building relationships, and succeeding and failing forward towards my dream to represent at high caliber events such as Breakfree Worldwide, The Legits Blast, and even as high up as repping USA in the Paris 2024 Olympics. As a professor of higher education at multiple public institutions for over 18 years, it has been my commitment to empower individuals to build confidence and life skills to become a better version of themselves. I would hope that my journey will impact individuals positively and create opportunities for others in whatever journey they are walking. Something I am most excited about is seeing where my journey takes me – the places I will travel because of breaking, the people I will eventually meet and create relationships with, and the future opportunities that breaking will present to me. I am confident that life will bless me with a lifelong opportunity to dance, and to use my gifts and experiences to inspire others to be a better version of themselves. The best way to describe how I got to where I am today is because I was consistent in “watering my bamboo” which is a metaphor for reaching my goals. The story is when I water my bamboo consistently in the first year, nothing happens. When I water my bamboo consistently the second year, nothing happens. When I water my bamboo consistently the third then fourth year, still nothing happens. But when I water my bamboo on the fifth year, it will shoot up 60 feet in 90 days. I didn’t grow in 90 days. It actually took me over 5 years to grow because I was consistent to do the work, even though I didn’t see results beforehand. My actions are matching my ambitions. I also put energy in building and nurturing relationships as a priority rather than just “doing me”. I understand that I would not be where I am today if it were not for others walking the same journey who’ve paved the way for me, for those who’ve believed in me and felt that I was worth their investment and energy. And life is much more satisfying when you have a community of like-minded energy around who wants to see the culture thrive. Some may ask, was it easy to get to where you are today? Honestly, yes and no. Yes, because my mindset of understanding that everything is always about working hard, staying consistent in that hard work, and maintaining good relationships lent itself to why opportunities presented themselves. No, because I had to learn the hard way how important saying “no” is to my “yes” approach to life. Most recently, I’ve learned that some of the choices, habits, and characteristics that allowed me to thrive and be successful as an artist were equally destructive to my physical and mental health. I have a fear of saying no to people and a constant need to take care of everyone around me before taking care of myself. I am currently working on saying “no” and being ok with it. I embrace the fact that true happiness and success stems from struggle because powering through that fight will be the greatest worth and win. Through this journey, what do I want the world to know about my brand and story? I hope you leave this article feeling empowered that you’re never too old, and it’s never too late to pursue your passion.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Since we are in a pandemic, doing touristy adventures can be unpredictable. At this moment, we have outdoor dining available, so I would take them to all my favorite coffee spots and eateries! Some standouts include Holsem in North Park, Copa Vida and The Mission in East Village, and the Public Market in Liberty Station. Most of my good friends from out of town are also dancers so we will most likely hit up the beaches and parks for a dance session and schedule photo/video shoots in front of the vibrant art in North Park. To be transparent, I’ve lived in San Diego my entire life, and I know there are places that I still haven’t experienced, so I would make it an adventure to explore San Diego with them!
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?
There are so many individuals who have shaped me to the dancer, artist, educator, and community leader that I am today. Listing them would be pages on pages! Standouts who’ve made a significant impact in my overall dance journey include Jan Ellis, Kathy Meyer, Tessandra Chavez, Vanessa Andrada, Eddie Gutierrez, Jilou Rasul, and Nico Castro Aguilar. I also wanted to give love to my crew FLOORISTAS.
Mikey Mora – IG @mikeymora.photos Jae Canalog – IG @jae_takes_photos