Note: If you haven’t read the first half of this story, read it here first. Trust me, it’ll make a lot more sense if you do.
A few weeks ago, I published a blog post about the hardships of feeling confused and not knowing whether to follow my passion for food and blogging or continue on my path to becoming a professional dancer. At the time, I was splitting my time between the two but I felt very out of sorts and it really wasn’t making me happy.
However, almost immediately after publishing that post, maybe because I had finally put my struggles in a concrete format, I realized that I really was losing interest in dance. I no longer felt motivated to go to class, and though I know this was partially due to my struggle with injuries, my heart wasn’t in it anymore.
At first, I felt ashamed. I once told my mother that sometimes I wasn’t sure if other dance students I knew were fully invested in their training or goals in dance, but that I felt completely sure I could never be happy doing anything else. How could I be that same person? When I was forced to take several months off from dance to recover from a serious ankle surgery, I was sure I wouldn’t change my mind. Every second that I was missing a class or rehearsal, confined to the sofa with my foot in a cast and then a boot, my heart and body yearned to return to the barre. I longed for the feeling of the weathered wood under my hand, my muscles stretching and contracting, my hair secured tightly in a bun. The only thing that kept me going through arduous physical therapy and pain was the vision I had of myself someday in a company somewhere, performing for hundreds or even thousands of people.
Evidently, I underestimated the human capacity for change, especially at such a young age. I mean, I’m only eighteen years old. I often forget that for most careers outside dance, professional or specialized training is only beginning at the age I am now, or for some people even later.
As of now, I have stopped dancing completely, save for the odd open class here and there. I still love performing, and I’m sure I will miss it. For now, I’m focusing more on improving my blog, and trying to save some money so I can invest in a DSLR camera, tripod, and editing software. I’m also looking into some opportunities for other jobs in food, so I can broaden my horizons and try to find something I really enjoy.
Though I’ve only been doing this for a few weeks, I’ve already noticed a huge shift in my mindset. In a lot of ways I feel more in control, and definitely happier. But I’m also scared of a more vast and unplanned future. Dance has always been the sun around which my whole life revolves; the lense through which I viewed everything and everyone in my life. Now that it isn’t, it’s scary to think that I don’t have a catchall for defining myself and the world around me anymore.
But it also provides me the opportunity to learn more about myself, and find out how I fit into the world if I’m not a dancer. Today at work, someone said to me, “You know, you’re a barback, but you’re so much more than that.” That’s just what I’m discovering.
PS: Coincidentally, Shelby Elsbree, a fellow wordpress blogger and a dancer with Boston Ballet just announced that she will be retiring from professional dance at 25. Her post articulates perfectly the difficulty of this decision, and you can read it here. I look up to Shelby so much, and her post really helped me understand my own feelings with this issue.