Point your feet harder, turn faster, jump higher, fix your arms, repeat.
For 14 years, that was my never ending thought process. Six days a week, my mind stuck on how I could be greater, how I could be stronger, and how I could improve myself to finally live up to the harsh reality that is the world of dance. I vividly remember one day at the lunch table, October of my junior year, when the sentimental conversations began. All of my friends reminisced, talking about how much they were going to miss their sport once college rolled around. I listened and sympathized, but found myself sitting in silence because I simply could not relate. I couldn’t convince myself that I was going to miss dancing the way that I had for 14 years straight. That was the moment I realized I wasn’t dancing for myself anymore. The never ending burden that I carried upon my shoulders for years was simply because I was afraid of letting people down, especially those that I love the most. Dance was all I ever knew. Letting that go, feeling like I was letting my coach, my family, peers and friends down by quitting seemed impossible. I was still sitting beside my lifelong friends, but this is when I realized that the never ending battle that took place inside my head was just beginning.
That single conversation is what made me realize I needed to let go of the thing that kept me from becoming myself. I needed to lose dancing to redefine my love for myself and the love for my life even more. Spending those 20+ hours in the studio each week isolated me from the things I truly care about, the most important being volunteering. I have become immersed within the community through more volunteer organizations that I can even count. I truly have found a passion for packing my schedule with a multitude of volunteer opportunities and it has taught me a great deal about not only myself but the world at large. I can finally be a high schooler, but that doesn’t just entail going to football games, attending dances, or hanging with friends. It means finding myself at Monday night basketball practices teaching disabled children how to play, or leading day long blood drives for my community. I have discovered this passion for helping others that I know I will never grow out of. I never would have thought that losing the thing that I thought I needed the most would open my life to a slew of opportunities.
We tend to think of life as beautiful and perfect, majestic and gracefully flowing where everything we do leads to something amazing, a concept very similar to the way we are supposed to present ourselves in dance. We tend to believe that if you just stick with it, continuing to put yourself through 20 hours a week of practice, you’ll look back one day and really convince yourself that it was worth it. Well, life, my life, isn’t just mint green ballet studios and mothball ridden floors. While ballet taught me discipline and so many more lessons that I will hold onto forever, it also taught me that I needed to let it go in order to find my true purpose in this life.