Why do you dance?

There’s this ongoing inner “struggle” of sorts over the gap between my skill level and my age.

For the most part, everything is okay.
But there are times when I just wish that I was better. That I had began earlier. That I could have been dancing all these years instead of just the past 3.5ish.
It can get overwhelming. Sometimes it feels pointless. Not that dancing for me isn’t good, but that I don’t add anything to the company. That I’m just the awkward adult that thankfully looks like she’s in high school so it’s not too weird putting her with younger kids.

It’s disheartening to have these dreams of progressing through the years, just to have my body mess up because I’m older, or to realize that things could happen and I don’t know how long I’ll dance.
What if I get married and can’t? What if I have a kid? What if I move? What if I break something? What if I throw out my back and mess it up for good?
Sure, all these things could happen and I could still be able to dance. But bad things seem to happen to me often, so my mind tends to try and prepare itself for the worst. Disappointment is rough.

Reality is that I may not get to dance long enough to improve enough to do everything I dream of doing, but that doesn’t mean I should just give up or not give it my all.

And maybe that’s the difference.
I’m not burned out on dancing. I’m not doing it because someone is making me. I don’t have a million opportunities of things I would like to try or whatever like most school kids do. I’m not still trying to figure out what I like and what I don’t and what might be nice or what I may or may not be good at.
I’m an adult, and I’ve mostly figured out what I enjoy and why and have pursued these things.
I’m dancing because I want to be here.
I also realize that everything could change tomorrow.
Just this weekend at rehearsals I found out a friend of mine who is a teen was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer.
Nothing is guaranteed.

I’ve journaled a lot over the years, and one thing that does for me is help me remember how people made me feel when certain things happened, or what I wish would have happened.
New school? I remember feeling beyond nervous, wishing someone would be kind and show me around. So when there was a new kid, what did I do?
Starting ballet for the first time? I remember shaking and feeling so insecure about where I was compared to the others. I remember no one talking to me and questioning why I was there. I also remember the girl in class who was the best coming to help me when I stood frozen in a corner.
What did I do when there was a new person after me? Introduced myself, learned their name, encouraged them after class. People would later ask me if I knew them before they came in. I didn’t, but I was them once.

Now I find myself in a unique position.
I am a twenty-six-year-old girl who made it through the horrors of high school, the nerves of college, the difficulties of family, the complications of roommates, etc.
I remember being 12-15 and being nervous and wondering if people liked me or if I was annoying. I remember seeing the twenty-somethings and wishing I was important enough for them to say hi to me. I remember being afraid to risk things because of what people would think. And now I see that what goes on in our heads mostly never happens. More than likely, people aren’t thinking you’re annoying, they aren’t hating you, they don’t think you’re unimportant, they won’t think less of you for taking a risk.
I remember being 6-11 and thinking the older girls were the coolest things in the world. I remember watching what they do and wanting to do that, to be that. I remember feeling so cool if they put their arm around me, or called me by name, or hugged me, or waved, or smiled at me, or countless other things. I remember seeing what they did and trying to imitate it.
I remember being in high school. I remember being too sad to function. I remember zoning out in AP US History because I couldn’t even find the energy to pay attention with all the darkness clouding my mind. I remember tearing up, drawing in my binder to try and keep the tears from falling. I remember dreading school, dreading tests, dreading report cards. I remember knowing I could do better but not being able to figure out how to be better because I was so depressed and no one would accept that because they were so used to me being happy.
I remember.

And here I am, surrounded by these kids.
Taking classes with them. Being cast along side them.
I’m not the twenty-six-year-old teacher, I’m the twenty-six-year-old-who-looks-fifteen classmate.
I’m not the one to be feared, I’m just another one of them.

I have a very unique position, but it’s my choice whether I take it or not.
I don’t have to say hi to them. I don’t have to ask them how school is going, or if there dog is feeling better, or how their math test went, or when the drill team auditions are, or any number of other things going on in their life.
I don’t have to tell them their arabesque is looking really good, or that their leotard looks nice on them, or that they completely nail their solo, or that they are a joy to watch during their part, or that they have a great bun that day, or countless other things.
I don’t have to.
But I do.

Because not to long ago, I was nervous. Not too long ago, I didn’t think I was good enough. Not too long ago, I thought everyone judged me by how my leotard fit. Not too long ago, I thought I was falling through the cracks, nothing important, what am I even doing here? Not to long ago I would have given anything for someone to say something encouraging to me, and if they ever did, I cherished it.

So although it was a little difficult to be cast as the cover for the Crows role next to all these kids younger than me, it was only difficult for half a second. Moreso, I was thrilled to be considered good enough to have that responsibility. (case and point: one of the covers has to do their role for at least one show. Good thing she’s a hard worker!) And even though chances are I won’t dance the part, there was a point when that wasn’t certain, and Julie knew that if she needed me, she could throw me in and it would be okay. (She even said this, about me and the girl who gets to dance the role one of the shows, in front of everyone.)
I dance it, full out. I enjoy the moment, even if it won’t matter. Because I’m having so much fun in this opportunity I didn’t think I would even get and want to show them that they weren’t wrong to trust me to cover the role.

Then this happens:

I was torn between, “What a nice thing for my friend to say!” and completely fangirling. 
My friend happens to also be the best dancer in the company. We are new friends, so I only really see her at rehearsals, but friends nonetheless. For her to say that how I danced made her want to be the role…I really can’t think of a higher compliment.
It washed all my concerns away.
I am capable.
I am worth being here.
My efforts aren’t pointless.
I’m not sucking as much as I thought.
I may never be a principal dancer, but that doesn’t mean that my dancing is for nothing.
You don’t have to be a principal dancer to inspire. 
This is why I like being in my level, even though it’s not my age.
Because I can say something like this to the younger dancers. 
I may never be a principal, but they could be. And if it takes a few nice words to help them get there, I’m going to hold nothing back.


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