Tuesday on instagram, I posted this picture
It had a caption about to picture far right being from when I was in the thick of what that day represented. The top left was from when I had been eating again for two years. I remember seeing the picture and having to fight panic because it was clear how much weight I had gained. I didn’t like it. The bottom left is from Tuesday, when I’m 20lbs heavier than top left, but also so much healthier (by normal standards.) I actually have muscle mass and energy and am living life way more fully than ever before.
Tuesday marked the 10 year mark from when I turned to my friend and said, “This is dumb” and decided to start eating again. I thought it was casual. She cried. She knew what a big decision this was even if I didn’t.
That feels impossible.
Yesterday, I was in a sort of funk all throughout work. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through my typical array of Wednesday classes, let alone really “be there” enough to teach my babies. I hoped that being with them would help me with whatever this was.
Thankfully, about the last hour of work, it started to shift. The brain fog started to lighten. It was still there, but now getting through the rest of the day seemed feasible by far.
I walk into my class and see one of my assistants sitting with one of the dancers who was pressed up against the wall, knees to her chest, bawling. I stopped in my tracks and sat next to her and asked her what was wrong, but she couldn’t seem to find words. I asked if she wanted to stay, and she nodded her head yes. Her mom came in and asked her the same thing, in a gentle, motherly way. Spanish is her first language, so they communicated that way. I asked if everything was okay and her mom said, “I don’t speak English good.” and I said, “That’s okay, do what you can.” and she said,
“She thinks she’s too big to do ballet.”
I looked at her and said, “No. Don’t you even believe that for a second.” I told her how she deserves to be here just as much as anyone else. That she is extremely talented and is one of my hardest workers and it shows. I asked her if she liked ballet. She nodded. Then I told her that’s all that mattered. Her mom gave her a hug and a kiss, she dried her eyes, and we joined in on the game my assistants so ingeniously had the other kids playing while we were working this out. (Bless my assistants.)
I’m so glad she decided to stay.
Halfway through class, we were running recital. Before we ran it one last time, she comes up to me and says she doesn’t want to do it. I asked her if it was still hard, and she nodded. I said, “Do you wanna know a secret?” she nodded. I said,
“I’m the biggest kid in my class too.”
She looked at me.
I said, “Do you think I’m a good dancer?” She nodded. I said, “Well I think you’re a good dancer. And all that matters is what’s in here.” and I pointed to her heart. I said, “If you love to dance, then you should dance. Size doesn’t matter.”
We ran the recital one last time, then we took the last bit of class to have fun. My hope was that we would reinforce why we love to dance so much and to feel comfortable being there.
Sometimes when the girls are being catty, I’ll have them go through the line and say what they like about each other.
This time, I had them have two turns. The first, I had them go through and say what they liked about my assistants.
The second time, I had them go through and say what they liked about my student.
And wouldn’t you know, they were far more descriptive and specific when it came to saying what they liked about their peer.
“I like that you’re honest and a good listener.”
“I like the way you dance.”
“I like your glasses, and the way you point your toes.”
“I like that you’re a hard worker and a beautiful dancer.”
My assistants chimed in as well, which was wonderful, telling the student that she was a beautiful dancer and a valued member of our class.
Driving home, I couldn’t help but realize the irony of the timing. The day after my 10 year mark.
When I was eleven, I was told I was too fat to dance, so I dropped out. And it haunted me. I finally took the plunge to start back up again at twenty-three and never looked back. I wanted it more than I was afraid of it.
And here I had a six-year-old, already facing these complex emotions about something out of her control that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. She’s a healthy girl, living an active lifestyle. Everything else comes out in the wash.
I realized the unique position I found myself in. To be able to use myself as an example, not just have to try and scrounge for someone I could point to and say, “they did it, so can you.” I’d be lying if I said I never felt a fear of rejection in being a dance teacher. My brain tells me that parents judge me for my size, or think I’m lesser because I “don’t look the part.” I think it’s why I’m harder on myself when my health holds me back. I already feel like I have so much to prove. But my sweet girl reminded me what this is really all about. Finding fulfillment doing what we love, no matter what the world tries to tell us.
For that, I am eternally grateful.
Started ballet late October of 2011 at the age of 23.
Began pointe training late August of 2013.