It was recently the birthday of a friend of mine I met when I first began dancing. I text her birthday wishes after going through my TimeHop app and seeing all the many birthday greetings throughout the 7 years (woah) that I’ve known her.
I told her I was glad she was born, she replied with, “…I’m glad you were born too, and that we both took ballet.”
That got me thinking.
About life and the last 7.5 (how) years since I threw caution to the wind and took that first ballet class. About how many people I met through dance that are still in my life. How many are among my dearest friends. About opportunities I’ve had in my personal life that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
So. Many. Things.
When I made the decision to take that first class, I wasn’t merely beginning ballet classes. I was unknowingly setting myself up to be on the greatest life path I could have asked for, surrounded by some of the most incredible people.
I was giving myself the basis I needed to be able to compare the progression of my illness day-to-day.
I was making connections I never would have pursued otherwise.
When I think of my inner circle of friends, all but maybe 4 of them are from dance. Especially now that my illnesses are progressing, the kindness of my dance friends has been astronomical, filling voids I didn’t know I even had. Even being an ambassador for LIVE wouldn’t be a thing if it weren’t for my dance friends. And that is currently pretty detrimental in my life course right now. (More on that later.)
I’ve learned more about myself in the last 7.5 years than I ever thought possible.
My life may be unconventional, but it’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world.
And the students.
The students I’ve gotten to meet and teach have changed my life in was I never imagined.
A friend of mine made a comment (hey, Emily) that even if I’m having the worst day imaginable going in to the studio to teach–you know, those days when it’s so bad that it’s written all over my face–I always leave looking like someone breathed fresh life into me. These kids give me life. They put air back in my lungs and blood in my veins. They remind me why I’m here. They inspire me.
One of my kids in my first class today was celebrating her ninth birthday. She was apologizing to me for having to leave early last class because of her head hurting (precious little nugget, apologizing for being sick) and how she had been crying before class, but she couldn’t remember why. She didn’t think it was because of her mom, but whatever the reason she had been crying, which made her stomach hurt, so she thought the headache was from that. Turns out she ended up getting really sick, fever and all.
And it made me realize something I can forget when I get wrapped up in the selfishness of my own world. These kids are living their own lives, they’re facing their own struggles. There are things that make them feel happy or sad, and sometimes they can happen right before class. Sometimes they make them feel things deeply, and sometimes they don’t always show when it’s bothering them. As this little one told me of her health issues from that weekend in a way most nine year olds wouldn’t know (she’s had more than her share of illnesses) I realized the depth these kids souls are capable of having. I realized the power of influence we as teachers truly hold, and how it’s up to us to use it to leave them feeling better or worse.
When one of my kids in my last class was exceptionally quiet, sitting a little closer to me than usual at the beginning circle, I held her four-year-old hand as the other kids went around the circle sharing about their Easter holiday, hoping that she would associate that place with safety, that something so simple would help soothe whatever in her little heart was battling to surface.
These kids mean the world to me. I love them more than I have words to express. I didn’t get to where I am alone. I got here due to the people I’ve met since I’ve danced. I got here from the people in my life who’ve believed in me. People who’ve held my hand as I struggled to simply remain. People who have set the example for me to follow of how to love simply and love well. I stay here because of the assistants in my class who help me avoid things that make my body hurt worse than normal.
We’re in this together.
And I am so grateful.
(Here’s some pictures of Annabelle and I. Happy birthday (week) friend, I’m glad to know you.)