Recently I found myself at a crossroads. I’ve been a dancer pretty much my whole life and pursued a professional career in dance for about 13 of my adult living years. I worked really hard at trying to be the best. I was obsessed with dance. I turned down weekends with friends, even family holidays, because dance class was far more important. I was dedicated. My whole life revolved around dance. I allowed myself to be misused and underpaid so many times I lost count, but all I wanted was to dance. It obviously wasn’t all bad, dance introduced me to some of the most inspiring people and projects I know. I’ve danced for presidents and celebrities and seeing the audience mesmerized by movement was honestly always good enough to keep me dancing. As with any creative career, some months were better than others, but it didn’t change the fact that I wanted to keep dancing. But, something was missing.
It’s like I was in a relationship with dance, but dance was that asshole partner who cheated, who went out and came home two days later. Who forgot anniversaries and never made you feel loved. Dance became a toxic relationship and I had no idea why. I would perform, but always left feeling more broken than whole. I gave my everything, with no satisfaction. I was bored. I watched myself dance and all I could see was a technically good, yet terribly bored dancer. It made no sense, because how could something I loved so deeply make me feel so empty.
I started to think about it. Are some dreams better left in our hearts? Since childhood, especially if you grew up in the “self-help era” you were bombarded with ideology that you should always pursue your dreams. Disney makes a lot of money communicating to young children that they can achieve anything – if they just believe. That alone is hocus pocus bullshit aimed at indoctrinating you to not only think you are entitled to your 15 minutes, but that you don’t have to work too hard for it either. You just need some luck. It sells as a utopian fantasy- if you follow your dreams, you will finally be happy.
But what if you do follow your dreams and your find yourself deeply unhappy. What if all the hard work did not pay off? What if what you though was the pursuit of happiness was in fact just an empty pipe dream? Not pursuing a dream is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it’s the best thing you’ve ever done. Maybe you forgot just how amazing and talented you are, instead of settling for something that might bring happiness sporadically, but will never truly fulfill you. Maybe it’s just the idea of the dream that fulfills you and maybe it’s not what you really want after all.
We have this delusional concept stuck in our minds that our dreams will solve all our problems. When in fact, we're the only players in this game who can solve anything. Your circumstances might change, but it doesn’t mean anything else will. Deal with your problems here in reality than imagine its non-existence in some fantasy world. Get yourself towards yourself. Mindfulness is the biggest gift you can give yourself. Live now. Be immersed in the process rather than imagining an error-free future.
Does this mean I should stop dancing? I don’t know. But I think the real question I have to ask myself is; do I want to continue feeling the way I do every time I walk off the stage? No. Dance is everything I know about myself. But I have changed and I’m not the person I was when my professional dance career started. There will always be a dancer inside me looking for a place to dirty her feet. So, as I tiptoe my way off the stage to see things from another angle, I know one thing is true; dancers are hard workers with impeccable loyalty towards their craft, and if that’s the catch to being happy in any aspect of life, then I think I’ll be ok.