“So the day after I turned 18, I got on a Trailways Bus and headed for the Big, Bad Apple . . .”
(Okay, actually I was 17 and actually it was an airplane . Actually, I’d never use a phrase like “big, bad apple” unless I was telling you a story about over-sized, rotten produce. I just couldn’t resist. )
Anyway, the adjustment to city life was harder than I expected but also easier, in a way. I became very involved in the Harry Potter fandom in New York and made tons of new friends from all over the country when I started working for a short-lived fandom website in my spare time. My social adjustment at college was much more difficult. I found it really hard to relate to and connect with any of my classmates. Although there were many nice, lovely people at my college I didn’t “click” with anyone. Because I’m a nerdy, anti-social, introverted former-homeschooler I kind of suck at going out and making friends, unless those friends happen to live miles away and really like Harry Potter. I became even more self-conscious when I realized how much of an outsider I was at dance classes and auditions. I’d always felt at home in a dance studio, but the scene in New York was so totally different. I attended classes and auditions but felt invisible, like I was barely seen. Thanks to my eating disorder, my metabolism was slower than ever and I gained that dreaded college weight. My weight gain made me even more self-conscious and I started drifting out of class, going to auditions less and less. I felt guilty and depressed. Even though I’d discovered friends and other interests, nothing felt right if I wasn’t dancing all the time.
In the spring, a choreographer asked me to dance in a few small showcases. I was ecstatic to be able to perform again, even in small shows. As I started taking class more and more, my body rebelled against me and I twisted my ankle before the last set of shows. I’d had ankle problems before, but never to this extent. I hobbled around for almost a month, took some floor barre and pilates classes, but wasn’t able to dance until very late in the school year. I gained more depressing weight and while I wasn’t over weight, I was about ten pounds above my ideal dancing weight and felt ugly and useless. My injury made me realize that life without dance was miserable and empty and I made plans to take a semester off from college and go back to full-time training. My parents opposed this plan, saying I could only take time off school if I got a job in the industry. I’m glad they squelched my existential-crisis driven impulses.
That summer I became determined to overcome my injury and eventually made it back to ballet and jazz classes in my hometown. A lot happened that summer–I met and became engaged to my now-husband for one–and by the end of it I had lost about 7 lbs. and felt ready to dance full-time again. My sophomore year, I overwhelmed myself taking too many credits and working too many jobs. It became impossible to get to the dance studio very often which frustrated me, but I desperately needed money. I did a few more showcases that year and started getting more and more confident at auditions. Summer saw another relapse in my training. With wedding planning and working full time at a temp job, I made it to class once or twice a week if I was lucky.
Last fall I started taking classes at a smaller, more ballet and modern-oriented studio. The atmosphere is just completely different there–more supportive, more focused, less competitive. I’ve found teachers that push me and encourage me and I feel like I’ve been reborn as a dancer. Every time I try and imagine myself doing something else with my life, it always seems like someone else’s life. Sure, I want to write but my identity isn’t intertwined with writing the same way it is with dance. Writing is a field in which I’d like to succeed, but dance if a field in which I have to succeed. The other day after a theater dance class, I had the sudden feeling that the old high school me was back. Not the insecure, anorexic girl, but the girl who knew without a doubt that she could and would succeed. I think getting a glimpse at the life I could have if I weren’t a dancer was enough to make me realize that this is all I want. I guess I had a sort of “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment only with fewer angels and Jimmy Stewarts.
Now that Graham is filling out college applications and starting to think about that phase of life, I have another dilemma. I will move with him wherever he goes to school, but I have to wonder what will happen to my dance career. Sure I’ll audition for companies and theme parks and shows and whatever else I can get, but what if I get a job offer far away from where we live? What if the town where he goes to school doesn’t have a dance studio or company or any sort of performance job at all? This is the moment. If I’m going to do this I have to do it now, jump in head first right after graduation. Even worse, what if I keep auditioning and no one gives me a job and I just fail and all those years were for nothing?
I know God will place us wherever he wants us, but it’s still nerve-wrecking. I’m putting all my eggs in this basket and I’m paranoid a big, ugly giant is going to smash the basket with his big toe. Terrible metaphor, but f’realz. Freaking out.