Most people don’t know I did ballet for eight years. The people who do often ask, “hey, do you still dance?” I am still working on my response, which is currently an empty “no.”
There is nothing I worked harder at in my life than my dance technique. I remember acting as a robot each day – stretching, doing yoga, practicing routines, even running home after a rehearsal to videotape the choreography I learned so I wouldn’t forget in the middle of a routine. While I enjoyed dancing, I began to realize that, as with any relationship, it is very easy to fall in love, and much trickier to notice when you fall out.
I began dance because I wanted to be like Barbie in The Nutcracker: beautiful, blonde, skinny, stretchy… but the journey to Barbiedom was a painful and difficult one. Discipline was something I possessed, but breaking down my entire body in order to perform certain moves, lifting people off the ground, and hearing constant critique over the fact that I couldn’t point my feet enough or “stick my tail under” became inordinately hard to accept. The embarrassment of forgetting combinations or being unable to stay on my box in my pointe shoes was something everyone had to fight through, in a way, and it was not an enjoyable battle. At the time I felt like I was achieving little successes and winning the fight against the physically improbable – the shoes, the body, the perfect bun. However, near the end of my journey, I began to doubt if the struggle to be perfect was really something worth engaging in.
When someone you love makes you stare in the mirror each day, wishing for constant improvement, or tells you that you are going to have to work for their attention, you would probably recognize that the person you fell for is not your perfect match. Sometimes, the pointe shoe does not always fit.
So, I stopped doing ballet. Perfectionism was something I worried about for years. Impressing people and performing with grace and power can make you stronger, think faster, and be better… but after a while, you have to realize the journey has a destination, and at that destination, you must realize you have come as far as you wanted to.
Giving up on something you love, or even just taking a break, can be healthy; it can even help you better understand what your goals are with what you love, and if they are worth continuing to reach toward. In the words of our hypeorlando prompt this week, giving up and moving forward can be the “road not taken.” The gravel path to personal achievement and pride, one that hosts only kind words and empowering memories, is the road less traveled by, but should always be taken with a satisfied strut.