Imagine you could do anything in the world you wanted to and get paid for it. Anything. Remember when you were little and the world was your oyster? You could be an astronaut, or a fireman, or a movie star, and that was a fine dream to have. People didn't tell you that it wasn't realistic. You were too young to worry about life insurance and retirement accounts and saving for a down payment on a house. You weren't plagued by thoughts like "will this be too dangerous?" or "will my body give out on me?" Instead it was "cool! fireman!" I think about that sometimes. What would I do if I could do anything? If I weren't constrained by trying to actually make a living, or by finding something realistic and stable that would strike a balance between practical and interesting.
You know what? I'd be a ballerina. I started taking ballet lessons when I was three years old. I mean, when you're young it's not ballet so much as dressing up in cute outfits and following your teacher's every move. But as I got older and started moving up through the classes, I loved it. I was good at it. My small frame, paired with what has been described by many past teachers as some of the best feet they'd seen, made me a natural, at least physically. One summer only two of us signed up for classes (our age group was small to begin with) and instead of canceling the class they just gave us both a ridiculous amount of individual attention. I improved so much that summer it was unreal.
When I got to high school I became too caught up in being a member of the dance team and the whole high school experience. I didn't have time for both and so I quit ballet in favor of dressing up in sequins and shaking my thing in front of silly high school boys. Sigh. Sometimes I wish I'd chosen ballet instead. I think I could have been good if I'd stuck with it.
After I graduated from college and entered the working world, I found that all of the sudden I had a ton of free time. I started taking ballet classes again, at Ballet Austin. Chris, my beautiful, tall, lithe, and ostentatiously gay dance teacher pushed me like crazy. "You have beautiful feet but no one will see them if you don't JUMP!" Or "FLY across the floor! I want you to make it in four strides!" Often it was "WHY do your arms look so HEAVY!?" (Because arms are so heavy, seriously heavy, after you've been holding them up for seven million years). Somehow, it wasn't the same. I was older and heavier and had missed my prime. Even though I was only 22, my best dancing years were behind me. And so when I moved to Chicago, I just gave up. I'm never going to be good at this so why keep pushing myself? I could be using this time to do something else, like study. It's just depressing to keep working so hard and only improve incrementally, I thought.
Why do I give up like that? No, I'm not going to be the next Margot Fonteyn but that doesn't mean I should quit dance entirely. It doesn't mean that because I can't be the absolute best that I should be nothing at all. I have a friend who loves that quote "Perfect is the enemy of good." While I originally thought it was pretty hokey, now I kind of like it. I'm not going to be amazing, I probably won't even be the best in the class, but I will be good, and that's good enough for me.