I admit it; I started later than most people I know. For the longest time, I didn’t think it was in my blood; you know, the way it is when you are born to do it, when everything lines up perfectly and there isn’t any other choice. It’s not that I didn’t know I wanted it, I just didn’t know I could have it – all along.
I just left the dance studio after an hour of practice and I’m heading to the Chinese foot massage place across the street. My feet feel like like they’ve climbed a jagged cliff and I can’t wait to have one of the guys there roll his knuckles along my arches to break up the tension. I’m not sure if my body would complain as much if I wasn’t dancing, but I suspect it would; no one avoids the slow and subtle consequences of getting older.
Even though the only place I want to be is at the studio, dancing, I’ve come to terms with the fact that no one is going to pay me to dance all day; not at my age. I’m never going to be an instructor on DWTS, or a back up dancer for Bey. I started much too late to make a living on my feet, but that hasn’t stopped me from being on the floor as many days as possible doing what I love for as many hours as I can give it.
As a part-time job, being a dancer works. People pay me to teach them lessons for a few hours each night. Working with these beginners provides me the money I need to pay my coach for my lessons and to go to a few dance competitions every year. I still work a full-time job and have the same bills everyone else does, but I found a way to make “doing what I love” work for me. Many people never do.
Our culture places a lot of emphasis on acquiring a life partner and career/money first along the road to the kind of life we want: as if these were prerequisites – things we needed before we get to the life we want. I watch the movies: “happily ever after” only happens after we’ve won the partner and/or the money. But what if going after these things derails us from what our soul really needs?
I know that parents feel stress when their young adults quit college to travel the country, play in a band, audition for acting jobs, or make backyard movies. They worry that the window of opportunity will close on them if they take time off to explore and pursue things other than a lover or a career.
The pressure from society and parents can cause many young adults to forgo what might really make them happy, to hang up their high school interests and get focused on that tiny window of time called “the future” where everything seems crucial. They say it’s harder to go back and get your degree later, when you’re older and have responsibility, but that’s simply not true. We don’t lose our brains because we’d rather understand more about the world, and more about our place in it.
Nothing could be more crucial than learning about who we are and what moves us to want to live, and to give, and to flourish in this life. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or what circumstances you find yourself in, THIS should take precedence over anyone or anything else. It is never too late.
Give YOURSELF the life you want.
No one else is going to give it to you. Even if you have to make baby steps in the direction of the life you imagine for yourself, make them with all of your heart. When I was a single mother with three small children, I dreamed of being a dancer. When I didn’t have a lot of money, I attended a $10 group dance class once a week. In between, I practiced as much as I could: in my kitchen, in the grocery aisles, in my dreams. It was slow going, but I didn’t give up. I wanted it with all of my heart. I had responsibilities, but I didn’t love my children less by pursuing my love of dance. Hopefully I showed them how to love themselves as much as they love others.
Granted, there have been times when I’ve asked myself, “What the hell are you doing?” Even now, in moments, being a dancer seems selfish. It always has; as if it was only there for the young, for sprites in tights, framed in the halls of home-grown studios – not for real adults with real lives. I have felt judged by my own beliefs; my thoughts of being too old and being too late; of wanting something that took up precious time and money; of whether or not “others” would approve, of thinking, “you’re never going to amount to anything as a dancer.” Even though that was never the point of it…
I simply get a lot of pleasure out of dancing, not just any dancing, but the pursuit of excellence as a ballroom dancer. I love the challenge of working with another human being to attain synchronicity and a high level of physical communication. Dealing with things like frustration and confusion with patience and grace, I am learning acceptance and surrender. Fully giving in, and letting go of fear, and allowing my heart into the dancing – those things come with time. It has been a long, slow process. One I have truly enjoyed along the way. In the past few years, I think have become a very good dancer and frankly, I just love doing it. I’m not sure that it serves the world in any real sense other than the small contribution of joy I feel honoring my soul each time I step on the floor.