It’s been six months since four major, sweeping life changes happened to me in a matter of weeks. In many ways, I’m still reeling.
The first was getting engaged, which is, of course, wonderful. We’re diligently planning our wedding, and the planning, of course, comes with its necessary dramas, but overall it’s going extremely well.
The other three life changes have left me grappling with my sense of self and identity, with my plans for who I want to be as I continue this journey through the endlessly confusing maze of young adulthood. I got a new job selling welding equipment, I began my traumatic experience with alopecia, and I stopped dancing.
The alopecia, as I mentioned in my last post, has been extremely difficult for me. For the time being, there is now hair on all 22 of the bald spots that I got. It’s about an inch long on most of it, and getting thicker every day. I have now made two intrepid journeys into public without a headband on and no one seems to have noticed. I feel better about myself, but not in a happy kind of way. Just in an “I have noticed that I’m sad somewhat less often” kind of way.
My new job has been hard on my sense of self, too. I have no background in welding and no desire to sell welding equipment. But I happened on the job on accident, and it paid better than the job I had that I hated, so I took it. But I feel like a huge sellout, and I’m spending 40 hours a week selling equipment I know nothing about in an office with no windows, all on a computer system that quite literally hasn’t been updated since the 70s. It makes me feel like I’m living in an anachronism, and in someone else’s life. But that’s not what makes this job unbearable to me.
What makes this job unbearable to me is that I don’t dance with any kind of regularity anymore. The only dancing I have done in six months was in my kitchen, and a performance last weekend of a solo I choreographed about my alopecia. But I’ll get to that in a second.
My life is dull and bleak without dance. I cannot find the joy in it. I think about dancing and I feel at the same time completely overwhelmed by how much I miss it, and completely hopeless about my future dancing, and more determined than I have ever felt about anything to get back on the horse and make the rest of my dancing career something to be truly proud of. I am in the works to set up teaching a class with a friend of mine, and after the wedding I am going to start my own company. But for now, I have no one to dance for. It’s not quite audition season, and I tried for months to go to class, and it was cancelled every time I went.
And I miss it. I miss dancing more than I missed my hair at its baldest. I miss dancing with the same fierceness that I missed Gent during the worst moments of our five years of long distance. In fact, right now I feel like I am in a long distance relationship with dance. I love it, and I miss it, and it misses me, but we just can’t seem to get together in the same place at the same time.
This whole time, since my hair has been falling out and I fell into such a deep depression that I couldn’t bear to see my hideous self in a dance studio, I have been wondering “Why me!?” I’m not really one to believe that all bad things are a part some kind of preordained, orchestrated plan. But somehow I imagined all of those lost hairs weaving themselves into some kind of new future for me, if I could just figure out where they were taking me. They were taking me to this realization: I love dance with the fieriest passion I have ever loved anything. My life is not the same without it, and I never want to be without it again. Dance brings a beauty to my life that can’t be replaced by anything, and can make even the saddest day job into something that has meaning, something that helps to create a life I love making art that I love and moving in my body and expressing with it in its own human way.
I had always wondered, somewhere in the back of my mind, if I really loved dance, or if I was just so used to having it around that I kept doing it out of habit. This is the longest I have ever gone in my entire life without dancing. And I’m entertaining terrible thoughts about whether I have already achieved the most that I will in my career. But I have also noticed that I have been complacent the past few years, riding on technique that has been so drilled into me that I forgot I had to keep training my muscles to be stronger and leaner every day, to build my body into that shining silver. I have let my muscles tarnish. But I don’t want to do that anymore.
When Gent and I were long distance, people always used to say to us “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I don’t believe it. Absence does not create or grow love. But absence can be a magnifying glass, showing us with a clarity we never knew possible how much love we have.
I am ready to end my long distance relationship with dance. My performance last weekend brought it all back. I showed myself to the audience, bald spots and all. It was the scariest performance I have ever done, baring my biggest insecurities to an audience of strangers. But they loved it, and they were moved by the honesty of my dance. And now I’m determined. I am going to be a better dancer than I ever knew I could be. Because I never again want to be without the dance, the passion that kindles the blooming flame in my soul.