** the search***
What I lost during university was clarity. Clarity left when I couldn’t trust my own thoughts and desires. Slowly, life in general become smaller and narrower, and the excitement I once felt for living faded. I think it’s because when I started university, I already had something else in mind, and that distant life was so real.
I remember talking to my parents about how I wanted to benefit from free education and stay in high school for another year after my graduation. There was so much I wanted to learn. They were thinking about my future and felt that staying another year would put me behind. I talked to them about moving to Toronto and learning how to dance. They asked – sarcastically – if I wanted to be a stripper or scrub toilets for the rest of my life.
As an 18-year-old, it was difficult to not know where to go for help and support. I was trying to gain the approval of my parents while at the same time, trying to stay true to my ideals and muster up enough courage to value and honor that vision. They said I could pursue dance, but they wouldn’t support me. It was difficult to hear and to receive their doubt and their lack of confidence, but their doubts were logical. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about what life as a dancer would be like. All I knew was that I had a strong desire to dance. It was almost consuming and it still is. I wasn’t dancing with a studio or taking classes before university – not because I didn’t want to, but because of accessibility issues: the bus fees, the time to take the bus, the money that I didn’t have. I’m still finding my place.
** the growth***
A huge part of this process has been learning when not to listen to other people. Being too understanding and sympathetic of other people’s views was a detriment to finding my own voice and confidence in my own views. People don’t have to believe in me. I don’t have to believe in me. I just have to be continually attentive and responsive to what’s moving and unfolding within me. It’s not for me to say whether it’s important or not, or whether it’s more important or less important than another person’s expression. My only task is to keep the portal open.
It’s becoming increasingly more real that I can build whatever life I want for myself, even if it takes a few years. Especially if I view my life in its completion, as the whole of my life, starting from the end, it’s easier to recognize that I have time and I have resources. So long as I can identity what I need to do, it may take a few tries and a lot of time, but it’s all possible. There is a place for me.
When I came back from traveling in April, I gave myself until July to become fluent in French. A friend of mine reminded me I have been trying to learn French for years, and this time needed to be different to have a different result. Since that chat in early April, I’ve been trying to focus on as few things as possible as to give myself a fair chance at accomplishing my goals. It’s been one month and I’m much more comfortable conversing in French than I use to be. Becoming fluent in a month is a stretch, but it’s still amazing to see an end and a fulfillment to something I didn’t think would happen so soon.
Similarly, as I’m allowing myself to invest into dance, seeing my technique improving and my body changing, it’s becoming increasingly more and more real that my ideals could become reality, though there’s still a huge distance that I need to travel.
If I could identify one thing that has helped to get me closer to these once-distant goals, it’s imagining myself in the future, having already achieved what I wanted, then thinking backward about what type of work was required and what needed to happen in between now and the future.
** the healing***
I feel so close to myself when I dance. An entirely new world reveals itself, with its new ways to connect, feel, and understand. It’s scary to put this into writing and open it up to people who may not care or value my pursuit – gentleness is so difficult to find these days – but I feel like it’s something I need to try. I find immense value in understanding the world through my body and through movement. Descartes says “I think, therefore I am”, but I think now, as times change, we need to learn how to be open and present with each other, first and foremost. Our way of living – the overwhelming sense of connectedness, of globalization, of mass information – has the potential to detached us from what’s happening around us and the consequences of our lifestyles. Now, perhaps “I feel, therefore I am” is more fitting. I take up space (and I influence the space around me), therefore I am.
I sometimes fear that I’ll regret spending so much time, money, and energy on something that society doesn’t value, and something that’s deemed less valuable than other, more ‘serious’ pursuits. But I think learning to feel – along with the awareness, discipline and gentleness it requires – is so natural for humans yet so foreign from my own experiences when interacting with people. In our age of technological advancements and anti-oppressive movements, we continue to struggle to communicate clearly and respectfully to each other, and not just with those who are different from us. We’re all in the same mess and maybe adding a bit of humanity back into the mix can do some good.
Choosing something like dance causes me to question a lot about the ideals of success in society. I learn so much about how to connect to people and how to connect to myself (but maybe only because I’m looking for answers and connection). Dance is my current way of easing the sense of separation in the world by easing the sense of separation within myself. I’m giving myself permission and space to grow, and that will make it easier for me to offer the same kindness to someone else. I’m sacrificing the need to be known by others for the need to be understood by myself, which I view as more basic and fundamental to my well-being (though the two are by no means mutually exclusive).
My pain and my hopes are mixed together. I really hope that I’ll find people with whom I can exchange life with and who can honour and support me on this path. I can see a lot of healing in the future, and I know that whatever I gain will be one of the few things that truly belongs to me.