Sunday, January 25, 2009

letting go of dance obsession

Tears streamed down my face as I walked out of the room toward my mom, embarrassed, unhappy, and disgruntled. I was almost fourteen years old and hated myself for crying in front of all the girls I had just met. I guess I hated myself for crying, period. My perfectionistic wish to do everything right had really kicked in on that first day of ballet. I did not try to cry, but the tears came. I was frustrated by the fact that my body wasn’t moving the way it was supposed to and by the fact that everyone else knew what they were doing, while I no clue about a single step.

Even though the only reason I was taking ballet was to move up in jazz, during the next semester I constantly annoyed my sister with questions about ballet and was frequently frustrated. I had no idea it was going to be so complex! I could tell ballet was not easy for me at all. By the time I moved up to my first 90 minute long ballet class in the middle of ninth grade, I was starting to realize my love for the art. I loved how I could feel my muscles growing as I relevéd again and again at the barre and how my adrenaline soured as I spun, slid, jumped, and leaped across the floor. Christian music flowed through my veins as I lifted my whole body into praise for the Lord. Even though dancing brought so much joy, I understood perfectly well how far behind I was from everyone else who started when they were tiny, including my sister who is four years younger than me. I made it my goal to practice as much as I could in order to catch up to all the girls my age and pass up my younger sister.

The more I practiced the better it made me feel. Working hard at school and other things had never made me feel as good as improving at this most challenging endeavor. As I started to try summer dance camps, including the seven hours of dancing a day experience at International Music Camp, I realized dancing all day made me the happiest girl on the planet. I started making lists of little goals for every day such as jumping higher, turning out more, improving my arms, etc. All of this dancing only brought one downside: it ripped me away from enjoying anything else in life. The desire to dance completely plagued my brain day in and day out, making me unable to enjoy any time spent away from what I wished to accomplish (dancing and homework). I was unwilling to spend any time helping my family with chores, watching movies with them, eating supper with them, talking to them, etc. without unhappily wanting to dance at the same time. I constantly worried about my parents or sisters getting angry at me for dancing through the kitchen, and I constantly tried to plan out every little minute of the day in my head and became frustrated as my plans never worked out. Most days out of the week my little sleep and large amount of exercise made me feel energized and happy. However, at least one day a week I would be miserably low from tiredness and would breakdown extremely easily. My parents began to worry about my weight and other health aspects and constantly tried to limit my amount of dancing. Their concern made me even more determined to work as hard and long as it could.

What started out as a few innocent hours of dancing, eventually turned into a full-fledged intense six hour a day workout a few years later. This all seemed fine until about the beginning of senior year, when I began to feel tired and weak all the time. I was miserable as I walked around, unable to dance and feeling sad and angry much of the time. I would try day after day to eat a ton of food and to rest so that I could dance, but no energy would ever come. Finally one day I realized I needed to put praying and helping my family first and then God would bless me with the ability to dance for as long as He wanted. I now have learned to pray and to help with chores first and to trust in God with my dancing. I have more energy than I have for a long long time and am dancing at my best ever. This is by only going to dance classes for 1-3 hours during four days of the week. I now use my life to explore all my talents: photography, school, helping others, loving God, and dance. I choose not to go overboard with any of them, but to find balance in my life. I teach dance now and have come to realize that resting is more important than practicing in terms of performance. I know that I should stop practicing, as I usually have classes to assist the next day.

Each day is still a struggle, as I long to feel that adrenaline rush and as I long to feel like I am improving every day. When I feel sad, busy, or tired I turn to God and pray that He will help me dance. I am learning to trust in God and not in my practicing. As long as I am making a difference in the world by helping out my parents, sharing my faith, making people smile with my photography, and teaching little girls to worship God through dance, I know my day has been worthwhile.

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