What are you passionate about
What are you passionate about? Makes you think, doesn’t it? I knew exactly what I wanted to do at a very young age. I wanted to dance. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. It was very clear, never a doubt or question in my mind.
Why?…because I was able to escape when I was dancing. On the outside it certainly didn’t seem I needed to flee from anything, but as I recall I was escaping myself. I was a very shy, insecure child. I could become someone else while I was dancing, someone confident and assured and beautiful. There was nothing else I wanted to do.
But, there were definitely some set-backs. One stands out more prominently than the rest. When I was about 11 or 12 I was at a ballet camp one summer in Champlain Illinois and I auditioned for a scholarship for their full time school (sort of like a performing arts school, but strictly for ballet dancers). After the audition I was presented with a partial scholarship. My mother was very displeased. She promptly marched up to the Artistic Director and asked why not a full scholarship as she was clearly the best dancer in the room (an unbiased opinion, I’m sure)? He excused himself for a few minutes and upon his return he handed her a letter with the answer to her question. It said in a nutshell that I would never make it as a ballet dancer because my hips were too big and my neck was too short. That I would never make any audition passed the body type cut, meaning that I did not have the perfect ballet dancer’s body. My parents, after much anguish, decided that I should see said letter. At the time we were driving back to Ohio and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. My dream was being shattered right before my eyes. I wept the whole ride home and for the next few days.
Ultimately what that letter did was made me even more adamant in my pursuit of becoming the next Gelsey Kirkland. So, I picked myself up and went back to class determined to prove him wrong! And did I?…No, but it certainly didn’t stop me from trying! I danced with the Cleveland Ballet all through High School, but I wasn’t satisfied. My dream was to dance with one of the major New York City Ballet companies and I wasn’t going to stop until I did, or so I thought.
I graduated High School early and in April of the year I turned 17 I asked my parents if I could move to New York City to pursue a career in Ballet. They were not thrilled, but were 100% supportive. They agreed it was something I had to do and off I went. And, oh yeah, did I mention they had a backup plan? If I hadn’t started supporting myself in 6 months they were dragging me back home and sending me off to college.
So, this brings up a good point. Is it the parent’s job to prepare us for failure, or do they let their children fly on their own and allow them to have their own experiences? After all everybody has a different path. How could parents possibly predict with any accuracy how things will turn out for someone else.
I truly believe my parents did the right thing, one by letting me read that letter and two not telling me their backup plan. I think that might’ve put doubt in my otherwise foolproof plan of getting off the plane in New York City and immediately being discovered by Balanchine! So, off to New York City I went and never looked back. When we landed I hit the ground running. I surrounded myself with creative people who all wanted what I wanted. My days were spent in class honing my craft to within an inch of its life. My mother used to say to me, ‘If you’re not the best in class what’s the point”. I took those words to heart. I was at the top of my “game”.
So, as I mentioned before that Artistic Director just happened to be right, but when that door closed many more opened! I had to expand my “game” to suit the jobs I was being offered. I was asked to do things I’d never done before and never knew I wanted until the challenge presented itself.
Never tell me that I can’t do something as I will do everything in my power to do exactly that. I spent my days studying each and every new art form being asked of me so that when I went into an audition I was as confident as I could possibly be. Don’t get me wrong I had many flaws, but I worked diligently to improve and or conceal them!
My creative desire was exploding and I was being offered opportunities I never dreamed possible. My passion had changed course, but it was more than I could’ve ever dreamed of!
The morale of that story is, if there’s something you want to do by all means go out and do it, don’t wait. After all what are you waiting for? Take chances. No fear! My theory is that fear is something that other people have convinced you of. It’s their unsure, insecure feelings that they project on to you.
Wipe the slate clean and take one baby step at a time, just like we did when we were kids, and face that fear head on. Don’t be afraid to look inside yourself and find what you really want in life. If it seems the real you is buried a bit too deep try thinking about what you used to play when you were a kid. What you used to fantasize about back when we could be whatever we wanted to be. Before we knew what rejection and failure was. Before we let other people’s opinions distort our own view of ourselves. Trust your instinct.
A while back I read a book about an Indian tribe who when raising their children never hovered. They stayed back and observed. They only involved themselves when they were needed. The idea is to allow the child to listen to its own instincts. If the parent is always telling the child what to watch out for and when, then the child stops listening and trusting his own natural instinct.
Fast forward to the present…it actually does feel like it all happened in fast motion…but I now find myself without all of that ‘passion’ and excitement in my life. I’m comfortable and have a beautiful family that I adore. I am thoroughly enjoying experiencing life through my son’s eyes.
So I go back to the original question, what am I passionate about? Do I have to be head over heels about something in order to be fulfilled? My passion isn’t as overwhelming as it was when I was young, but I know it’s still there. Or maybe it’s possible my ‘passion’ isn’t all about me anymore. Maybe I’m looking outside myself instead of embracing what I already have. What comes to mind is my Meisner acting technique and the one phrase that was repeated over and over again in class, “Be in the moment”, four simple words, but oh so hard to accomplish.