Becoming That Girl

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Me  as Clara in The Nutcracker, 2009

Ah, New Years. Time for countdowns, booze, Mom’s birthday, and reflecting on how fast time has gone by. Although I might write a post about resolutions, all the good intentions I will ultimately scrap, I’d rather write about what happens when you actually manage to achieve your goals. Not just the little ones, but the big goals. When you become the person you once looked up to, maybe even idolized. What happens when you become the girl you always wanted to be? Let’s go back to my ballet days to find out.

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Nutcracker 2001 (or so)

I started dancing at the Ballet Academy of Texas when I moved to Texas in 2001. As one of the youngest in the studio, six years old, there was nowhere to look but up. And what did I see? Pretty, talented, cool girls. The girls in the performing company, The Ballet Ensemble of Texas (BET, or just Ensemble). They walked around with slouchy leg-warmers pulled over their feet to keep the floor’s wax off their pointe shoes. They ate their lunches together in a big circle at the studio because they had rehearsal after everyone else left. They laughed a lot. They had flawless headshots hanging on the wall and in the performance programs, which I saved religiously. Some of them, the ones who danced the lead roles, got their names typed in all caps, and even a short biography on a separate page.

These things may sound silly on their own, but they all added up to the kind of girl I wanted to be. Eventually, I reached the minimum age to audition for the Ensemble: a tender 12 years old, which was lowered from the previous minimum (13) the year I auditioned. Suddenly, I was in. It was one of my first dreams to come true, and I say that with absolutely no exaggeration.

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Who’s the one signing autographs, now?

Of course it would take a few years for me to become exactly the girl I had idolized. I was hardly even a teenager when I began the life that would dominate my high school years; I was lucky to snag a minor background role. After a while, though, it happened. I stepped into the shoes I’d always wanted to wear, both figuratively and literally. I wore down a few pairs of leg-warmers from wearing them over my pointe shoes. I spent every Saturday, and many school breaks, rehearsing for hours and hours. I danced the lead in The Nutcracker, Clara, and my favorite role, the Snow Queen. I got my bio printed in the program numerous times.

Yet life didn’t become peachy all of a sudden, as I subconsciously imagined it would. I knew nothing of the sacrifices those girls I looked up to so much made. I didn’t know that I would barely be involved in my high school, or that I’d hardly ever see my siblings, let alone spend time with them. I didn’t know about the injuries I’d suffer from pushing my body to the limit, then further. I didn’t know how much drama there would be over who got which parts. I certainly didn’t know how many times I’d cry in rehearsal because I was exhausted, or in pain, or simply because I wasn’t perfect.

481561_10151298767354777_231957070_nIf I could do those years over again, I wouldn’t change anything. I wanted to be that Ensemble girl, and to become the person I am today, I needed to become that girl. I relished my time in the Ensemble (six years!) and constantly tried to be a role model for the younger girls. That, I think, is one of the most important things I learned from having my Ensemble dream come true. Though I’m no longer a ballerina surrounded by aspiring tiny dancers, I still try to be someone who inspires others to accomplish their goals.

Since then, I’ve become the kind of girl I wanted to be a few more times. I’ve become the girl who’s going to an Ivy League school, the girl who’s an editor for the school newspaper, the girl who weighs X pounds, the girl who got an awesome summer internship in New York City, the girl who’s spending a year at Oxford. But every step of the way, without fail, my life has not become the picture-perfect ideal I’d unwittingly created.

I love Cornell, but as picturesque as it is, it’s not a walk in the park. “The bubble” can be stifling, the classes can be intense, the weather can get you down. (Though the occasional sunny days are the ones that depress me.)

Being the Blogs Editor entailed frequently questioning my editorial capability/authority and trying to impose order on a largely unorganized section.

I hit my goal weight about a month into the summer and although I looked the best I’d looked in years, I was miserable for other reasons. All I wanted to do was lay on our air mattress couch and wait for the mysterious ache in my chest to go away. (Don’t worry–I got heavier and a whole lot happier.)

During my internship, I spent many hours doing small tasks or nothing at all, wondering whether I should be trying to do more, trying to network more.

Life in Oxford, just like life at Cornell, is filled with anxiety that any paper might reveal that I am actually an idiot who does not have original, deep, or scholarly thoughts.

And the worst part? Every time I achieve one of these big goals, I enjoy it for about a day. Then there’s something else. There’s always something else. The best example I can think of? When I got into Oxford, I was so excited. Then suddenly I was stressed out about finding a summer internship. Buried under a pile of cover letters, I thought Once I get a job, I can just look forward to Oxford again. When I finally got to Oxford, I was, again, so excited. Now I’m already stressed out about finding a summer internship!

I constantly build up ideal lives for myself, thinking that if I can become that girl, everything will be better. Then I do, and it’s not. It’s like the marathon’s finish line magically moves further away each time I cross it. Time and time again, I realize I am chasing something that just doesn’t exist. This, I know, is not how I’m supposed to live. An anonymous poem, pictured below, perfectly captures the futility of waiting for a better life.

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Found here: http://favim.com/image/2674179

So here’s the New Years Resolution that I said I wouldn’t be writing about: I want to enjoy the moment. I want to be able to think about the future without letting it consume me. I want to focus on what I have and not what I want.

Yes, “Living in the moment” might be an elusive, vague, and tired resolution, but it’s mine. I’ve never shied away from cliché. I don’t want to spend my life waiting for the next good thing, I want to experience and appreciate the good things as they come. Here’s to trying. Happy New Year, and best of luck with your resolutions, as feasible or infeasible as they might be! May 2017 be a better year for us all.

~Natalie

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