Inside my mind, there’s a ghost and a robot.
And that ghost and robot used to dance together. Sweet serenades. Elevation to the highest power—to the most pristine and prestigious form of physical and visceral art. Raw. Exact. Infinity in movement.
I thought I was going to dance for the rest of my life. I lived for classical ballet, and I was born to be a ballet dancer in every way imaginable.
The routine of it all was comforting—the way that charging in a dock and operating on a system of logic and functions would be comforting to a robot. I was scared to venture into the territory of 100+ pounds. All I wanted was to dance, and I spent hours a day training.
In the morning before school, I would run and go to spin classes to burn calories from a breakfast I didn’t eat. During school, I would stretch my feet and read ballet magazines. I drank coffee and chewed Orbit bubble gum all day to stave off hunger. I never ate lunch, because robots never eat lunch. Neither do ghosts. After school, I would show up to ballet technique class an hour early to stretch. I did yoga compulsively. During Nutcracker season and in the months leading up to the spring ballet, we rehearsed until late at night. When I got home, I would tell my parents I had eaten and then I would watch YouTube videos—all of them involving classical repertoire or ballerinas I aspired to be like…to look like. I watched Paloma Herrera, Alessandra Ferri, Annick Laurent, Sylvie Guillem and Julie Kent. I was obsessive.
And I was good.
During my junior year in high school, all my focus was devoted to getting a job as a professional ballerina. I loved what I was doing. I loved every second of technique class. I loved working hard. I loved feeling exhausted at the end of the day. I loved seeing my own ribcage and slender profile in the mirror. I loved putting my hair into a ballet bun every day, loved the feeling of my feet cracking when I stretched them. I loved sewing my pointe shoes for hours. I loved all the music. Every step, every turn, jump, leap, promenade, tendu, pirouette, fouette, reverance, arabesque, glissade…loved it all.
But for some reason, when it came time to decide if I wanted to dance professionally or not, I decided I didn’t want to anymore. I was burned out…a skeleton. A robot.
So I quit.
I started college at the University of Montana, and I just graduated a couple of days ago. Now, I work on a Hotshot crew fighting fires. And at the tender young age of 20 (and the slightly more muscle-bound version of myself at 130 pounds), I still struggle with self-image issues, and in the process of getting a college education and having a job that makes me feel exhausted, I’ve realized I miss dance and yoga. Even though my body is immaculate from my job, running races, doing healthy things outside, and eating a balanced diet, I still think about the influences from the dancing ghost, I still miss the way ballet made me feel. I miss feeling light and svelte.
Some days I love my body, and other days I absolutely hate it. When I danced every day, I felt in control of myself, I felt like a robot, and I liked it. But it wasn’t good for my brain.
The ghost never goes away, and I recently made the decision to start over, to go back to formally training for a career in classical ballet. After all, I know in my mind, body and soul that I was born to express myself kinesthetically within the confines of an art form that requires athleticism and discipline. Nothing makes me happier. Now that I am older, I understand the concept of having a healthy self-image and the importance of getting rid of those ghosts that foster negativity and lack of self-worth.
Do the art form because of the way it is, because it makes you happy, because of the way it feeds your soul.
People say that if you make your job involve the things you love doing, you will never have to go to work. Sometimes, you have to do the things that you were called to do in life. Nothing else will make you happy, and if you ignore those things, they come back to haunt you. You become a skeleton.
There’s a ghost inside me and a robot in my head, and all they know how to do is dance.
But this time around, I will do it for my soul, my mind, and my heart—all things that robots and ghosts don’t have.
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Ed: B. Bemel