While on a power walk around my neighborhood last week, an impeccably dressed older woman on a bicycle flagged me down. Seeing a Swiss person smiling and waving is something new for me, so I slowed my roll and pulled out my Beyoncé-blasting earphones.
Bonjour! Bonjour! She spoke quickly in French of which I only caught “marching” and “beautiful.” I must have had a puzzled look on my face, because she moved into English.
“I saw you walking here so beautifully and said to myself ‘she must be a classical ballet dancer.’ The way you carry your body . Like a ballerina,” she said, mimicking me and holding up her chin.
I was taken aback.
I am not a ballerina, but I took ballet for years. Obsessively. I danced all over the house. I did pirouettes on recess. I walked only on my toes. But I realized in high school I was probably not going pro, so I put away my tights. I joined the tennis team and focused on getting into college.
Of course, my passion for ballet did not die.
So, to hear this Swiss woman asking me (at 30) if I was a ballerina was like hearing my deepest, most-treasured desire come to life. The greatest of compliments. Somewhere inside, a 14-year-old, leotard-clad me was beaming.
I assume we all have some secret, far-fetched career desire. The path not taken. To become a professional baseball player, rock star or actor. Since the ballet industry is incredibly competitive and youth-driven I remember thinking when I quit why did I waste so much time on that?
In the years since, I’ve come to realize that these dreams–fulfilled or not–are part of the human experience. The belief that you could become anything is a blessing that comes with being a child. These dreams both keep us up at night and teach us discipline. They buoy the soul and ignite imagination. The countless hours I spent pointing and plié-ing were not wasted.
After all, I’ve got ballet to thank for my posture.
What is your path not taken? Or are you still chasing one?
If you dreamed of tutus and toe shoes like me, you might find this documentary thrilling (or this documentary, starring Bakersfield’s own ballerina Tiler Peck). Meanwhile, enjoy these links: