When I was a teenager, I took ballet lessons. I wanted more than anything to be a professional dancer, so I dragged it out a bit longer than I should have, and eventually quit cold turkey when my health wouldn’t let me keep on dancing. Even now, when I get the urge to dance, it doesn’t last very long because it usually hurts.
And then I think, I danced through the hurt before. What’s wrong with me?
I danced with bloody toes, blisters, tendinitis, and shin splints; I danced through rejection and little improvement and constant mistakes; I danced through the fear of falling. I danced when I felt like it, and I danced when I didn’t feel like it. I put myself in some of the most terrifying and painful situations of my life because I wanted to dance.
Now, I don’t want to dance anymore. My smallest is goal is that I could get through Lent without feeling like an utter failure. Why can’t I harness some of the courage and grit that got me through ballet classes, and rehearsals, and summer intensives, and performances, and use it on my current career and life choices?
Is it because the hurts have more weight, and the results matter more than not being given a good role in the Nutcracker? Or is it because I have lost my courage entirely, and don’t believe I can effect change in my life anymore? Or maybe it’s simply because all teenagers have more energy and determination than they know what to do with.
I want to have that same energy and determination that I did, but if it also comes with the price of ignorance, it’s maybe too high a price. Or maybe it comes at the price of pride, constantly seeking my own good without a care for the needs of others. Sometimes I think it actually comes at the price of success, because maybe what I am most afraid of is that I will actually succeed at what I want, and that is a frightening thought. Anything truly great that I think of doing is terrifying.
I experienced plenty of bad things because of what I forced myself to dance through; my feet will never be the same, not to mention my health or my self image. But that courage, that determination, that belief that what I wanted was within my grasp so long as I worked for it, I want that back. I’m counting the cost of it, because I can’t have everything, but I want it back. I want to finish this Lenten fast more courageous than I began it, more resilient to suffering. Lent focuses that courage and determination in the right way, focusing me on God, not ballet. But it’s the same choices that I make that will bring me to the end of Lent; it’s the same idea that there is a reason to suffer. Only the something greater to be had can only be reached through denying the flesh and seeking God.
But that doesn’t make it any easier for me to humble myself and suffer. I wish it did. I remember the things I convinced myself to do for ballet, and I can’t say now that I do the same for God. That humiliates me. Still, that’s not a bad place to start Lent from. I only hope by Easter I don’t have so many regrets over wasted time and wasted passion.