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I Want To Be A Dancer When I Grow Up

One’s childhood is supposed to be, by most cultural standards, one of the greatest times of our lives. It is a time; of joy and laughter, of exploring and learning, of carefree play, and, dreams. It is a time of overwhelming wonders beyond imaginations, and a time of unlimited make-believe. Perhaps, in your world of make-believe, you were a doctor, a soldier, a fireman, a nurse… a cowboy, an astronaut, or a ballerina. Can you remember a time when these dreams seemed all too real, or a time when you knew that one of them was just what you wanted to be when you grew up?

As we become older, some dreams of make-believe fall away, but others remain. Some become the stuff that childhood memories are made of, while others become more interesting, more desirable, and more wanting. Some become obsessions, and we come to feel that if we do not follow those dreams, that we will never be happy again. For a lucky and fortunate few, some of our childhood make-believes actually become our adulthood pursuits and careers. When this happens, one grand difference becomes quickly evident; what was once a playtime fantasy is now a real-time actuality. What once could be formed out of nothing more than imagination and dreams, now must be created out of dedication and hard work. Here, is where so many dreams go to die, and many of us falter.

Many of you are probably thinking, “Yes, it was so much easier to dream that I was a great inventor or movie star, but, real life is hard”. I propose that this is not the reason for our falters. The reason/s that real life is hard, IMHO, might surprise you. As a behavioral professional, I propose that, as adults, it is not that we fail to maintain the dream, or to even put in the work, but that we forget how it was to think and feel as a child. As children, we were willing to dream whatever it took to be that airline pilot, engineer, husband, or wife. As a child, we were willing to dream without limitation, and nothing was too complicated to pretend into existence. As adults, we perplexingly feel that life is supposed to be contemplative, provocative, complicated, and hurdle-some. We forget that we are still someone’s child, and thus, are forever children… not living in an overly complicated adult world, but forever forming an adult reality out of childhood dreams.

We, here, have chosen to become the ballerinas, jazz, tap, Ballroom, Latin, and Tango dancers of our childhoods. Yet, now it is different. This is no longer playtime; this is real life. It is here that the first adult question needs to be answered; “Is this what I truly want to be?” In order to answer this question, though, we have to answer another….. “Why?”

There is no shame in discovering that as a child you saw your name in lights as you danced across the stage, but now you just want to be under the lights as you dance across the local club floor on weekends. Perhaps, your desire of being the principal dancer of an internationally known company has changed to being a competitor in a national comp, or just a social dance teacher at a local chain-school. To many, this might sound as though the childhood dream was lost, or that the realities of adulthood got in the way. I say, nonsense; the ‘why’ of the desire simply changed.

This change of plan, however, should not come with a diminished intent or commitment. Comes now the second, and perhaps most important, question; “How good do you truly want to be at your grown-up dream?” As adults, we overly complicate this very basic of questions. We believe that it takes one degree of commitment to be a brain surgeon and a lesser degree of commitment to be an orderly; or, a greater commitment to be a Universal Dance Champion than to be dance host on a cruise ship. We concede that if we are not going to be “professionals”, then it is okay to be less than one. We seem to often place how important something is to do well by how important it might be to other people rather than to ourselves. We hear things like, “I don’t want to know all of that stuff; I just want to have fun”, and, “It doesn’t matter; I do okay”, and the ever rueful, “It’s good enough for __________”. Consider the inferences that; to do something well will take away some of the ‘fun’ of it, that mediocrity is a good standard, and that whatever I do is good enough for __________ [because that’s all that is expected, desired, or required]. As a psychologist, I cannot understand the concept or desire of having fun at intentionally being mediocre.

We should think, again, of childhood, and how it made us feel to come in second in a race, or to be chosen last from a group, or the feeling of pride as our friends saw us in new clothes for the first time. We should remember; that feeling of anger, that saddened sense of dejection, and that overjoy. It will be only then that we are able to discover, as adults, our true ‘Whys”. In make believe, the child doesn’t pretend to be what it wants, it becomes what it wants for a make believe period of time. As a dancer, I want to be the best that I can be whether it is in front of a class or workshop training others, or on the social floor at a Friday night lounge. Regardless of the occasion, I owe it to myself and to my partner to be the very best that I can be.

To this end, I am reminded of an Angelism from the DanceKinesis training program…..

"The greatest difference between the Beginner and the Master is that the Beginner cannot wait to become the Master, but the Master knows that he is always a Beginner."

In this, I see that although the logistics might change with age, the dreams of the child should continue, and the desire to learn and to become that dream should never end. With this thought, an awakened adult, with the wide-eyed and spongey desire of a child, consistently seeks to be a better version of his/her self. In dance as in life. I always acknowledge the masters of my past, try to emulate the masters of my present, and seek out the masters of my future. It is in this realm of make believe that I am all of them, and thusly, the best version of me that I can be.

The better dancer that I can become, the better dances (Ballroom, Latin, Tango, Swing) I can create. The better dances that I can create, the better dance activities I can attend. The better dance events that I can attend, the better dance communities I will help to build, and the better dance life I will enjoy. And, if I am truly enjoying life, then the make-believe of my childhood has become the reality of my adult life.

May yours be so.

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