There were many times while I was in graduate school that I sent this text to a friend: “Is it too late to become a ballerina instead?” While waiting for her response, I’d usually get back to whatever paragraph I was trying to write or reference I was trying to find. Later in the day, I’d get a response checking in about my troubles and promising a reward if I didn’t quit. That same friend also promised to go to graduation for me if I was in the hospital due to exhaustion or jail due to murder. Clearing she was (and is) a great friend.
I’m done with school now, at least as a student, but there are still times when I think about a major career change. My current work has me working online from home many hours a day, which means any loss of WiFi means a major crisis and wondering about how much tutus cost. Wondering about what could be can be the escape hatch from what currently is. It is wonderful to imagine a life far away from APA guidelines, track changes, grading rubrics, and explaining (again) why plagiarism is bad. Ballerinas (based on Center Stage, Black Swan, and Save the Last Dance) spend hours on challenging physical work every day. I don’t think their lives are easy; its just the different challenge that seems better.
Along with the escape hatch, the wondering can also provide a safety net to when I worry about my career or future. Although I could not be a prima ballerina in New York, there are a lot of things I could do if I had to. The university I was working for closed in spring 2020 due to finances, right when the rest of the world shut down due to COVID-19 and employment opportunities disappeared in two weeks (instead of the virus). Filling out more applications that I can count, I kept hold of the fact there would be a place for me. I hoped that it would be in higher education, and remembered that just in case, Target was hiring. It would be a hard job when so much of the world was unknown and scary; and it would keep me in my apartment. A part-time role with an online university, and support from family, kept me on the tightrope until I earned a full-time role. The safety net of what could be wasn’t used, but I was glad to have it.
Based on my age, body type, and almost complete lack of dance training (6 months of jazz dance in elementary school probably doesn’t count for much), it is too late for me to be a professional ballerina. I know that. I knew that each time I texted my friend and I know it now when I bang on the internet router. I also know that just because I can’t be a professional ballerina, does not mean I couldn’t try something new if I wanted. Every time I go to the ballet, there is an announcement in the booklet about classes for adults with minimal prior training. And each time I get to imagine what it would be like to learn just a tiny piece of what the Sugar Plum Fairy in Nutcracker can do. It is never too late to try…