It still makes me sentimental about quitting. As cheesy at it sounds, I like to think of dance as my first love and my first heartbreak. I know this sounds awfully dramatic - if you know me, you know my life is anything but boring. But, those emotions were real.
What makes dance so special, and in my opinion, so unique compared to all other forms of movement, is that it is both an art and a sport. Thus, being a “dancer” requires one to be both an artist and an athlete. It requires elite levels of strength, muscular endurance, agility, and flexibility. It also requires intense mental capacity to master complex skills, as well as the courage to show the world your deepest emotions and truest self. In the words of Peter Townsend, “Dance enables you to find yourself and lose yourself at the same time”.
Dancing requires you not only to push your physical boundaries, and often attempt to literally defy gravity, but it also requires you to push yourself mentally and emotionally. There are professional dancers that perform with such grace, beauty, and raw emotion that their movements inspire thousands. They are amazing and awe-evoking.
But, it doesn’t take a professional to be a dancer. Anyone can be a dancer. You don’t have to be “good” to enjoy dancing.
Dance was such a big part of who I was and how I defined myself. I may have never a national award winner. I was never the best on the team. I was never a superstar, but I cared. I danced like I meant it.
If you participated in a team sport, at any level, you can relate to the love you have for your teammates, coaches, and practice of the sport itself. You can’t quantify the value of sports. They have an incredible power to bring us together, push us to defy our limits, and work towards something greater than ourselves. If we are willing to see beyond titles and trophies, you will realize how much more sports (or any team experiences) have given you.
For me, it was about more than just being on stage (or on the field/court, if that’s your thing). I loved being in the studio (most days) . I was addicted to the routine, the consistency, the constant improvement, and the personal satisfaction from learning/perfecting a step or combination - and above all, I had amazing friends. I had my studio family.
If you were lucky enough to find or have this love for a sport, you understand how hard it is/would be to quit. Ultimately, I knew my future wasn’t in dance, and the day I quit, I grew up, like, 3 years. It wasn’t easy, but deep down, I knew it was the right thing to do.
I still remember the day I officially decided and told my mom that I didn’t want to - couldn’t - continue dancing competitively. I remember going into my dark room and bawling afterwards. I was devastated. How could I quit something I loved so much and had devoted so many YEARS to?
What I wish I knew is that I wasn’t quitting or giving up. I didn’t fail or make a mistake. I was simply moving on to greater things.
At the time, I didn’t know all the space it would open in my life for new opportunities. But, until these new opportunities began to fill my life, it was tough. I felt so lost.
When you stop competing in your sport, it will be tough. With any sport, you will inevitably need to retire. Our bodies are only made for so much pressure, injury, and intensity. This will come at a different time for everyone, and no matter when it does, the first bit, it will be tough. If you feel lost, that’s normal.
Little did I know, this was the beginning of so much. If I hadn’t quit when I did, I am confident I would not be where I am today, nor would I have been able to accomplish the things I've been able to accomplish.
Accomplishments aside, I quit at the end go Grade 10 did, which was before many of my friends did. In doing so, I learned possibly the most valuable lesson of all. I learned the importance of staying true to yourself, and having the courage to do something different than your friends.
Whether you are still in the heat of competing, slowly cutting back, or have already "retired", know that you WILL find a new normal. Based on my experience, it won't replace the love you have for your sport, but you will adapt, and hopefully find new activities that you love just as much! I know I did :)