Follow Your Passion

Posted on November 10, 2010

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Nurturing Seeds Of Passion

Have you every been so engrossed with something that hours can pass without you noticing, and even stopping to eat becomes a burden? That chaos can reign around you and you don’t notice? That you can’t stop smiling inside and out while you’re doing IT or can’t stop thinking about doing IT again? Does that thing enter your thoughts without you noticing ? And do you find it even creeping into your dreams? Have you sacrificed other things to be able to do it? If you haven’t then you’ve never experienced passion. And therefore, haven’t lived yet.

I have a passion for ballet ( and now family history). Since I was a teenager I danced. I’d ride my bike to and from the dance studio, and my mom would drive me into the city to take lessons a couple of times a week. I went away to school my senior year of high school to dance for hours every day, sometimes six days a week. I was living in Heaven! Choreographers going for a somber mood would get frustrated with me because I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing as I was totally engrossed with the music, the movement and the connection I had to the other dancers. I loved the sweat, the smells, the pain, and even the mean teachers who pushed me to dig deeper and give more than I thought I had in me to give. I loved living in leotards and tights and being so hungry I’d feel lighter than air. I loved knowing I could jump higher than any basketball player, had more wind than a hockey player, and could climb a mountain without breaking a sweat! When one of my teachers suggested going to college and majoring in ballet I reluctantly agreed and went to the University of Utah. Dance AND get an education? I didn’t even know that was an option.

The bubble burst pretty quickly. I was very discouraged  being assessed and graded for my dancing. It was so competitive and I was failing. I felt so pressured and out of control. I remember the moment I decided to “try” being anorexic. I could control THAT part of my life…Little did I know about the disease that nearly killed me. I just couldn’t stand not dancing for the love of it. I’d lost my passion for my passion! I knew that I wasn’t the best dancer. There’s always someone better. My spirit just yearned to dance. Plain and simple. But I let my insecurities get to me. I gave up. I immersed myself in hours of aerobics classes every day, depleting my energy and my bank account. At least I wasn’t thinking about ballet any more.

Finally I went home and found a local dance company that allowed me to re-find my passion. Then I met my husband. I knew that getting married and starting a family meant entering another world. I was so excited to enter that world with him. I knew NOTHING about what the future would bring. But I knew it was a new adventure for both of us. So, all by myself, in the quiet of my mother’s kitchen I had a conversation with God. He who knows me best confirmed that the choice I’d made to put dancing on hold for a while …indefinitely…was the best one for me. I’d made up an ultimatum in my mind. It was all or nothing. I thought I could never be happy dancing unless I danced well. Or so I told myself. And that would mean at least two hours a day in class and another few added on in rehearsals. Never mind the time away for performances. What was really going on, which took me years to discover, was that I didn’t know how to NOT be obsessed with something I loved doing AND my brain needed excessive exercise to feel normal.

What I thought for years was a confirmation to a decision was actually God backing off and essentially saying, “You have a lot to learn about yourself. You aren’t really listening. I didn’t make a mistake when I gave you this gift. You just need to find that out for yourself. ” Had I known that dancing was a gift from God to me that would not only bring me joy but also help me with the depression I’d secretly suffered with for years…well, who knows what would’ve been different? That was a very simple decision because I knew the answer before I asked it. I knew myself well. I needed to feel like I was in control. I was too concerned about how to make it all work out in the future. A future that wasn’t there yet! But it seemed so unfair, too. So many people told me I could do both. I know my husband supported anything I wanted to do. But knowing yourself is important. You have to make up your own mind and live with your decisions. The little company in town let me rejoin for a year when my first daughter was old enough to stay with her dad. It was something, but I felt schizophrenic. I was so tired trying to balance everything. So I stopped again.

Maybe everyone was right. Maybe I could’ve and should’ve asked for support. I know that I would’ve needed a lot! What a challenge it has been! I guess I just want people to know that as selfless as that choice seemed to be, like I was putting my family first, it was really a choice I had to make to stay sane. I didn’t do it for anyone but myself. I truly believe every one’s lives would’ve been enriched had I followed my passion to dance. It’s also very clear to me that I have a problem with excess. And I could’ve danced less and been happy. I was the reason I was not living my dream.

So, a quarter of a century later,with only a handful of classes to count, I have to say, I know from experience how important it is to find your passion(s) and live so! It’s as important to who I am as anything else. It’s what makes me unique. I’m learning to take advantage of opportunities that come my way. I refuse to let money be the thing that keeps me from being fulfilled. Sometimes the lack of it can let me know if it’s a true passion if I’m willing to sacrifice time working to fund it! I know that I deserve to feel bliss in this life.

And that we all need mentors. It’s important to look for someone who will take me under his wing and guide and teach me. I’ve learned that I will never rise to my potential unless I’m stretching towards someone who’s on higher ground. But, I look for the best. Someone who’ll laugh at me in weakest moment and say, “I don’t care! Keep dancing!”, like my teachers did when I complained about bleeding, sore feet. And  I’ve learned to share what I love. To be vulnerable. No matter how inept I feel. I’ve noticed that it’s uncomfortable to grow. The best part will be having no regrets because I’ve lived fully, with purpose. I’ll have been ME. The only one who’ll ever exist who CAN be me!

Betsy Cross

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