Just over a month ago, I faced a decision that many of us as college students inevitably face at one point or another – the decision to change majors.
It shouldn’t have been that big a deal. After all, a teacher once told me that the average college student changes majors three times throughout his or her college career. But in my case, I was not only changing my major, but I was also letting go of a passion I had held for the past 10 years of my life. I was making the transition from artist to practical-minded career woman, and only now am I truly beginning to understand the repercussions of that decision.
Dance had been the central focus of my life ever since I took my first ballet class long ago and fell in love with that feeling that captivates us all when we first encounter what we feel to be our calling. It was just me, the music, the studio and the stage – and I would not have had it any other way. I wanted nothing more than to someday become a professional dancer, and I was prepared to put in all the time, effort and sacrifice I needed to actualize that distant dream.
But dance, like any art, is complex. It can be liberating – an escape to run to when all the world has let you down and there is nothing left in your heart but the desire to succumb to your body’s natural impulses and move with them. But at the same time, it can be an imprisonment – a feeling of confinement to an art form so brutal and exhausting that you sometimes want to break free with all the rage of a madman.
It was this paradoxical nature of a world that we, as devoted artists, could not help but commit to unyieldingly that drove me to acknowledge my wrongness for it.
I felt ready to move on. I wanted stability. I wanted comfort. I wanted a future and a career that would yield me a beautiful high-rise condo overlooking the San Francisco Bay, frequent day spa visits and the occasional Tahiti vacation.
Spending the prime years of my life as a tortured performer, slaving away in a hot studio only to make barely enough money to cover rent, was out of the question for someone with aspirations as high as my own. So I did it. I exchanged my leotard, tights and pointe shoes for a pen, notebook and tape recorder, and embarked on a quest to find my new calling.
But when something has taken hold of your life in such an immense way, it doesn’t take long before the difficulty of letting it go sets in. As I slowly adjusted to the new ways I spent my time, I couldn’t help feeling lost and incomplete in this foreign world that existed outside the studio walls. Here I was, taking what I thought was the smart, practical route to a bright and promising future, but somehow I couldn’t get over the hurt of abandoning a dream.
Dance to communication. Dramatic art to law and society. Art studio to business economics. It all of a sudden dawned on me that there must have been a number of people like me out there – people who had left their respective arts to fit into the confines of a materialistic society. I couldn’t help but wonder – just how many of us were forced to abandon our artistic dreams in order to survive in a world driven by money, power and success?
I would imagine that I’m not the only one.
To those of you – dancers, musicians, actors, poets, filmmakers and artists – who continue to pursue your artistic endeavors, I applaud you. You did what I, after 10 long years of solid dedication to the arts, could not do. You had dreams that defied convention, and you stuck with them. I firmly believe it is artists like you who will drive our society into the future with your invaluable ideas, creativity and talents.
Yet I have no regrets. I am slowly beginning to pursue my new dreams with the same fire and passion that once fueled my love of dance. But every so often, I’ll pass by HSSB, wistfully gaze through the dance studio doors and sigh. That was me in there once – a dancer consumed by an ongoing pursuit of artistic perfection. Do I miss it? Hell yes, I do. But I find comfort in knowing that I made a choice – and after several weeks of finally coming to terms with that choice, I’ve realized that life out here isn’t so bad after all.
Meghan Palma is a copy reader and staff writer for the Daily Nexus.