Recently I got a really exceptionally nice compliment from Ms. B — not on my musicality or my technique, but on my work ethic.
That meant a lot to me. In fact, it meant more than I really know how to express, because until recently I’ve really doubted my own work ethic.
I’ve always been one of those people who’s great at hyper-focusing on topics of interest (okay, okay, obsessions): thus, when I was around 12 or 13, and completely obsessed with dogs, I basically memorized the AKC breed standard. No, seriously, like the whole thing, all 127 or however-many fully-recognized breeds there were at that particular moment in AKC history(1), including the sub-types within breeds.
(1)In case you’re wondering, I don’t remember them all anywhere near as well now — or, well, they’re apparently still in there somewhere, because every now and then one or more will just pop out (usually at the worst possible moment to be nerdsplaining on and on about the finer points of pedigree dog conformation -_-), but my recall of them is rusty (heh heh … obedience training pun, anyone?).
Ditto standards for various horse breeds and equestrian disciplines; I’d been busily internalizing those since I learned to read.
I guess that’s better than being completely unable to focus on anything that relates to the real world in any way, but it has its limits. I haven’t been great at taking that drive and putting it to work in places where it’s actually, like, useful. Or finishing things in general.
In short, I’m great at buckling down and working hard when I’m into it, but maybe not always so much when I’m not.
And that’s why Ms. B’s words meant so much to me — because as much as I love dancing, as much as I love ballet, it is work, and there are times that it feels like work.
Those are the days that I remind myself that I have Goals and Dreams, etc., and I get out of bed anyway, and I go to class anyway, and I work hard anyway, even if the last thing I feel like doing is another effing rond-de-jambe, and didn’t we already do fondu?
And it’s touching to know that teachers whose knowledge and guidance and opinion I value so highly see that.
So, anyway, today was one of those days that it was hard. Like, seriously: I whacked my ankle on something last night fumbling my way to bed, and it promptly developed a little puffy spot, so when I woke up part of me — okay, a whole lot of me — vaguely hoped it would be really sore so I would have an excuse to take an unsanctioned rest day.
It wasn’t, so I got up and I went to class.
And I say this because I think so often those of us in the weird, weird waters somewhere between legit amateur and semi-professional dance probably all feel like that on occasion, but also probably don’t feel like we can admit it.
Like, once you cross that threshold beyond which you’re legitimately a professional (or even a legit semi-professional) dancer — in short, once it’s a job — I think it’s probably easier to acknowledge that sometimes it feels like a job.
Complaining about our jobs is, after all, an essential part of the American Way (and probably also part of the Way in a lot of other places). No matter how great your job is, there are going to be times that you’d rather be doing something else (like sleeping).
When you’re only sort of beginning to entertain the hope that something you really, really love might also turn out to be something you could do even as a kinda-sorta job, it’s much harder to admit that there are days you just don’t freaking well feel like it.
But, here’s the thing: just like courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the choice to forge on even in the face of fear, discipline isn’t the absence of days you feel a bit (okay, a lot) less motivated — it’s the ability to keep sight of that long-term motivation on the far horizon, so even when your immediate motivation flags, the long-term motivation drags you forward.
By the scruff of your neck.
Kicking and screaming the whole way, if necessary, because your long-term motivator isn’t going to take that kind of attitude from you, mister, and don’t make it turn this car around.
So, that was this morning for me. I hit snooze three times, stared at the ceiling in the vain hope of an injury both mild enough to be temporary and serious enough to warrant a day off, realized one wasn’t forthcoming, then poured myself into some clothing, chugged some caffeinated liquid and a protein bar, and hauled my butt to class.
And, sure, I was a little tired and a little sore and it took me a little longer than usual to get my body and brain out of first gear, but by the time we’d made it through the first round of rond de jambes I was glad I was there, if only because I was receiving useful corrections.
By the time we got to terre-a-terre, I had really basically forgotten that I was supposed to be having an unmotivated morning, and that less than two hours earlier I’d been lying in bed rooting for a mild injury.
Dancing is its own reward. Every second I spend in the studio is a gift; especially so because I have phenomenal instructors who take the time to really work on me.
Sometimes, though, getting to that reward is tougher than it is at other times. Some days it’s hard.
So, basically, I guess what I’m saying is this: there are going to be days that you just don’t freaking well feel like it, and you’re going to go ahead and go to class anyway, or go to rehearsal, or go perform.
Instead of beating yourself up for the not feeling like it part, celebrate the immense effort that it takes on those days to get up and do it anyway. Those are the days that you have already won just by showing up.
Aaaaaand, now I totally sound like some kind of After School Special, so I’m going to shut up before I make myself queasy 🙂