How do we define who we are?
Am I my past? What I’ve done, where I’ve been, the things I’ve seen…
Am I my future? My goals, my plans, my dreams, my aspirations…
Am I the present? My job, my daily activities, the here and now…
I think one of the most challenging parts of life is answering the question, “Who am I?”. The answer is almost constantly changing because so often we define ourselves by the present. Today, I am an arts administrator, a commuter, a blogger. But that is all surface stuff. My job, my daily activities, the here and now.
Who am I really?
A traveler, a lover of arts and culture, a reader, a writer, a singer, a dancer, a performer, a yogi, a fitness enthusiast. I’d like to think so. But sometimes I’m not so sure. I have been struggling with this “who am I” question recently because of the dance recital I just participated in over the weekend. For the first time in literally my entire life I don’t feel like I can use the word dancer to define myself anymore and realizing this is causing me to question… well… everything.
You see, my parents enrolled me in dance when I was two and a half. I was never the best. I couldn’t jump the highest or spin the fastest, but I loved moving and shaking and being on stage. I took tap, jazz and ballet classes and performed in the year end show for a total of 15 years.
Then I went away to university and got involved in the school dance club, as well as the theater club. It was a different stage with different people but I was still on stage, doing what I loved.
When I moved home from school for the summer after my first year I decided that I missed dancing on my stage, with my friends. So with permission from my studio owner I put together a group of alumni and we took to the stage. The alumni dance group successfully came together for four years. It was so fun to pick our own music, create our own choreography and enjoy the rush of recital weekend again.
And then one day it became more important to work on my grades, or my choral music, or whatever else. It wasn’t something I consciously decided, but one day I just wasn’t dancing anymore. Life just got in the way, I guess. However, I still considered myself a dancer. Dance had always been a part of who I was, why did that have to change just because I wasn’t dancing anymore?
This weekend that all changed. The short version of the story goes like this. The alumni group have been inactive for one year. People were missing it and since I lead the helm in the past everyone turned to me to start things up again. Reluctantly, I did. I say reluctantly because I’ve got a lot going on now, as I said before, life just gets in the way sometimes. But I managed to pull it all together… until it all collapsed, of course. Two months before the recital and a week before rehearsals were to start 4 of the 6 people backed out. It went from being a group number to a duet in minutes. They all had excuses but to me it was bull shit. Then two weeks before the recital my partner tore her thigh muscle. Yup it is every bit as painful as it sounds. Her doc isn’t sure yet if she will need surgery, but dancing was off the table… And then there was one. I wasn’t prepared to be on stage by myself, I was nervous and out of practice, my turns were a mess and my jumps were lousy. But my studio owner was expecting me to be there, so there was no way I could back out now.
I performed. It was fine. The dance was dull and uninspiring with only one but there wasn’t much I could do about that. All the reasons I loved dancing were not present this time around. There was no energy, no social aspect, no fun. For the first time in my whole life I felt out of place in the theater. I felt foolish for trying to hold on to a part of my life that was so obviously over. And I felt lost. I had always been a dancer. So much had changed, hell, everything had changed at some point or another and I was always a dancer and now for the first time, I wasn’t. So that begs the question, if not dancer, who am I?
I suppose I am still all those other things listed above. I am still a sister, a daughter, a girlfriend, a best friend. I am still energetic, fun, outgoing, smart, passionate, stubborn, ect. I know this and yet, I’m scared. Scared of changing and losing the pieces of me that I have come to recognize and define myself by.
Maybe that makes me scared of the future. Maybe that makes me scared of myself.
Maybe that just makes me human.