I’m Living the Dream and I Hate It
By Mia Lyndon
Possessing a particular goal or aspiration is a gift. For many, it is a struggle to ever find a passion so intense that you spend your every day working towards it. Often, ambitions are germinated in infant years, slowly spiraling into realistic aims in later life. If you’re privileged enough to hold such a coveted life-intention, you’ll usually clasp onto it, for years. For many dancers, this begins from their very first dance class. An infatuation with baby-pink uniform and shoes adorned with satin ribbon evolves into a genuine aim for dancing professionally. These dreams, usually discovered during our youngest years, are nearly impossible to let go of – they become our utter transfixions.
Dancing professionally was such an intense goal of mine, that it defined who I was.
I was the dancer of the family, the performer of my friendship group and the ‘ballet girl’ of my high school. Whenever I thought about my future, all I envisaged was a world characterised by dance – and I wanted to be paid for it.
Choosing to train at a dance college solidified this for me. At that point, I knew dancing professionally was the path that I was going to pursue – I had chosen it above chasing anything else. I mapped out exactly how I was going to achieve this aspiration: all I had to do was work without cease and stick to my plan of action, regardless of how miserable it made me.
Rendering me miserable was certainly something that it did achieve.
I would go from failure to failure, heart-break to heart-break, yet still carry on. This aspiration, this obsession, began to significantly jeopardize my mental health, poisoning my teenage years. Regularly, I would be pushed to breaking point and swear that I was deplete, yet still refuse to change path. Dancing was not something that I even enjoyed anymore – I was working towards a goal that I no longer wanted. But, I had spent my life pursuing a promise that I had made to my younger self and I couldn’t let go of that.
To work towards a new goal was considered giving up and that filled me with shame.
Throughout our lives we are taught the notion of perseverance and dedication, with the mantra ‘I must not quit’ being drilled into us from every angle. As dancers, we use this as rocket fuel – it is what makes us successful. Even when we fall out of love with our childhood dreams, we stick to them, obsessively hoping they will eventually make us content. Once you latch onto a particular goal, you become fixated by it. Often, you’ll overlook any negativity that it ensues, allowing it to utterly seize the direction of your life.
We feel comforted by working towards one aim, so swerving off that path feels self-destructive. If you have been chasing after a dream since infancy and have dedicated your whole life to achieving it, you won’t want to let it go. You’ll ignore all of its negativity.
Dr Lucie Clements, a chartered psychologist specialising in dance, recently commented that dancers can become ‘wrapped up in dance’ because they have lost ‘sources of fun or stimulation due to time in dance’.
This is certainly something that I have experienced – I spent so long pursuing one aim, that it became who I was – it was the only impetus that kept me going. Losing that drive for dancing professionally, would mean losing myself.
I asked a very simple question to my Instagram following recently (@auditionquest): ‘Do you feel obliged to keep chasing your dream because it’s what you’ve always wanted?’ I was utterly stunned when 71% answered ‘Yes’. Out of those who answered, 92% were young dance students, under the age of 18.
Even once you enable yourself to overcome these mental barriers, there are still further obstacles to conquer.
When my love of dancing went into decline, my ardent interest in writing began to quickly blossom. I had suddenly found a new way of expressing myself in a medium that just suited me better. When I discovered that I could write about dance, something clicked – I knew that I could still pursue my dancing aspirations but in a subtly different manner. But, it took a long time to accept this – being deemed a failure was why.
I had always been characterised by my devotion towards dancing – I was the dancer who just never succumbed to quitting. Throughout my life, I had glorified the idea of commitment and perseverance – giving up on dancing professionally just wasn’t an option. If I gave up on pursuing the one specific goal that I had hatched as a child, I was a failure. I had failed myself.
What I didn’t realise was that failure and changing direction were two very different things. Failure is a loss of mojo: a deficit of success-hungry energy. Failure is a refusal to carry on.
Changing direction is simply a shift of energy. It is not ‘giving up’.
It is important to remember that success is purely a notion of driving yourself towards happiness. Success does not discriminate in the way that it is achieved – all it requires is energy in the path that you wish to pursue. When you take your energy for pursuing one particular goal and implement it into reaching a new one, you are just shifting your focus. With no loss of vigor, you are not giving up and you are certainly not letting down your younger-self.
Regardless of your dreams, your experiences, your parents’ expectations or your childhood promises, you should work towards just one aspiration: happiness. The only aim driving you forward should be your desperation for being content – try to reach a point whereby you are utterly fulfilled by your direction in life.
It does not matter how you reach this, it does not matter if it was what you had planned all those years ago. Dream of happiness – it’s what your younger-self ultimately wanted.
‘wrapped up in dance because they have lost other sources of fun or stimulation due to time in dance’
Dr Lucie Clements- 07/04/2020
Via email correspondence
Published in Collaboration with: Audition Quest