I was 2-years-old when my mom put me into my first dance class. Since I was so young I have no memory of starting dance, and I probably looked ridiculous if we’re being honest. A tiny little girl in a pink leotard just spinning around for hours on end. I never had a version of my life without dance being a major part of it, because as far back as I can remember still involved spending time at the studio. Up until I graduated high school, dance was one of the most important things in my life, which is why I knew that the day I stopped was never going to be easy, no matter how long I procrastinated making that call, and basically ending our toxic relationship.
There’s not a day goes by that I don’t miss dancing. However, I’ve come to realize that since it is just a part of my past now, when I look back on it, I block out all the negatives. As much as I loved it, it really took a toll on me (mentally and physically) over the 16 years that I was involved in it. In my freshman year of high school, one of my recital dances was significantly more challenging and high intensity than usual. I put all my effort into every intricate move, and possibly too much energy into a particular jump in which we had to land on our right knee. I knew something was wrong when the pain never went away, and my knee popped in and out of place. I refused to see a real doctor until my season was over. That same week that dance ended that year, I was at a doctor immediately. Two different orthopedists, too many x-rays, months in physical therapy, wearing knee braces and KT tape everyday, and months at a chiropractor. Since I’ve stopped, the condition of my knee improved tremendously, I still wear a brace whenever I workout, but other than that I can live my daily life without being in pain, which I used to think was impossible.
Yet somehow, the mental effects were even worse than the physical ones. There’s just something about an adult running a dance studio that seems to thrive on knocking the girls down instead of building them up. I had amazing relationships with all of my teachers throughout the years, but all it takes is one person in charge to make you scared to walk into what’s supposed to be your happy place. Not a day would go by without a comment being passed to either me or my classmates, whether it was that our technique was getting worse, or that our bodies or skin colors weren’t right for the visual aspect of certain routines. When you spend every single day at the studio, imagine how detrimental those comments get over 16 years.
The fact that I stayed in an environment like that for so many years, injuring myself physically and allowing my own feelings to get hurt, just shows how much love I had for dance, for my studio friends, my teachers, and all the performances. I don’t regret spending my life until college as a dancer, because I wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world. However, since then I’ve grown immensely as a person, and finally gotten to a confidence level which would’ve been unattainable if I kept myself in a toxic setting. Sometimes the goodbyes that could be the hardest and most painful, are the ones that end up being the most beneficial.