It is 11:45 pm. I’m sitting at a table in the Hedrick Study (a favorite study spot of mine), trying to crank out my theater paper. At this moment, though, the paper is the last thing on my mind.
I feel a heaviness weighing on my chest. By happenstance, I ran into many of my friends this evening, first at Bruin Plate, my favorite dining hall, and now at the Study. High school friends. Friends I made here at UCLA. This evening, I felt like I was watching a montage of my freshman year playback in slow motion. Every five minutes, a familiar face passed by, and a nice conversation ensued, ending with the sad words, “I’ll miss you.”
I feel an ebbing throb in my heart. In three weeks, I will leave behind these people– my people– to follow my dreams. Of course I’m excited to finally be unashamedly and wholeheartedly pursuing what I love. But in this moment, my heart is breaking. I can’t focus on my paper because tears are welling up in my eyes, and I want to cry. The fact is, no matter what, I will miss UCLA, my second home. Even though I’ve only been here for three quarters, I’ve grown deeply fond of this place, and especially its people.
I sure hope that leaving here will be worth it, because giving up UCLA for a riskier path in art is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. It is a decision made out of my own volition, against my parents’ better judgement. In moments of fear and weakness, I wonder if I should just stay where I am. Get a degree from a place I know I love. Establish myself. Grow my relationships. Enrich my mind. Breathe a sigh of comforting relief embedded in safety.
But. There is that constant nagging sensation tugging at my heart, pulling me elsewhere. Something is pushing me to go for this other path. The one devoid of comfort, plagued with poverty, physical injury, short career-spans, eating disorders, drama, politics and an infinitesimally slim chance of reaching “success”. The path of dance. I know– how utterly illogical, absurd, irrational, ludicrous of me, right? Why, when I’m doing well at a great university I worked so hard to get into, would I choose to give it all up for life as an artist?
I can’t explain why. In this moment, I cannot express the flurry of thoughts whirring in my head… All I trust in is my instinct. My gut feeling, telling me that, despite everything, I’m doing the right thing in leaving UCLA.
Sometimes, I feel that my battle to pursue a dance career is one I fight alone. I know, of course, that this is not true– I have the backing of my coaches and friends who believe in me. My parents will always be there to provide a roof over my head, should I find myself penniless and unable to support myself. They wouldn’t let their only daughter starve.
As much as all this external support means to me, none of it matters if I don’t believe in myself. Above all else, I need CONFIDENCE and DETERMINATION and COURAGE as I embark on this brand new chapter of my life.
You know what they say– it’s the journey that matters more than the destination. Right here, right now, is the journey. This is what I’m trying to convey to you guys through this blog. This is a big reason why, three years ago, as a sixteen-year-old girl facing her first real adversity, I decided to start publicly documenting my triumphs and travails as I searched my way through this beautiful and cruel thing called life. It’s the journey I want to look back on when I am 80 years old, pondering what kind of meaning– if any– my life held.
What I’m feeling right now is the sadness, nostalgia and regret that comes with any difficult decision. Either choice I make, I will inevitably face some degree of regret. To leave UCLA for a dance career means leaving behind a second home, a second family, a life of comfort and stability. To stay in the safety of LA whilst surrendering dance to the status of a mere hobby would make me regret not giving dance my everything, while I still could. Ultimately, it was a decision of which regret would hurt me more. Both would undoubtedly hurt, a lot. But I believe the latter regret would not only hurt, but eat away at me in my older days. I don’t think I could bear that.
College will always be here. I can always come back to school at age 30 or 40. I trust that my determination and work ethic will carry me through any potential obstacle attached to going back to college at an older age. I cannot say the same thing about a professional dance career. Passionate, talented and determined dancer you may be, to say you want to become a professional dancer at the age of 30 or 40 is to be dreaming of the impossible. Dancing lies in the NOW. School can wait.
Regarding my friendships. Heartbroken as I feel at the idea of leaving behind people I’ve grown to love, I have faith that true friends will remain in my life, regardless of any physical distance. It won’t be the same as growing together throughout the next three years, of course, but perfect situations in life are rare. I must learn to compromise and sacrifice.
And dance. What are my goals now? At this point, I don’t care where I end up as a dancer, in terms of rankings. When I first started dancing, my goal was to become the next world champion. I’ve since grown and adopted a more mature, realistic and intrinsically-motivated goal of simply becoming the best dancer I can be. I want to master the art of Latin-American dancing and touch the souls of others through performance. I long to bless others with the many gifts that dance bestowed on me. I want to dance my way through life.
It is now 12:48 am. I should be getting to bed, as I have work tomorrow morning at 7 am. I feel a lot better, having let my soul bleed onto the screen. Finally, I want to thank every single person who’s supported me in my decision. You guys give me the strength to follow through with this.