Embracing My Inner Quitter

My life began in a dance studio.  It was my world for fifteen years until I got shipped off to Charlston for college.  Dance quickly faded from priority status as my life filled up with new friends, tough classes, and beach life.  I eventually graduated and got my grown up job the following year.

I spent the next few years chugging along at a desk job, dating a great guy, and enjoying life.  Adulthood wasn’t so bad but it wasn’t perfect either.

I can’t recall how I stumbled across the dance studio.  I remember waking up one day and deciding to give it a shot.  I strode confidently into the space and took my first dance class in seven years.

My confidence didn’t last.  I was surrounded by fresh-faced 18 years olds; their energy only rivaled by a cracked-out spider monkey.  I was a mid-twenties smoker who could barely keep up without hacking up a lung.  I persisted though and the love of the craft quickly returned after so many years apart.

Later that year, during a severe lapse of sanity, I showed up at the studio’s company auditions and subsequently made it.  I was floored.  For the next two and a half years, I performed all over Charleston and starred in multiple shows put on by the studio.  They have been the most exciting years of my life thus far.

However, as if I flipped a switch, something suddenly changed.  I went through the motions of auditions but the excitement and commitment I had for the company just wasn’t there anymore.  I figured it would come back but as the months passed, I realized that some of the luster had been lost.  Eventually, my bill-paying career began sneaking in to steal the time I needed for dance.  Long hours and utter exhaustion brought me to only one conclusion.

I had to quit.

The thought alone stunned me.  I don’t quit things but I don’t like to half-ass my commitments either.  I had to make a choice: either commit fully to the rest of the season or throw in the towel.  On Thursday night, I tossed and turned, contemplating every option and pro/con list I could conjure to make the right choice.  By Friday morning, I had made one of the toughest decisions of my life to date.

Drafting the email to my director caused nausea to flood my stomach.  Saying goodbye to something that had fueled my life for the past three years was heartbreaking but something I knew I had to do.  When I pressed Send, officially ending my dance life, my hands shook from the fear of disappointment.

I was afraid of disappointing my director.  She had given me a chance.  She was the reason I had first showed up to audition.  I was worried she wouldn’t understand.  I was worried she would regret giving me that chance.

I was afraid of disappointing my fellow dancers who had taken me in as their own.  I wasn’t a trained dancer.  I was older.  None of that mattered to them.  They made me a better dancer and a better person.  Would they disappear now that I wasn’t one of them?

Finally, I was afraid of disappointing myself.  Would I look back on this decision later in life and realize I’d made a mistake?  Was I forsaking years that could be spent for art to churn out a salary at a 9-to-5 job?  Or would I look back and find that I had done the right thing by giving my mind and body some much needed rest?

54 Comments on “Embracing My Inner Quitter

  1. There is no reason to change your moniker. You are a dancer. You will always be a dancer, whether you take any more lessons or perform professionally. Keep dancing in your livingroom, bedroom, barroom. It’s a very special part of who you are.

  2. Sometimes, as in the case you write about here, I think it takes more courage to quit then live in misery. Maybe it’s the word QUIT–you didn’t quit–you moved on.

    As I ponder your question at the end, I realize I probably should have quit more things in life–I was always afraid what others would think, not necessarily what was in my best interest.

    Did you ever read the story A&P by John Updike? In it, a boy quits his job. I had my students role play quitting a job after reading that story–the energy and authenticity was incredible. One of my favorite assignments ever:)

    • I like that. Quit is definitely the word that makes me hate what I’ve done. Moving on makes it seem a lot better. Haha – I was really afraid of disappointing my friends and directors though. That is probably the only reason I even tried out this year!

  3. Oh, Arden! I totally get you. I danced for years and years. When I was young, in college, and after in many regional companies. I was serious, but yet it could only be a serious hobby! I usually worked full time and danced/rehearsed 20 hours or so plus per week! It was pretty crazy. I never saw my husband. I went back and forth with it, too, for a while. Even in my forties I danced with a dance theater group. I wouldn’t trade the experience, but it comes at a cost. Takes so much time! So, I feel for you. It’s hard to let something go. On the other hand, you can always dance just for fun, and you will always be a dancer. It will always be a part of who you are. I dance around my house all the time and want to get back to a class, just to move and dance!

    • Thanks! You can totally understand the commitment necessary not to mention the toll it takes on your body. I’m young and healthy and yet I already have injuries that will probably be with me for a while. It’s just sad to leave the company community behind. While I know we’ll still be friends, it won’t ever be the same. Ugh! So torn! 🙂

      • I’ve been there! You just have to ask yourself why you feel torn. There is probably a part of you that is ready for something new. On to new adventures! Like your writing perhaps.

  4. wow! that’s a big decision you made. I’m sure you gave it a lot of thought. we know what’s right, change is just so hard. good luck with your next adventure!

  5. Maybe once things calm down at work you can go back to it? You made the right choice. Sadly, you have to work to pay the bills…

    • And I love my job! It’s not like I had to quit dance to do something I hate. Work is just getting crazier and crazier so I have to go with the flow.

  6. I feel like you’re a dancer for life. With that many years into it, it’s embedded in your soul.
    And when you have kids, you can be a Dance Mom!

    • Thanks! Yeah, for the most part. I need to distance myself from FB for awhile. I keep seeing pics and videos and it’s making me sad. Ugh! Why can’t there be more hours in the day so I can do it all! Haha

  7. It’s so hard making those decisions that one is emotionally attached to, having invested time, dreams, emotions and much more I expect. My son made the decision to give up competitive swimming he was in the county squad and swimming had taken over our lives for the last three years, to the extent his younger brother missed on stuff, we all did as a family, yet when he gave up, though I thought we should be relieved, it was terrible, like a big gaping hole. The holes filled now though with less demanding things but the memory isnt lost 🙂 hugs

  8. What a brave decision… to walk away because it didn’t hold the same magic and open up your spot for someone else who might want/need that opportunity. Well done, Arden.
    I know it hurts…
    I know the feeling of packing away my records and disconnecting my turntables. I know that pain.
    But, we are both still very young. I know it doesn’t seem like, especially compared to how young we used to be, but there are still lifetimes ahead of us where we can get back to these loves should the desire arise again.

  9. I think that decision was a very brave one. It would have been the easy thing to continue along the same path you were on before and that was expected of you. Easier, but not right. Change is hard, and you made the difficult decision. We all evolve and grow as we get older, and not everything that we loved when we were younger, fits in the same way. Hopefully, this will be the right fit for you and you will move on to more exciting things.

    And I love your name. Never change it! 😉

  10. I think you made an incredibly brave choice. You will always be a dancer, the way you choose to pursue your dancing may change but who you are doesn’t change because of this one decision.

  11. Quitter! I didn’t retire from basketball until I was 39 and my knees were going. I know the NBA was disappointed that I finally retired, but they know I will always be in for a retirement tour.

  12. Gah. I hate decisions like that, which is why I put them off until I have anxiety attacks or burn out.
    Whatever the outcome, you did the best you could with the information you had. It’s all you can do.

    • That’s what I keep telling myself! Haha. I know it was the right choice … I think. Ugh. I hate this!

  13. This line is fantastic: “their energy only rivaled by a cracked-out spider monkey.” Great 🙂 Difficult decision…all the best to you.

  14. I read somewhere that one of the lessons a woman should learn by 30 is to not be afraid to quit a job she enjoys. You’re obviously very passionate about dancing, but you were able to put the situation into perspective and come to the conclusion that it didn’t fit into your life the way you needed it to. That’s a hard realization and it takes a lot of strength to a) admit it b) actually do something about it. So, well done! *internet high five*

  15. There’s a saying that I love: Everything happens for a reason. In your case, you made the right decision at that moment. Looking back at it, you may wish you had taken the other route, but honestly, how do you feel right here and right now? That is all that matters. And, look at it this way. At least you tried. Three years is no mean feat. There are other things waiting out there and who knows? Maybe dance will find its way back into your life, in some other way, at some other time.

    • It’s an interesting camaraderie that I wasn’t expecting when I joined. I need to dig back in my memories and pull out some gems. Haha

  16. I have found as I’ve gotten older that you sometimes have to cut out things you love because of a) things you love more, or b) things you are forced to focus on, like work, one of those real world problems. I bet you will come back around to reconnect with dance in some way, shape, or form. But it doesn’t make it any less hard to say goodbye, for now.

    • There are definitely some new hobbies I’ve discovered that can fill the void. Hopefully, it will be enough for the time being!

  17. Even if you don’t dance professionally anymore, you can continue to dance and define yourself as a dancer. You can dance at home, or join classes for fun whenever you have the time. You can dance at the club, on your way to work, with your friends. You will always be a dancer if that’s what you feel like! However, I’m sorry you had to make such a hard decision.

    As for me, I am a photographer. I’ve never done it professionally but I sure as stone am one. I take a lot of pictures and I love it. I often look at things as if I had been looking at them through a lens. I see the artsy side of everything. This is my passion and if that doesn’t make me a photographer, I don’t know what does.

    Furthermore I’m also a writer. I’m not a professional author but damn, I’m still a writer! I’ve been writing throughout my whole life and it helps me relieve stress as well as realizing my emotions. Through the pen or the keyboard, I can express things I couldn’t with my voice. I write every day, for myself and for others. So I can definitely use the writer label. And so can you, with the dancer label. We are what we feel like!

    And you know what? Sometimes I think we will find greater pleasure in the things we like if we don’t have them as our jobs. Having them as our jobs put pressure on us. It makes them feel as a must. We have to adapt to deadlines, rules and expectations from others. We have to worry about money issues. But when we do it as a hobby, we can put all our heart in it. It doesn’t ever have to be forced. We can skip doing it when we feel too tired or busy and go back to it when we have the energy once again. There’s a freedom in that and I truly believe happiness comes from freedom. So even if I sometimes wish to be a professional photographer, I also wish to always stay as a hobby one. I think that will keep the passion alive.

    • Thanks for this! I hope to really start concentrating on my writing. I need to finish my book and start a new one. Haha. I will definitely always be dancing in some shape or form but it’s exciting to concentrate on new things!

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