Dreams don’t always come true – and that’s OK

28 Jun

Last week my 2 year old daughter received her first pair of ballet slippers. They’re powder pink, in soft-as-butter leather, with little satin bows at the toes. I wish they were mine. As she excitedly showed them to me, I held them to my nose and inhaled that gorgeous, new-shoe, real leather smell – and with that whiff came flooding back a host of childhood memories – and the sense of a dream – unfulfilled, and never likely to be fulfilled. As a child, my dream was to be a famous prima ballerina with the Australian Ballet Company. I certainly pursued my dream, attending weekly dance classes with teacher Marylin Jones – herself a former Principal and renowned dancer with the Australian Ballet Company. I remember our uniform exactly – pale blue leotard, pink tights, ballet slippers, a chiffon over-skirt and hair always scraped back into a bun. What really motivated me through the hours of arabesques, plies and jetes, was the thought of wearing a tutu in the end of year concert.
 I did get to – once – a hot pink number with layers and layers of frothy tulle. I took it very seriously – my family, not so much. My Mum says tears of laughter ran down her face when she saw her chubby little 7 year old daughter prancing across the stage. There were a couple of on-stage tiffs between the performers as we bossed each other into the correct position. Graceful, elegant, artistic – we were not. At the age of 11, ballet class started to get serious. It was time for pointe work, and that meant an extra two classes per week, making a total of 3 afternoons devoted to ballet. As much as I loved it, I also loved other things – like tennis, piano, and speech and drama. And there was another issue – I simply wasn’t a very talented dancer. No one ever said so. I think I just knew it. And it wasn’t like anyone begged me to keep dancing – which is a sure sign that I wasn’t a big loss to the ballet world. To be a great ballet dancer you need to work bloody hard but you also need to have genes on your side – a natural turn-out and flexibility are pretty important – I had neither – I’m about as flexible as a plank of wood. But did my dream die? Absolutely not. I continued to love dance – not as a performer, but as a spectator, and I read copious books about little girls whose dance dreams did come true. To this day, ballet is still a passion. I still go to ballet concerts and marvel at the artistry of the dancers and the ways they can manipulate their bodies in ways you can hardly believe possible. I really want to do one of those adult beginner ballet classes. At the age of 35, I still fantasise about wearing a big, white tutu and pirouetting my way to fame in front of loving audiences. But I know it’s never going to happen. And I’m OK with that. With maturity, I’ve learned just how hard a career it is – it’s tough on your body and at best, can only last about 15 years. In some ways, I’m glad it’s a dream that’s never been fulfilled – the reality may not have lived up to my imagination. So often, we’re urged to ‘follow our dreams’, or in the words of solo-sailor Jessica Watson ‘live your dreams’. In her Australia Day speech, the 16 year old said “You don’t have to be anyone or anything to achieve something. You’ve just got to believe in it and work hard… So, to all you Aussies out there, particularly us young guys, let’s dream big. But more importantly, let’s make it happen.” I don’t disagree with this comment, and I would never want to discourage  anyone from pursuing their dreams but I would say this – dreams can still be wonderful, even if they don’t come true – even if you can’t ‘make it happen’. Achieving a dream takes more than hard work and belief, it also requires a fair bit of luck, which is beyond anyone’s control. I wasn’t lucky enough to be born with a dancer’s body. Jessica Watson was lucky that a rogue wave didn’t destroy her boat, and therefore, her dream. I think we put too much emphasis on achieving our dreams and therefore, feeling like failures when they don’t come to fruition.The reality is that there is enormous enjoyment to be had in simply having a dream and`working towards it. Let’s accept this – some of the best dreams are only ever played out in our heads, and that’s where they should stay.

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One Response to “Dreams don’t always come true – and that’s OK”

  1. Anonymous June 30, 2011 at 5:43 am #

    got it…i wont be the next billy elliot once my mid life crisis has passed…bummer

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