When I was 4 years old, I began taking ballet classes (or more accurately how-to-dress-up-in-fairy-costumes-and-run-around-the-room classes) in Austin, Texas.
A few months later I moved to Sacramento, started classes at Country Day, found a new ballet studio and began group violin lessons.
As the years went by, it became apparent that violin and ballet were my two main focuses aside from academics.
By the eighth grade, I was finally playing on a full-size violin (I had started out on a one-16th size violin that looked more like a doll toy than an actual instrument), and I had been accepted into the second-highest orchestra in the Sacramento Youth Symphony.
Concurrently, I was going to three-hour ballet classes daily. A year earlier I had danced the role of Clara in “The Nutcracker,” and I had been dancing en pointe for two years.
The point of this blog, though, isn’t to show off. Rather, it’s a reflection on a choice that I often regret.
At the end of middle school, the main difference between ballet and violin was parental influence. My mother, in particular, would never let me quit violin. On the other hand, she was more understanding when it came to ballet.
The reasons for this discrepancy are unknown to me, but, to be fair, my future in ballet was bleak at best.
When one imagines a prima ballerina, the vision probably features a six-foot, lean woman with long feet and a flat chest. Even at 14 years of age, it was obvious that I would never fulfill these requirements. By that time I had already had the heartbreaking discussion with my doctor about my (lack of) height—a legacy of short Italian ladies had left me condemned to a life at five-foot-one.
Consequently, it was with little effort that I managed to convince my usually stubborn mother that it was best for me to quit dancing.
At first the freedom from ballet was wonderful—I no longer had to attend rehearsals, and I got to experience a pedicure for the first time in years.
Soon enough, though, the negative effects of my decision began to sink in. I did the splits one day to impress a friend and was surprised by the slight discomfort.
Then I began looking in the mirror and realizing how much my body had changed. When I was dancing, my large diet was no problem because of the long, intensive rehearsals. But when I no longer had that level of physical activity to counterbalance my frequent fast-food stops, I wasn’t so lucky.
At that point, I considered going back to dance, but I didn’t. My justification was that it would be too “awkward.”
Years later, I still regret this decision. I wish that I could go back to ballet, but I know that it wouldn’t be the experience I want. I would no longer be in the company (the highest level of the studio), but would be demoted to the beginning teens/adults class. Not to mention it would be hard to find the time for classes.
The reason I tell this story is to encourage caution when deciding to quit something. Looking back, I’m convinced that all I really needed was a nice two-week break from ballet. Quitting was an overreaction.
I had tried to quit the violin multiple times before, but my mother wouldn’t budge—and I’m glad she didn’t. Those phases of disinterest were brief and ultimately rewarding; through them, I gained a deeper appreciation for music and the dedication it takes to play an instrument well.
With any artistic passion (whether it be musical, visual, theatrical or something else entirely), it’s important to give the art a valiant effort before deciding it’s time to give up.
In such a field, it takes time to get to a certain level and then more time to retain that level. By quitting, one wastes immense amounts of potential that can never be regained.