It’s 4:00 AM and I can’t sleep, as clearly evidenced by this post.
I’ve removed all the pillows from my bed and built a fortress of sorts in my closet. I’ve never looked at my dress clothes from this angle, but they seem eerily protective right now as they hover above the glow of my laptop screen. A sentry of Ike Behars and Van Heusens, if you will.
I can’t put a finger on exactly what is bothering me, but this is the third or fourth restless night I’ve suffered since moving. I’m confident that it’s a little more than just growing pains at this point.
If you’ve never lived in what could be considered constant limbo between what you feel is right and what you’ve been told is wrong, then you might have trouble relating to me beyond this point. Warning issued.
Sometimes I feel like my life isn’t mine. I was told where to go to school. I was told what to study. I was told what to pledge. I was told which career path to follow. I’ve been praised for every mark that I’ve met and redirected to an alternative or satisfactory substitute for each that I’ve missed. Every dream I’ve had for myself has been lauded and nurtured for my own sake; most have been ultimately pushed aside because they didn’t fit “the vision” for my life that has, over time, become a self-imposed death sentence.
A few months ago while corresponding via text message, a friend (I think I feel comfortable calling him that now) asked me: “What makes you happy?” What scared me the most about that question was the fact that it took me almost two whole days to successfully answer it. I know that’s not a simple, quick-draw question along the lines of “What did you have for breakfast this morning?” but I’m pretty sure the average person could come up with something after a few moments of thought.
My first answer—the very first thing that popped into my head—was simple. “Dancing” was my eventual reply after a few hours (coupled with “ice cream”, of course). My response was delayed because saying it felt silly to me… almost as though I was ashamed of it. That’s how I’ve been conditioned to feel about dance. It has no place at the table in the grand scheme of my life’s plan, so sayeth the controlling authority tasked with implanting the notion of what my life is supposed to be.
After wiping my brow and feeling as though I made it through, my phone chimed once again with another text. “What else?” Thus began the mental toiling. Here I was battling a question about my own aspirations. I was struggling to identify the source of my own happiness. Never would I have imagined that I’d be unable to reach into this prescribed life of mine to find an answer for a simple question about it. Am I unreasonable for only having one thing on my list of happy? Is that not normal? Or is everybody else weird for bopping around with a scroll of shit that makes them feel fulfilled and complete? Can I reply with “The ice cream part of that reply was very serious” or will he not buy that?
A day and a half into wrestling with this torturous question, it finally hit me, and this answer was even more embarrassing to me than the first. “Being in love,” I replied.
Love is one the most unbridled and uncontrollable feelings that any person can possess. You can’t fit love into a project plan or put love on a timetable. You can’t shove love into a box or force it to conform to a certain shape, size, or degree of magnitude. No MLA citation rules or financial ratios can be applied to love to make it happen or to keep it from consuming everything within its path. Love was unaccounted for in “the vision” because it’s not possible to factor it into such a formulaic preparation… not physically, not mathematically, and definitely not scientifically. I subsequently realized that I’ve been at my happiest during the times when I was in love because those were the times where I’ve been at my most free and natural state. In those moments, I’ve been completely liberated from any expectations of compliance or conformity. Being in love has been the only time where I’ve seen the upper hand in the struggle for power and control over my life.
There isn’t much I can do about the love side of the equation right now. But before I moved to San Diego, a good friend of mine convinced me to be open to exploring the option of continuing my dance studies and training on a professional level here. It’s something I would absolutely love to do, but I’m pretty sure I lack the time, gall, and free spirit to truly entertain such an idea.
I feel like I’ve been struggling for quite some time to reconcile my desire to please others with my innate yearning to please myself. Every time I feel I’ve narrowed in on a moment of clarity which reveals not only what must be done to achieve my own desires, but also a glimpse at how that change can potentially shatter my present world, I retreat in fear. It’s not necessarily a fear rooted entirely in trepidation or self-doubt, but rather a fear birthed out of my own stubborn practicality.
This is a prime example of one of the times where my practical nature has taken the reins. I love to dance. That’s something I can honestly admit. It’s almost always on my mind, especially when I’m bored or idle. The second bedroom in my apartment is empty right now (save a few boxes and other miscellany scattered about the perimeter), but I’ve definitely turned it into a makeshift studio a few times since I got here. Even though I practically live and breathe dance under normal, happier circumstances, I don’t know how or if I could transition from where I am now into that world. It would be totally insane to walk away from my career to study dance full-time. TOTALLY insane. UCSD and San Diego State both have commendable dance programs… the former more so than the latter. I’m not sure I’m prepared to take such an enormous leap of faith now or ever, even if I do feel like I’m drowning slowly in a life that doesn’t belong to me. But even beyond all that practical self-doubt, what does it say that this is the place to which my heart continually returns?
Even if dance isn’t the answer, there has to be something. Something that isn’t this. Something that wasn’t given to me. Something I can accept and embrace as my own.
Something that kills the monotony of this dull life and brings me back to a place where complacency and I can be reintroduced.
Maybe a change is worth considering a bit more earnestly. Especially if it’ll keep me out of closets at 4:00 AM.