It had been a few months since I last set foot in the 6:30 Thursday class.
The little clock on the edge of my computer screen blinked 6:15 when I decided to go.
I ran out, pulled up my leotard in the bathroom and sprinted to the subway. The stupid train got stuck for 10 more minutes. By the time I arrived, I was breathless and mad, but the teacher wasn’t there yet. I took that as a sign.
Ballet felt good. Good to stretch again, good to feel graceful — but only when I wasn’t trying to catch up or look like my neighbor. “Do your own thing; don’t look at others,” Martha would say. You try being a newb.
“Have you been dancing this whole time?” Martha asked after the barre exercises. (She likes to single people out in class.) I shook my head and continued my stretch. “That’s good; it all stayed in your head then,” she said. I smiled. Toward the end of the hour and a half, I couldn’t follow anymore. There were four steps, and I could only remember two at a time. When rows of feet swept neatly across the floor, I stumbled. I couldn’t finish. I walked the rest of the way.
Afterward, I walked out and felt unhappy. I wanted more. More time, better skills, more out of life. But the thoughts were grounded in a bed of logic. Why worry, I thought. Why waste your time wondering why you hadn’t continued … why feel terrible that you ruined your feet when they’re still usable enough to attend these beginner classes?
I practiced the steps on the subway platform. It’s OK if you can’t remember. Talent isn’t talent … it’s not a mystery. It’s patience and dedication.
When I started art school, I wasn’t an artist. I was a teenager. I doodled small pictures in the middle of the page and felt sorry I’d made the wrong decision. It made me nervous. The kids around me were confident. They had Mona Lisas in their newsprints. And then I stayed up nights, spent weekends cooped up in the narrow dorm room scratching pencils and plants and the view or my reflection into my notepad. By the end of the semester, my final project was one of the top three drawings in the class. That felt good.
So it is with any kind of creative pursuit: It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to practice a million times. Literally. So after tonight, I’m a step closer to greatness. I only have 999,000 hours left. It’s a lot, yes, but I’d rather be here than where I was the day before.