The Parts I Left Behind

I am not a dancer.

In fact, I am a pretty terrible dancer. Uncoordinated, having absolutely no idea how to manage my strangely disproportionate limbs.

Once, as part of my four-year stint as a high school actress, I had to learn how to waltz – and believe me, it was painful for the choreographer (also my best friend at the time) to explain and demonstrate the steps in a way I could possibly understand. My partner, although very kind and talented himself, didn’t help matters by being roughly half my size, and I’m fairly sure the audience laughed audibly when he had to “lift” me in our first scene.

You would never know, watching the DVD of that performance, how much I had struggled. Onscreen, my dancing looks polished and precise, although certainly not professional quality. But by the time the curtain rose on opening night, I had gone from a hopeless tangled mess of body parts to a reasonable semblance of a graceful human being.

Two years before, I had enrolled in a lifeguarding course at the summer camp I’d been attending since I was nine, without the faintest idea of how to swim. The first day our group was instructed to “try a few laps,” I collapsed halfway through a valiant adaptation of the doggie paddle. But by the seventh week, I had passed every single test required by the American Red Cross with flying colors.

I mean, I’m never going to be a world-renowned dancer or a champion swimmer. I gave up my Broadway dreams the moment I realized I didn’t even know how to do a piqué turn, and I’ve been beaten in a breaststroke race by a seven-year-old to whom I was supposed to be teaching lessons (needless to say, that kid passed lessons a few weeks early). It really is quite sad, because I would love nothing more than to star in a musical’s national tour – I just know, self-pity aside, that I simply do not have the talent and experience to be successful.

Initially, what I took that to mean was that I should find a new hobby. I have not stepped on a stage since high school for that reason, because I thought I would be happier if I invested my time in something I could actually succeed at. But watching my little brother light the stage for a huge company of performers (some talented and some mediocre), I realized that when I took my final bow, I left behind a part of me. The fearless part. The part that contained passion and drive and openness to connection. To an extent, the part that was truly confident.

I want that part back.


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