Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Changing Trains.

There are, without doubt, moments in all of our lives that we can look to as those that altered our direction. We may have made such choices decidedly, with ownership. Or perhaps we may feel choices were made for us. Made by another person, or by the circumstances that were created around us. In whatever way, we boarded trains that carried us to destinations other than our previous ones. We boarded those trains, consciously or otherwise. Where did you go?

Throughout my high school education I carried home academic reports of my medium to average attainment levels in my studies to my ever encouraging parents, and tried to fit in as best as I could with life as it unfolded. But I never quite found ‘my thing’. The thing that would implicate I might be more of a somebody than I had already estimated myself as being. It wasn’t until I started studying for my A-Levels that I really began to work out what it was that I might be any good at, or indeed who I might like to become. This is not to say that I had low esteem. More that I hadn’t yet found a spark of excitement for the idea of my future self. That person didn’t exist; yet.

The thing about choice is it’s inherent components of rejection. To choose, is to disengage from another option. To effectively utilise the power of choice, we must loosen ourselves from an alternative. This can be tricky, particularly when there is more than one choice. Or indeed when the choice has to be made by mind against heart.

Following on from my A-Level studies I went on to study ‘3D Design’ at Bath University. I made this choice because I knew I needed to be with art in some way. I hadn’t yet found the ‘thing’ I was looking for. At this point I was only newly aware that there may well be a ‘thing’ to be found. Within weeks it was clear that clay was not that thing! But importantly my room mate at the time took me along to my first ballet class. And the rest, as you might say, is my history.

When I confidently dropped out of a perfectly good University course to pursue becoming a professional dancer with no training at all, I wasn’t met with overwhelming understanding for my vision. My family and closest friends supported me unquestioningly. But the dancing schools that I excitedly applied to didn’t quite agree. I was told by one in particular that I was disrespecting the institution of dance, and that I didn’t ‘appreciate’ the work that goes into the vocation. I was also told by a few friends of mine that I was being flaky, and that they were concerned about my path. This, above all else, was difficult to hear. I respected these friends. But I physically felt the weight of their rejection of my ideas. 

In retrospect; I was untrained, unemployed, and with no definite prospects. I was also living with my long term boyfriend who was less and less impressed with my dancing plans with every passing day. At this point, it would have been easier in some ways to have given up on my ambitions, and gone back to what I had been doing. But easier for who? 

Of course, I contemplated leaving my dream behind. Locking it all away as a memory. I could have effortlessly labelled it dutifully as ‘something I always wanted to do’; to be drawn upon only in future pub reflective conversations with friends on some Sunday that hadn’t happened yet. But I knew - just as I had done in the initial moments of that first ballet class -  that life had already made it’s choice for me. I couldn’t change how I felt. Now, or ever.

Ten years on, and much has changed. I went on to fight for my path. I went on to meet wonderful men and women of the industry who shared my vision, and who supported my ambitions. I also met many friends who could see the white light of potential within me, rather than the darker shades of doubt. Within the passionate pursuit of a life of creative and personal freedom, I came up against battles I couldn’t have imagined. And indeed wounds that lasted a little longer than I cared for. But these experiences are far, far outweighed by the many thousands of golden moments of dance, art, freedom, friendship, travel, education, and adventure I have so fortunate to have found. My challenges are fragments of a journey, not definition of it in total. This, above all else, is what I have learnt from the process of taking responsibility for my choices.

If we had every eventuality laid out neatly in front of us would we choose any differently? Would we gather options in our arms and use them to lay brick paths ahead of us? If we could, would it make any difference?

I have just glanced down at my telephone and seen three separate e-mails from followers of this blog sending thoughts about various past articles. Earlier today I received a letter from someone who is recovering from an eating disorder and is using my blog as an aide to do so. Yesterday a friend sent me a photo of a t-shirt she had spotted with the word ‘Liberté’ printed on it, as it made her think of this journey! These are the ingredients of my days that are the most valuable to me. And the absolute signifiers that we, as a collective of this movement of ‘LIBERTÉ’ are undoubtedly on the right path. Moving as one, just as I began to move alone back in those empty ballet studios of ten years ago. Together. 

It’s a gentle Sunday today. I have a busy week ahead of me teaching various workshops here in the middle  part of England. Students yet to meet, dances yet to be danced, and music yet to be lost within. I don’t quite know yet what the week will hold. But I do know it will be one of authenticity, in whatever way life, and I, choose for it to be. 

We cannot guarantee anything in life, much as we may try! Revel in your choices, and the process of choosing. And never forget the genuine power of choosing for yourself what’s right for your path. It's OK to choose to alight that train you're hurtling forwards upon, if it doesn't feel right any longer. Or change and board another. You are not alone in this journey.

And no one ever said you were on a limited ticket.

L I B E R T É.

Helen Victoria