Author: Zan Li

Dreams Don’t Die – When You Can’t Get to Broadway, Sometimes Vegas Will Do

Dreams Don’t Die –

No matter how much experience I have with disappointment, when something I am really committed to and passionate about goes sideways, it always leaves me twisted. Sometimes it?s just bad luck. Sometimes it just didn?t work out. And sometimes it?s because someone else didn?t hold up their end of the deal.

You rationalize, justify and struggle with your failure. And sometimes you wonder whether you oughtta just give up. Sell out. Walk away. But I know by now that this is the last thing you should do when someone steps on your dream. Because dreams don’t die.

When one door closes, walk away. It’s not your door

When someone pulls an unexpected about-face on you, the temptation to retaliate, or at least blame them is overwhelming, especially if you’d had a lot riding on the deal, whether emotionally or fiscally. That door closes, and you just want to kick the shit out of it and break it back down.

But that ain?t right.

When that door closes, walk away. It?s not your door. And wasting any more time and focus on the alleged dream crusher standing behind it won?t further you along towards the manifestation of your passions, either.

?When you can’t get to Broadway…

When I was a little tiny girl, I fashioned myself a dancer. Later, this morphed into a full-on obsession with becoming a triple threat like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and eventually, my ultimate hero, Mr. Gregory Hines. Jazz. Tap. Flash. Broadway! It was a passion so powerful, nothing could crush it. Until I hit puberty.

I was a scrawny, red-headed stepchild

I was a scrawny, red-headed stepchild. Literally. And bowlegged to boot. After shooting up 5 inches one summer to tower over everyone at 13, flexibility had become a far reach for me.

When I told my mom I wasn?t getting picked for recitals anymore and needed help increasing my flexibility, this is what she said: ??Honey, I?m sorry to have to tell you this but you?re just not flexible and you never will be. You should give up this silly desire to be a dancer.?

The door didn?t just close, it slammed shut and locked itself from the inside

I was crushed. The door didn?t just close, it slammed shut and locked itself from the inside. But even though I quit dancing at 13, the dream refused to die. It just lay festering away in the deepest part of my heart because that is what dreams do. If you don?t go after them with everything you?ve got, they turn into regrets.

If you don?t go after dreams with everything you?ve got, they turn into regrets.

Sometimes Vegas will do

I was a 23-year-old sophomore in college when I had my son. I think I?d gained about 50 pounds during my pregnancy, so I immediately started taking aerobics classes to get the weight off. After a couple of months of taking classes, I started teaching. Pretty soon thereafter, I was pursuing dance classes again. Jazz. Ballet. Tap. All of it.

Starved for 10 years, I was ravenous. By the time I’d graduated from college at 26, I was auditioning again. Mom said she thought it was “cute.” But I could tell, she was starting to get worried. Her interjections about “a stable company job” were becoming more frequent.

At times, dreams require sacrifice

Shortly before graduation, my philosophy professor beckoned me into his office and told me that I’d been chosen as a candidate for a philosophy fellowship. I will never forget the look on his face when I told him that I was moving to Vegas to dance. ?And I will never forget the dire protestations from my mother who said I was ruining my life.

But that dream had been rattling its cage for 10 years. The way I looked at it, I was already late to the game. I figured I’d have my brain a lot longer than I?d have a body capable of doing grand jet?s. If I was gonna chase any part of my dream to dance, I had to do it immediately.

(Sorry, Prof, got no time for Nietzsche, et al, atm.

Sorry, Mom, got plenty of time to rot in a cubie later.)

?Dreams may come to life in different ways

In Vegas, I got a day job as the aerobics director for Gold?s Gym. I taught classes, managed the aerobics department, and raced off to ballet classes and auditions in between. Eventually, I started getting gigs.

I got to dance The Mirage Grandballroom wearing a $10,000 Bob Mackey teal green, beaded gown, and headdress. I got to dance at fun and funky LGBT fashion shows. I got to dance hip-hop on local TV. I got to dance on stage with George Clinton and P-Funk.

And then one day, while I was on the floor of the gym, Mr. Gregory Hines himself wandered in for a workout. He was fresh off of Broadway’s Jelly’s Last Jam and was visiting his parents in Vegas. We had a smoothy at the juice bar together and chatted. I was over the moon.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.– Arthur Ashe Jr.

Use a wide angle lens

My funky little dance career might not have been the door I?d set my sites on as a tiny girl, but it was a door that allowed my dream to express itself at last. And as it turned out, waltzing back into the world of dance in my mid 20?s turned into 20+ years of performing on stages all over the place, which opened new doors with all kinds of wonderfully talented people, many of whom I still call dear friends.

There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.
? Douglas H. Everett

?Just keep stoking that fire

So here?s the thing. You’re the only one who can put a price tag on your dreams. Don’t ignore those dreams that won’t leave you alone at night no matter what people say or do.

Doors can close on you in unimaginable ways. Your parents can make mistakes. Your partner can cheat on you. That school can reject you. Your business colleagues can do an about face and leave you holding the bag. Your boss can fire you. Your startups can fail – over and over again. People are going to let you down – again and again, and again. Count on it!

So what? So now what?

So now… your job is to not let yourself down. You?ve got a dream? – you keep going. Billions of people in the world, right? And one or two or 10 have let you down? You can?t let that stop you.

You can’t play the short game with your passions.

You can’t play the short game with your passions. How your dream eventually materializes may not look the same as you’d imagined, but that is not important. We learn and change along the way, but the dream itself, in its rawest form, lingers on, clinging to the edges of our hearts.

Take a walk down the hallway…

When you get shafted, rejected, dismissed and that door slams on you, take a break and remember how extensive your dream is. It’s bigger than one door, or two, or ten. There is no singular way to express that fire inside of you. When that door closes, take a walk down the hallway and go door shopping. Because believe me when I tell you, your dream won’t die till you do.

Dedicated to Ark.
What happens to a dream deferred?
??????Does it dry up
??????like a raisin in the sun?
??????Or fester like a sore?
??????And then run?
??????Does it stink like rotten meat?
??????Or crust and sugar over?
??????like a syrupy sweet?
??????Maybe it just sags
??????like a heavy load.
??????Or does it explode?