Dreams Never Die – When You Can’t Get to Broadway, Sometimes Vegas Will Do
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 and paralyzed. 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. But when it’s something I’ve put blood, sweat, tears and time into, it’s never easy to let go right away. And there always seems to be this nasty, negative, shadow creature slinking about the outskirts of my mind, hinting that perhaps I should just give up altogether. Sell out. But I know by now that this is the last thing you should do when someone steps on your dream. Because dreams never die.
This year, two completely different individuals, in two completely different time zones, both of whom I had heretofore respected and admired greatly, pulled some pretty shady shit which resulted in me having to do major redirects with my immediate life plans. 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 anymore time and focus on the alleged dream crusher standing behind it won’t further you along towards the manifestation of your passions, either.
When one door closes, walk away. It’s not your door.
When you can’t get to Broadway
When I was a little tiny girl, I knew I would grow up to be The Sugar Plum Fairy in the Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. It was an absolute certainty. 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. 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 finally mentioned to my mother that 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. I was never flexible and it runs in our family. I’ve been biting my tongue for years but you should give up this silly desire to be a dancer.”
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. I remember going to see the movies Flashdance and Fame alone as a teenager because I didn’t want any of my friends to see me cry. After awhile, I stopped torturing myself with dance movies and avoided live performances altogether. It was too painful. But 10 years later, I decided I’d had enough of this regret.
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 months of taking classes, I started teaching. Pretty soon thereafter, I was pursuing dance classes. Jazz. Ballet. Tap. All of it. Starved for 10 years, I was ravenous. By the time I’d graduated college at 26, I was auditioning again. Mom said she thought it was “cute.” But I could tell, by her little quips here and there that she was starting to get worried. The 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 advised me that I had been chosen as a candidate for a philosophy fellowship and scholarship to grad school. 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 was convinced I was throwing my life away.
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 jetés. If I was gonna chase any part of my dream to dance, I had to do it immediately.
Sorry, Mate, 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 one day, while I was on the floor of the gym, Mr. Gregory Hines himself wandered in for a work out. 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.
Did I ever get to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy with the Royal Ballet? No. But I’ve seen them perform in London, and the Paris Opera Ballet in Paris, and the San Francisco Ballet in San Francisco. After chasing my stubborn dream with everything I had, the ballet now fills my heart with joy instead of sorrow because I got my piece of it. That mournful regret that I’d carried in the dark part of my heart for 10 years had found its way out to the sunlight.
Use a wide angle lens
My ‘lil dance career might not have been the door I’d set my sites on as a little 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.
It might not have been the door I’d set my sites on, but it was a door that allowed my dream to express itself at last.
Just keep stoking that fire
So here’s the thing. You are the only one who can put a price tag on your dreams. Don’t ignore those that won’t leave you alone at night no matter what people say or do. Doors can close on you in myriad 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 and billions of people in the world, right? And one or two or 10 have let you down? You can’t let that stop you. Don’t even think about it.
You can’t play the short game with your passions. How your dream eventually materializes may not look the same as your original concept, 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 and don’t know what to do, take a break and remember how extensive your dream is. It’s bigger than one door, or two, or ten. Don’t ever think that there is a strict particular way to express that fire inside of you. When one door closes, it’s time to take a walk down the hallway and go door shopping. Because believe me when I tell you, your dreams will only die when you do.
Dedicated to Ark.
Photo by John Torcasio