Hi guys! It’s currently 1:17am on this Monday morning. I have a Russian final at 11:30am today, which means I should probably have been long asleep… but my sleep schedule has taken at 180, and I find myself most awake at this late hour.
I was compelled to write this post after watching a video of the King and Queen of ice dance, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Canadian ice dance world and Olympic champions. Their 2017 free skate to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack was nothing short of perfection. The skate touched my soul to its very core, moving me to the verge of tears.
I then splurged on Tessa and Scott videos– past skates, interviews, TED talks. The couple’s story is so inspirational. They’ve been skating together for 20 years now, giving up a normal childhood to get to where they are today. In their youth, they’d wake up at 4:15am each morning to practice at the rink before school, then head straight to the rink after school, followed by homework, then sleep. At the ages of 15 and 17, the two relocated to Michigan to train under the best Russian coaches. At the age of 20 and 22, the two won their first Olympic gold medal at Vancouver, and are hoping for another gold medal this coming Winter Olympics.
Hearing their story, I am reminded of my own. Having grown up a competitive gymnast, I know of the insane commitment and sacrifice one must make for one’s sport… Ever since retiring from gymnastics, I’ve struggled to re-find that structure and discipline that characterized my first 15 years of life. I look back quite fondly on those days of waking up at 5am for morning practice, followed by school, followed by 3-4 hour training, then dinner in the car ride back home, then homework, then sleep and rejuvenation for another long day. It wasn’t an easy life, for sure… but the structure of it created a sort of simplicity, a simplicity and certainty I so long for, at this moment. All was well. I had a long-term goal that drove and consumed my very existence, and I knew exactly how to get there, with the aid of a wonderfully supportive family and excellent coaches. All was well. I woke up each morning with a great sense of clarity, and a passionate “WHY”.
Coming to college has been an enlightening experience, indeed. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I sometimes think, however… how different would my life have been, had I never gotten injured? If I had continued gymnastics throughout high school, made the national team, and postponed college for a chance at the Olympics? Granted, I was never blessed with the body for rhythmic gymnastics, so even if the injury hadn’t hindered my dreams of Olympic glory, my bodily limitations would have. Even so… I’ve always longed for the life that Tessa and Scott– and countless other Olympians– led. Complete dedication to their passions. Ever since middle school, I begged my parents to let me to online school, so I could focus more on my sport. Being strict, conservative Asian parents, however, they adamantly said NO. So, I tried my hardest to balance school with gymnastics, and with a whole lot of hard work and discipline, succeeded.
Of course, the amount of pressure these Olympians face is insane, and one could only understand it fully by living it. These guys carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. That kind of pressure would be enough to make a mentally stable person crack, let alone someone with an anxiety disorder. As much as I’d like to believe that, with the proper support, I could handle the pressure, I don’t have much confidence that I’d make it in the pursuit of Olympic glory, without cracking. That’s always been the case with me. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my coaches chose a select few gymnasts to be on the competitive team. Skillwise, I was there. The coaches were reluctant to move me to the competitive level, however, as they didn’t think I was mentally ready. To this day, I still struggle with insecurity and lack of confidence in myself. I constantly question my ability, even if I’ve prepared extensively. It might be my anxiety talking… but either way, the truth is, I have a long way to go in terms of building mental strength, if I wish to become successful in life.
So, back to Tessa and Scott. They are incredible, brilliant athletes and artists. Watching them skate has inspired me to get back into competitive dancing– not necessarily as my career, but as a lifelong passion. I strive for continual improvement, and am eager to see how far I can go in the world of Latin-American dance.
That leads me to my next question– how am I to support myself, after college? I now am sure of where my true passions lie. Writing; dancing; and anything related to the performance arts, with an emphasis in creating beauty through movement and music. Beyond dance, I wish to learn how to figure skate, at some point in my life. I want to get back into contortion, and maybe re-visit ballet. I will get back in shape, regain my strength and flexibility… maybe become an artist in Cirque du Solei. I want to somehow, someway, one day, make my mark. I never got the chance to pursue my Olympic dream… it’s an unfulfilled dream that will continue to nag at me, until it is fulfilled. Or, at least have a genuine chance at pursuing it.
But all this, I can only do in my youth! My body is only good for so long. After a certain point, as strong my dreams remain, I will be physically incapable of pursuing them. I need to go for it, while I still can.
Of course, college is a must. I will earn my psychology degree– I’m almost halfway through college, anyway. After school, I can pursue my passions to my heart’s content.
But man… how ever will I support myself?
Olympians have sponsors. They are literally PAID to receive the best training, physical therapy, sports psychologists, etc. Unfortunately, ballroom dancers don’t have such a luxury. Training is completely self-funded. Most dancers teach full-time as a means of income, which they then use for their own lessons. It is a difficult life, indeed. Is this one I wish to pursue? In moments like theses, I truly long for a life like Tessa and Scott’s… Becoming Olympic champions was undoubtedly a difficult path rife with pressure and adversity, but at the very least, they had their basic financial needs met, and were generously supported along the way.
I may never have the honor of competing in the Olympic Games in my lifetime… but in spite of everything, the hunger remains. There exists an unfulfilled dream, an internal tension, screaming to be released.
Am I on one of my manic episodes, again? Is this burst of intense passion but a fleeting moment, only to be dampened by a deep depression in a few weeks’ time? Or is it a long-lasting, silent but steady drive? Only time can tell…
I don’t know what I want to do after college, at least in terms of a day job. Unfortunately, I was dealt a difficult hand– a beautiful one, at that– but still difficult, as my passions unfortunately don’t align with a life of financial stability. If only I could be passionate about something like… oh, I don’t know… computer science. Or medicine. Something that would put food on the table. Writing, dancing, performance arts… it is so so difficult. At this point, though, I know I need to go for it. I just know it. Otherwise, I will spend my life regretting… living with that undying dream, tearing me apart from the outside-in. That kind of regret holds an indescribable pain, and I know this, because I’ve been through it firsthand. The injury that took me out of gymnastics prematurely. It happened right after a great season, too. Things were looking great for me and my career– I truly believed I had a shot at national team… and then I didn’t. And every day, I regret it… I shouldn’t have trained through the knee pain. I should have listened to my body, taken time to rest and heal, before resuming training. Maybe then, I would not have had to retire. At the very least, I would have had a shot to pursue my dream.
A big reason why I am so bent on pursuing a dance career is, I see dance as a means of fulfilling this unfulfilled dream. But the question is, do I want to pursue dance out of love for the art, or because of the very fact that I never had a shot at fulfilling my dreams as a gymnast?
Let’s just conclude this lengthy post with this: I am a dreamer at to the core. And I fully embrace that part of myself (to my parents’ dismay). Why suppress it? Those who have ever achieved greatness did not do so in comfort and safety… maybe a life of financial stability, in spite of being conditioned to believe that such is the ideal life to strive for, is one I’d be willing to give up for the pursuit of my artistic dreams. Yes, that’s gotta be it… it’s the only way.
Alright guys. It’s 2:03am now. This post flowed like a hot knife through butter. I speak from the soul. I hope you all enjoyed.