When I was four years old, I told my mom I wanted to take ballet classes. I never imagined myself fourteen years later still going to ballet classes daily. Ballet is an art that appears simple and graceful, but to those that know the pain of dancing, it is anything but simple. Everyday after school for the past few years, I would strive for perfection and spend countless hours in the studio. I danced for hours, examining every aspect of my body. Ballet caused me to look down upon myself. I never thought of myself as good enough. That being said, I always tried to hold onto the moments where I knew that all of the pain, anxiety, and exhaustion were worth it for those indescribable moments of absolute bliss. However, ballet is something that ends fairly early for most dancers due to injury. My whole senior year, I imagined myself finishing my last show and smiling under the heat of the bright stage lights. Instead, my finale was just like many other dancers.

Physically, I have a high tolerance for pain. But the pain of tendinitis in my ankle was more than I could endure. For months, I constantly soaked my ankles and feet in epsom salt and water. I would cry driving home because the pain was unbearable. Why couldn't I just walk away? What is causing me to keep hurting myself? I asked myself these questions but found no answer. Any dancer or athlete knows the difficulty of choosing between passion or practicality. Those that wish to succeed do not easily give up. Eventually, I realized that the mental and physical distress I was putting upon myself was too much. I took my last ballet class without even realizing that would be the last time I would ever dance.

Now, four months later, I find myself happier than ever before. The recovery period after I stopped dancing was difficult and strenuous but I am now healthier physically. My heart longs to dance again and there are many aspects about dance that I miss. Giving up on the one thing in my life that was constant was a decision I didn't think I was strong enough to make. I have learned how strong I am because of ballet--I proved to myself that I do not need to be perfect. I just need to do what makes me happiest. Everything that I learned from ballet, from time management, endurance, and precision, has helped shaped who I am. The memories I have from ballet are irreplaceable and the reflection process since I have put away my ballet shoes has been even more rewarding. Ballet has always been apart of me, and always will be--a feeling every ballerina shares.