Somewhere in your closet, there's a box of used costumes. Somewhere in your room, there is a drawer filled with tights, bobby pins, and old dance shoes. Maybe you still have your old pointe shoes hanging on the back of your closet door, a memento of your glory days.
Dance defined you. It kept you busy and pushed you hard, both physically and mentally. It challenged you, comforted you, and empowered you.
Dancers are warriors, fighting and pushing their bodies to extremes for their love of art. You were and still should be passionate and proud to be counted as one of the great.
You didn't dance to put yourself on display. You danced to let go of the world around you, to forget your worries. You danced because it made the pain and stress and anxiety so much easier to bear. You danced to show the feelings you could not bring yourself to talk about. No matter how your day had gone, you could walk into your studio and forget about it all for a couple of hours.
You gave up so much time and so much of yourself. You poured your heart and soul into every routine. It was expected that you walk off stage completely exhausted, struggling to breathe, but with a huge smile on your face. Every weekend spent at a dance competition, every morning and afternoon spent practicing, it all meant so much. Every injury was a battle scar to be admired, proof that you had pushed until you couldn't push anymore.
Being a part of such a loving and gifted community helped you feel like you belonged, like you were committed to something bigger than just you or your team.
You will always remember what it felt like to leave the stage, having left everything behind. You will always remember how sore you were the day after a kick-butt practice. You will always remember what it felt like to circle around with your teammates before a performance and hope for the best.
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Leaving dance doesn't mean you lost everything that it taught you. The lessons you learned in the studio and onstage will stay with you for the rest of your life. They make you who you are: a strong, determined human being who is not afraid to make the world more beautiful through self-expression.
You learned that criticism isn't always a bad thing, but can build you up to be a better version of yourself. You learned to push yourself and never just settle for being good enough. You learned that hard work yields great results, no matter how long it takes. You learned that from pain comes beauty and that what you show onstage can mean so much more than mere spoken words.
Some things will fade away. You won't remember every step to the last routine you performed at your last spring show. You won't remember the first football game you attended with your high school team. You won't remember how many times you forgot your red lipstick at home or all the places you've left bobby pins behind.
On the other hand, some things will never fade away. You'll remember the first time you put those ballet shoes on. You'll remember how it felt to say goodbye to your team. You'll remember your first time dancing at a football stadium as well as your last time. You'll remember the best friends you made and all the good laughs you had.
Every practice, every competition, every game, every show. They have made you who you are.
You're ready now to face the world with a fierce determination, strong work ethic and artistic soul.
You will miss it with all your heart. I promise that you will, but the memories that you made will be with you forever.
So dance around your living room. Keep the pictures, t-shirts and costumes so you can show your kids and grandkids in the future. Call your old teammates and catch up.
You will always be a dancer, a warrior and an artist. You should be extremely proud of that fact. You made the world more beautiful and will continue to do so. Leaving the stage doesn't mean that it ends there.
In fact, this is just the beginning.