Sadly, only eight of them were paid.
The rest were spent with the UPenn ballroom team, preparing my kids there for the upcoming showcase and practicing with a temporary partner for a local competition. While taking a break I was speaking with said partner and we were talking about... actually I can't remember how it came about. But at some point I said something along the lines of, "Going from being an English major to a dance teacher, I think I may have made the only possible downgrade in terms of money earned for the effort." She responded that at Wharton the focus is on the opposite: earning as much money as possible with as little effort. I don't know what I said in response, but I know what I thought.
I have been a failure at every single thing I have ever tried in my life.
Now I caught myself right away because that is blatantly not true. I've succeeded at a great many things, often wildly so. And when I have failed, for the most part it's not been a failure despite my efforts; it's been a failure for lack of effort.
In this brief instant, my adult life flashed before my eyes and I realized that everything about my career has come about not because I wasn't good enough but because I never devoted myself to success. I was never willing to pursue success against the odds, despite hardships, over the long term. I didn't fail, I quit, and that made me a failure.
Things I have quit:
- Writing. I didn't produce one page of a salable screenplay when I moved to Madison. La Maupin collects dust waiting for a third act despite actual interest by real players.
- Epic. When I had trouble creating testing plans I didn't ask for help or look up examples of good plans; I just ran bad plans until they fired me.
- English. To do anything as a literary scholar I'd have to go to grad school. I wrote that off my sophomore year, but never pursued anything else you can do with an English degree.
- See also: game design, journalism, and teaching.
Quite simply, I've never followed through. I pass a few roadblocks but I always let something stop me.
It's strange, but I've been more devoted to ballroom dance for as long as any other career path I've followed. I've put in more effort than most and stuck with it through tougher hardships. And yet I still constantly find myself questioning, "Is this worth it?" "Will I make it?" "Am I wasting my time? My money? Maybe I should just quit now and stop throwing good money after bad."
Fuck. That. Shit.
I'm nearly thirty years old. It's time to grow a pair and grow up. I love dancing. I love teaching. And I'll be fucked if I'm going to let myself fuck it up for myself because I don't have the stones to see this through. I'm not going to be that Alex who flounders around waiting for something better to come around. I want to be a dancer? Fuck waiting around and taking classes and practicing until I'm good enough to be a dancer. I am good enough and while I'm going to keep pushing myself to get better and better and better, I'm going to spend that time being a dancer. Fuck the five year deadline I had when I moved back here to make it "work." I will get a job at McDonald's and live in a flea-trap if I have to, but I am not quitting this so I can go get my MBA from Arcadia Community College only to drop out of that program as well before seeing the fruits of my labors.
I'm giving notice right now. I'm manning up. I am no failure and I will not let whatever childish insecurities I might be carrying around threaten my future.
It's 1:18. This is the last time I stay up this late. I'm going to bed now. I'm getting up early tomorrow and going to the studio where I'm going to drill the rest of the rhythm syllabus until I have it solid. And I'm going to keep drilling that book every goddamn day no matter what DVIDA bullshit I have to put up with so that when June comes I ace that test. And then I am going to apply to every dance studio in Philadelphia. I'm going to apply to the studios I love, the ones I shudder to work for, and I'm even going to apply again to Arthur Murray. I'm going to get offers from each of them and take the best offer and then I'm going to be the best fucking dance teacher you have ever seen.
Bring it on, Alex, you've got me to contend with now.