Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

It’s alright to give up on your dreams

This is only the beginning of a new path
(Collegian file photo)

At some point growing up, somebody probably asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Your answer may have been anything you could think of: a football player, an astronaut or perhaps even the president. Mine was always the same: growing up, I knew that I wanted to be a dancer.

Having started dancing at the age of three, my childhood revolved around dance training. As I aged, my passion only grew and what started as an extracurricular activity became a career path by the time I was in high school. I spent hours after school each night in rehearsals, traveled during the summer to train at dance intensives and performed regularly throughout the year. My dance training was not easy. It may sound cliché, but I put literal blood, sweat and tears into rehearsals and classes. My feet would blister and bleed from hours spent in pointe shoes; some nights I would come home and soak my muscles in an ice bucket while I finished my homework. The pressure of a high-intensity, pre-professional dance studio sometimes broke me, and there were multiple nights that I came home in tears both physically and mentally exhausted. But I never considered quitting – every time the going got tough, I would close my eyes and picture myself in the wings of my first professional performance. I told myself everything would be worth it when I finally reached my goal.

Though dance was not my only passion, it was by far my biggest one. When it came time for the college admission process, I made the decision to continue my dance training at the collegiate level. Following advice from peers and mentors, I chose a college that would allow me to continue to dance at an elite level while still taking traditional academic classes with the possibility to pursue a double major. It was around this time that I discovered another passion of mine: writing. As I started freshman year, I decided that I was going to double major in journalism in addition to my BFA in dance. Arriving at the University of Massachusetts, I found myself looking forward to my journalism classes each week, poring over my reading assignments and rehashing every minute detail of “The Elements of Journalism” to my roommate late at night, much to her dismay. I started writing columns for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian (and found that I really liked it.)

Meanwhile, though I was enjoying my dance classes, I started to find myself second-guessing my lifelong dream. Don’t get me wrong; I still loved dancing. But, the harsh realities of life as a professional dancer became unavoidable. The daily aches and pains were getting to be a lot, and sometimes I felt myself losing motivation in class. Simply put, I was burning out. That image of me in the wings began to blur, and seemed more of a fantasy than a destiny. As my freshman year progressed, it slowly became clear that I was no longer interested in becoming a professional dancer.

This realization was both devastating and terrifying. I began to question both my past and future: Why had I sacrificed school dances, birthday parties and concerts? Why did my parents pay so much for classes and dance gear? Furthermore, I now had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I felt like a failure. Being surrounded by countless talented dancers, many of whom had plans to pursue performance careers, I struggled with comparing myself to them. I told myself that if they were able to do it, than why couldn’t I? But this would be ignoring my love of journalism, and I accepted the fact that I could not force myself down a path that I did not want to go down any longer.

So that’s my life story. As bittersweet as it may seem, after reflecting, I have come to this conclusion: It is okay to give up on your dreams. In fact you are not giving up anything. Instead, you gain the opportunity to explore a whole new life for yourself. I have spoken to many friends and peers who likewise realized that their lifelong dreams were not what they wanted to do. At this point in our lives, there is so much pressure to have our lives perfectly planned out, despite the fact that we are all at the very beginning of our journeys. Though nostalgia and pride make it difficult to seemingly abandon your lifelong aspirations, it is only natural for us to evolve as we progress through college.

Your dreams, your upbringing and all of your life experiences make you the person you are today. Dance is where I have come from, and it will drive where I am going. After taking a step back and determining that a performance career was not for me, I realized the countless other careers that I was capable of. I could still pursue a career in the dance world, even if I would not be performing. I can continue my newfound love of journalism, or perhaps I will end up in a career that I have yet to discover. I do not have any of the answers yet, and that is alright. This is only the beginning.

Emma Garber is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • J

    Joanne WhitheillOct 5, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    This is such a great article. I am so proud of you for sharing your struggle. You certainly are not alone and YES, there are many ways to stay in the dance world.
    You never wasted a minute of you time at Burklyn. You always worked hard and persevered. All that discipline will get you far in life!

  • A

    amyApr 30, 2019 at 12:26 am

    Those who give up..are quitters. AKA losers.

    Although thank you for your story, it brought tears to my eyes!