Alberta • Canada
This year, without dancing 6 days a week, I really came to appreciate the gift that was being able to be on stage and constantly surrounded by my second family. I call them that, because these are the people that I spent more time with growing up than my real family. People say we learn some of our most valuable, real-world life lessons from growing up at the studio. And if your childhood was like mine, filled with late nights, early mornings, injuries, tears, anger, friendships, beauty and passion, those people are probably right.
There will be a day when all of that is behind you, and you realize how many of the little moments you took for granted. The little moments that just seemed routine, like the buzz and excitement and nerves that filled the backstage wings every spring, or the inside jokes that stemmed from the studio lobby every Saturday morning in between competition rehearsals. And for 14 years I took that all for granted, without realizing it. Because I thought I was taking it all in and I thought I was capturing every moment that would be special later on. But "later on" you come to know that those special moments that will mean the most, aren't when it was your turn to go up and accept the high gold medals for your large jazz line, or when you won the individual title that came with a convention scholarship. Sure, those accomplishments are something to work for and to be proud of, but the ones you'll most definitely take for granted are the moments of complete, pure happiness.
Picture this: You're onstage with 20 of your best friends, and you're all doing exactly what you love. All any of you care about is being in that moment, and even though you've rehearsed so many times you could do this choreography in your sleep, you can't rehearse the genuine smiles on all your faces. And when you look around and see all those smiles on everyone's faces, you feel like your insides are going to explode with joy.
I promise you that the first time you experience that, you'll realize that being a friend to be able to share in these moments with, is more important than placing ahead of each other in your solo category.
Now, of course, the music comes to an end and when your 3 minute piece is over you hug backstage for a second, maybe a little longer if you felt good about the performance, and you thank your choreographer quickly as you run by to get changed for the next category.
But the ultimate reality that hit me all to harshly was that one day, that ends. It sneaks up on you even though you've been preparing all year for your season of "last times". One time, it will be the last time you walk off stage. It will be the last time you get the look of approval from your teacher after you come off stage with your head high. It will be the last time you get the look of disapproval from your teacher when you show up 10 minutes late for class. There will be the last time you look up and see 20 of your best friends smiling the most real smiles.
So while your mind is preoccupied waiting for the announcement of the highest medal that will add to the collection on your wall, remember to cherish the moments that really will stick with you much longer than any award will.