For the longest time, I thought I was going to be a dancer.
I was at the dance studio five days a week, and on the weekends I was there from morning to night. The floors would start out clean and shiny; by the time the sky grew dark outside, the floors would be scuffed by our shoes and the mirrors would fog up from the close-bodied dancers in the small room.
My last dance competition during my senior year of high school embodied what I loved about dance. I remember feeling calm and collected behind the velvet curtain off the stage, then noticing my heart beating increasingly wildly as the announcer called my name. Still, I glided onto the stage with my head held high. The acoustic piano music began softly and grew louder as the beat got faster, and soon enough, the energy surged through every muscle in me. I felt fearless, letting myself loose and in doing so felt the rhythm in my limbs. I executed my movements perfectly. And when the audience erupted into applause, I smiled and gave my deepest bow. I had successfully expressed myself without having spoken a single word.
As it turns out, though, I would never again be dancing on stage donned in rhinestones and false eyelashes.
In part, I couldn’t handle the pressure of not being the best—in that last dance competition, I placed second in the overall division. The last chapter of a long childhood of dance ended in disappointment.
But in the back of my mind, I’d always thought, Would I continue dance after high school? While I was getting to enjoy my passion of dance, I couldn’t forget that my parents were paying my monthly dance tuition. With my family’s financial situation being tight, I wanted a career in which I could be financially independent and not be a burden on my family, as they had already done so much. I needed to look for something that would translate into more concrete, flexible job options post-degree. I had to choose between dance and academics, which was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made so far in my life.
In college, I’ve settled for studying journalism, a specialty that can be broadly applicable in virtually any “real world” field. I’ve always enjoyed reading and appreciated author’s writing styles; I wanted to hone my craft as well. As a journalist, I would be in control of my writing while imparting a direct influence on readers. Although I gave up dance, I appreciate what my parents allowed me to experience growing up: What it means to be passionate about something.
The decision made sense to me once I realized that dance spoke to me as a beautiful form of storytelling. As a writer, I’d be telling more stories—this time through words, not movement. In my second semester as a journalism major, the more I learn, the more confident I’ve become in this choice.
I still have a lot to learn about being a writer, but I’m approaching it the same way I’ve approached dance. To be a journalist, passion is essential. The skills of being a good writer will get you there, but having an earnest desire to succeed will get you to the top. Dance taught me how to nurture a long-term passion, and I’m counting on that to succeed in whatever I do while leading a fulfilling life.
It’s okay to make mistakes in college because we are still young and learning. Failing to win made me think about not only what I truly love but also what I’m good at. Trying something unknown means potentially making a mistake, but it’s also the only way to discover something new.
Photos courtesy of Michelle Cheng