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What I Kept Was Lost Forever

Standing in a circle, with my five best friends by my side, we pass energy with a simple squeeze of the hand. As we open our eyes, we realized that this would be the last time we stood on that stage together as performers. After sharing smiles and looks of excitement, we said the special statement we recite before every performance: “What we have, we give. What we keep is lost forever”. I promised that stage that I will not hold anything back; after four years of performing in numerous productions, it was my final curtain call. No tears fell from my eyes. I was not sorrowful, I was not crying. Instead, intimidation overcame me; I felt intimidated by the thought of living life without dance. I would have no idea what I would be without it; it was my identity for the majority of four years. It was common for me to ruminate on what life would be like if my fate had changed and I did not have dance and I never performed; I cannot fathom that notion.

“The Show Must Go On” blasts through my earphones as I take my last onstage stretch while my emotions battle with itself. I felt proud that I made it that far; it was my third show on that stage in a mere five months. But, the simple thought that it may be my last time dancing daunted me. At this point, dance was all that I have known. It was all that I referred to myself as; the first trait I would reveal about myself was that I, Jessie Eshak, am a dancer. The mere thought of that changing felt so foreign to me—and, six months later, that feeling has not ceased.

Six months later, I am a student at a university. I am not studying dance. In reality, I never even applied to be a dance major. I knew I had a passion larger than dance; and it is true, I have a passion larger than dance that I am pursuing. But, somehow, dance still makes up a large part of my identity—even though I am no longer dancing every day. It is natural; when someone does something so much, it becomes a part of them. My constant hours in rehearsal during and after school, on the weekends, and my daily stretching sessions in my living room all worked in concert to create my identity. I could have easily become ‘Jessie Eshak, the girl with brown hair’ or ‘Jessie Eshak, the girl who likes basketball’ or even just ‘Jessie Eshak’. Something about ‘Jessie Eshak, the dancer’ seemed so natural and true. Dancing every day made up a large part of that. I went from dancing every day for four years to only once a week—twice if I’m lucky. At certain times, I can’t even manage to get once a week. I still call myself a dancer and sometimes, I feel an anomalous way: like a sucker punch to the gut, the feeling I get when I lie. I’m lying to myself. Am I really a dancer? Should I still keep that as my main identity? I still cannot muster up an answer for that, although I wish I could simply say ‘yes’.

My time away from this art taught me that I took a lot of it for granted. I knew I was passionate about dance, but I never realized the regret I would feel when I averted it for so long. Yes, I still do my dance warm-ups at the gym all the time, but it does not match up to the freedom of body and mind when I’m really dancing. Dance is a catharsis; it is a relinquishment. It is a prerogative that I took advantage of.

Too many times do I find myself in my dorm watching dance videos on YouTube while I sit in envy of each individual in that master class. I prayed that I would have an opportunity to dance. Every time I walked into the recreation center, I tried to dance, but something always felt missing. Maybe it was the fear that someone was secretly watching, so I marked everything. Maybe, it was that I could not remove my headphones, so my movement was limited. Maybe, it was the environment that I was not accustomed to. Whatever it was, it completely hindered my ability to find a place where I can be free and it truly took a toll on my mental and physical state in my first semester at university.

I managed to maintain all the so-called ‘perks’ of a dancer: my flexibility, my strength, my energy, and my technique. But I live in disquietude that it will diminish on any given day. The anxiety about it just eats at me. I put my all into something that I can easily watch burn to shreds. It is a scary feeling. I’m hungry for that feeling of intense freedom. I’m hungry for that adrenaline rush of being onstage where the blinding lights and lung-obturating fog machine felt like a home. I am holding on to every ounce of a dancer that remains within me until I unite with the dance floor once again.

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