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There’s a picture of me from 5th grade, the day I got my leotard, tights, and ballet shoes. I stood in what I thought was a ballet pose and smiled the biggest smile. I still cringe every time I look at that picture, due to my horrendous posture and position, but I also smile because that was the start of my love for dance. For 5 to 6 years, I loved and got excited about dance class. My mom would even use that to see if I was sick. Saying “If you think you’re too sick for school then you’re too sick for dance.” And if I still said I was too sick for school, she knew it was real since I never wanted to miss class. However, around 10th grade, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. From there they seemed to control my life. Therapy wasn’t helping enough, and we were still trying to find the right dose of medication and suddenly I wasn’t excited to go to class.

I ended up missing over half of my classes and fell behind in all of my recital dances. I didn’t stop loving dance, I could never do that, but every night I just couldn’t find the strength and willpower to go to class. I got anxiety and panic attacks over trying to decide if I could or should go to dance. Every week was a new excuse; I didn’t feel that being depressed or having anxiety was a real reason to miss class. So I kept going to classes when I could and kept trying to convince myself and my teachers that I was fine and that once I figured out my medication I would be fine. Well, I figured out my medication, but it didn’t get better. For two years I missed around half of my classes and spent days apologizing to my teachers, promising I’d be fine to perform. Somehow, each year, I learned the dances and perfected them

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There’s a picture of me from 5th grade, the day I got my leotard, tights, and ballet shoes. I stood in what I thought was a ballet pose and smiled the biggest smile. I still cringe every time I look at that picture, due to my horrendous posture and position, but I also smile because that was the start of my love for dance. For 5 to 6 years, I loved and got excited about dance class. My mom would even use that to see if I was sick. Saying “If you think you’re too sick for school then you’re too sick for dance.” And if I still said I was too sick for school, she knew it was real since I never wanted to miss class. However, around 10th grade, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. From there they seemed to control my life. Therapy wasn’t helping enough, and we were still trying to find the right dose of medication and suddenly I wasn’t excited to go to class.

I ended up missing over half of my classes and fell behind in all of my recital dances. I didn’t stop loving dance, I could never do that, but every night I just couldn’t find the strength and willpower to go to class. I got anxiety and panic attacks over trying to decide if I could or should go to dance. Every week was a new excuse; I didn’t feel that being depressed or having anxiety was a real reason to miss class. So I kept going to classes when I could and kept trying to convince myself and my teachers that I was fine and that once I figured out my medication I would be fine. Well, I figured out my medication, but it didn’t get better. For two years I missed around half of my classes and spent days apologizing to my teachers, promising I’d be fine to perform. Somehow, each year, I learned the dances and perfected them in the short time I made it to dance and performed just fine. Looking back, I could have saved myself from all the stress and tears if I just took a break from dance for a semester or two. But that was an unimaginable idea. I couldn’t imagine my life without dance. No matter how much my mental health took its toll on me, no matter how hard it was to get myself to go to class, no matter how many tears I shed, and no matter how many sleepless nights I had, I just couldn’t quit.

No matter how hard those years were for me, I’m in some ways thankful for them if only for the lessons they taught me. Of course, I wish that I never had to deal with what I dealt with, but I grew stronger from it. My mom always says that sometimes, as an adult, you have to do things when you don’t want to or go places when you don’t feel well. That’s what I had to do with dance. I may have failed a lot in doing this but when it came to recital time I pushed myself to show up more and practice the dance on my own. From this experience, I learned how to live and work even in my darkest times. A lesson and experience I keep with me every day. 

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