I’m 20 and have been living in New York on my own for the last three years training as a classical ballerina. I recently moved back to L.A. to recharge, feel the love of my family, remind myself of what it was that made me love ballet, figure out what I want and who I am.
My mother says she wants me to be happy but her actions and attitude don’t reflect it. Throughout my life, my mom has guided me, and unquestioningly I followed. Now, I don’t know anymore.
She avoids me, treats me like a petulant child, incapable of seriously understanding the consequences of my actions, while passive-aggressively pushing me back into following her agenda. I’ve been studying dance since I was three, it’s not the same for me anymore.
I feel her disappointment as though her relationship with me is only as her “ballerina daughter." I wonder if she knows me. I came home to find myself, but I’m feeling even more lost than ever. How do I get her to understand what I am struggling with?
Lost and Confused.
Dear Lost and Confused,
Ballet huh!? From what I know and understand ballet is a highly disciplined and competitive area of dance. Leaving home to study in New York indicates to me that you and your family are knowledgeable of the limitations of classical training available in Los Angeles. Serious consideration had to have been made to uproot yourself to move across country to fulfill your ambitions. I can’t imagine it an easy decision.
Your family dynamics are not unusual. Whether one is pursuing dance or dentistry, when parents invest and say farewell to their children they hope that the dreams and ambitions of their child will be actualized.
As you and your mother know, the window of opportunity for ballerinas has an early expiration. (Although Prima Ballerina Maria Alexandra retired at 55 and Wendy Whelan retired at 50, both danced magnificently.) The concern for people whose careers are dependent on their physicality is the limited time frames within which to participate. In deciding whether to remain as a ballerina or begin a new vocation is added pressure that will benefit from the input of your trusted advisor, your mother.
Yes, there is probably disappointment on the part of your mother. When taken into consideration the investments of support, time and finances along with the hopes for the future are at risk. You very probably have had time to agonize over your decision, or indecision, whichever the case may be, but the same has not been afforded to your mother. Time will help this.
Focus on what it is you want. Explore what has changed for you and within you. It is impossible to resolve a problem if you don’t know what it is. Once you have had a chance to recharge and figure out what it is that’s bothering you, you’re in a better position to discuss it with your Mom.
“You're never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true.”
― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
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