Saturday, January 15, 2011

Priorities change...

Anyone who knows me knows I used to dance.  It was my whole life.  I majored in Dance in college and went on to be a dance director my first year of teaching.  It was a tough school and we were a small group, but they had heart.  And heart makes a huge difference in the arts.  Talent will take you only so far, after that, you must have heart.  While in Texas I attended conventions taking master classes from great choreographers like Mia Michaels, Shane Sparks, and Mandy Moore - you've seen their work on So You Think You Can Dance. For a dancer, it was a great life.  But things change, priorities change.

When I married my husband I left the great state of Texas, where dance is well-respected, and moved to Georgia.  The schools there did not have a dance program, at all.  In fact, the concept was completely foreign to them.  I taught at local studios in the evening and summertime while teaching Health to middle school students during the day.  It wasn't quite the same as having a whole program, but it was enough to keep me going.

We then moved to AL where I was privileged enough to teach at a top-notch studio that was a major contributor to major productions.  I took Master classes while I was there from Wade Robson (yep - the Wade Robson and this wasn't my first class with him) and learned Dirty Pop, the routine he created for N'SYNC.  It was in Alabama that my husband and I decided we wanted to have a child and my last dance "ta-da" was dancing in the Nutcracker in December of 2002.  I knew it would be my last time on stage and I made peace with this.  Being a parent does not lend itself to the life of a dancer when your husband is not available to watch children in the evening all the time.  I'm sure there are people who do it, drag their kids to studios letting them fall asleep on chairs and benches, but I wasn't willing to put my child through that.  If I was going to be a parent, I was going to do it right.

Settling down in Tennessee, we became parents.  CJ was and is my whole world.  I did have one rendezvous with dance again when he was two years old during a deployment back in TX, but it was only with the willing support of my parents that I was able to do it with minimal time away from my son.  But, here I am, CJ now in grade school, and dance beckoned at my door again.

I've spent the last two years trying to find a balance between work and parenting.  It is difficult.  Last year, when my son asked me why I spent so much time with my kids at school but never came to his school, I accepted that despite my efforts, my life was way out of balance and things must change.  And change they did.  I pulled back from much of what I was doing at work - sponsorships, attendance to events that CJ would not care about going to, and staying late for grading and tutoring (but still teaching to the best of my ability).   I made more time for my son, and in turn, more time for myself diving head-first into this writing extravaganza.  And then dance pulled at me again, just slightly, but enough that I allowed the thread to unravel a bit.

A lecture was being given at Austin Peay by the director of the dance department.  I attended and we struck up conversation about dance in the schools in Montgomery County (never going to happen I'm afraid) and then he asked if I had a Master's degree.  Yes. I do.  Why?  A position is opening up - a new slot.  Would I apply?

My heart leapt through my chest - dance again!  Right here in Clarksville and at the college level - too good to be true?  The position posted, I secured my recommendations and began the application.  And as quickly as the thread of dance unraveled, a needle started pulling it back in.  What about evening classes, and concerts, and recitals, and basketball practice, and deployments, and writing?  What about my son?  I came home and cried it all out with my husband, whose undying support of my career is solely to make me happy.  But in the end, he asked me one question:  If you could teach writing or dance, right here, right now - what would you choose?  Writing.  I didn't even pause.

And there it is.  Now, why the long drawn out personal story today?  Because at almost thirty-five years old I realize that my dreams from ten years ago are comforting strangers to me.  That becoming a parent and shifting creativity to a new format of art completely replaced what I thought was my only outreach from the mundane world.  That at my age, it is acceptable to start anew with more in mind than I had in my teens and in my twenties when society is pressuring you to make decisions for the rest of your life:  What do you want to be?  How are you going to get there?  That when I added on my English endorsement to teach in TN because it was the quickest route and not necessarily what I wanted to do at the time was a window being opened by God and not the door of dance shutting in my face.  Teaching English turned into writing, and writing turned into a passion.  And this passion gave me more time with my son.

Priorities are not carved in stone, they are flexible ideas that push us forward.  The changes are hard to see sometimes because they are either so subtle we almost miss them or so boisterous we believe them to be a hindrance rather than a help.  When I graduated college my priority was dance, now a decade later, my priority is my son, my family.  All other choices hinge on what is important now, not what was important then.  I relish the idea of being a mother/wife/teacher/writer because being a dancer is someone I used to be, and when I was her I was great and that is enough for me.

"Action expresses priorities" - Ghandi


  1. Cresta,

    Sitting here this Saturday morning with no noise, no hustling trying to get somewhere or get something done, which is always my weekends I read this. Tears were brought to my eyes, I made a resolution on New Years that I would begin spending more time focusing on those people who I knew loved and cared about me and my family. I decided that everyone else's negative aurora was physically and emotionally draining me. This blog that I read this morning verified that I made the right decision. I still spend my time on my projects for the schools which I feel are my passion, I guess you could say it is "my writing". I just wanted to say Thank You for sharing your thoughts for everyone and hopefully one day you will dance again, but I promise that nothing beats being available for all your son's growing up. The closer I get to Lane leaving the more I realize how fast it went and how fast it is going. I love being a part of it but I hate knowing that those days will end soon so I want them to slow down. Thank you for bringing a postive aurora to my life. Cindy

  2. And Cindy - you to mine, as well! Watching your relationship with Lane has made a huge impact on me, too.