Begin Again

After three years, I’ve decided to start dancing ballet again.

This is huge for me, because ballet is something I have associated heavily with New York. On weekends, and sometimes after my unfulfilling 9-5 in Midtown, I used to walk to Alvin Ailey for the beginner class. Ballet slippers and leotard tucked neatly into the bottom of my purse, I didn’t mind the long avenues and wide streets to get where I was going.

I loved dancing. I hated life in New York. Other than the vibrant Native community, it was suffocating and deeply isolating. I stayed, in all honesty, because I thought I should. I didn’t know what it meant to be myself in Providence; to have finished school and not yet settled into whatever was next. If I had to struggle with existential questions and quarter-life crises—which seemed inevitable—the struggle might as well, at the very least, have a veneer of importance.

I left three years ago now, but I fear sometimes that misadventure stripped me of my nerve, my boldness, my audacity. Loud noises startle me. Men make me nervous when they stand too close. The smell of bourbon turns my stomach. I hate when people tell me how busy they are. It’s like I’ve shrunken into the shadow of the courageous young woman I used to be.

But if you’ve been following this blog, none of this is new. Blah blah blah. Even I want a new storyline. My own discomfort has dulled into white noise, and my anxiety notwithstanding, I have to ask myself: what’s next? I am learning that sometimes things get better…and some things don’t. Maybe there is no existential solid ground; maybe the best I can do, for now, is to feel my way along the unease.

Last night, I fished my ballet slippers out of a box I still have not unpacked from New York. I placed them next to my bed on the rug I bought in Morocco (which features, if you are wondering, an Indigenous Amazigh pattern from Anfa, or so-called Casablanca). When I woke up this morning and looked down at them, I felt a twinge of indignation grip me by the spine.

Get up.

Take your life back.

I shook the old slippers loose. I tried them on—point, flex—and let my heart break. Again. I’m angry that I left. I’m angry that I came back. I’m angry that in all this time, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

I don’t know if it’s the anxiety, the wack antidepressant that hasn’t done anything for my pessimism, the weather, the back-to-back-eclipses. Some days I don’t feel brave; others I wonder sometimes if I’m wack. All I can do is put on my ballet slippers, show up, and try again. And again. And again. And again. And again. As many times as it takes until I feel my feet on the ground, until I break open.

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