As the ingenious choreographer George Balanchine once asked, “What are you waiting for? What are you saving for? Now is all there is.”
Truthfully, I reflect on this quote and struggle with the idea of not waiting for the so-called “right time” to act more often than I would like to admit. We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that we start letting life just happen to us, so to say. We become bystanders to our own life. We forget to live. We forget to put in just a little more effort and seek out the new and exciting. We put off anything and everything because a) we don’t think we’re qualified/good enough, b) don’t have time right now, or c) it’s easier just to keep coasting along doing the minimum. Honestly, this list could go on and on.
Personally, I’m the world’s worst at balancing my work life with my personal life. I absolutely love teaching dance; don’t get me wrong. However, a lot of times I use it as an excuse or a crutch. I don’t pursue other things for my own personal fulfillment because I’m “too tired after work,” “don’t have time,” or “would get too stressed.” Like I said, the list goes on and on. If you guys are anything like me, I’m sure you’re pretty familiar with this dark hole too. I graduated college about a year and a half ago with several goals. I wanted to pursue teaching as my career and perform with some small, local companies and perhaps delve more into journalism on the side, yet here I am, with a career but not the other two. I’ve talked myself out of so many opportunities just because I teach six out of seven days a week. Worse than that, there really wasn’t any talking; I just flat out let these opportunities go because I “couldn’t take on anything else right now.” In a sense, I was forgetting to live. In the words of famous author Oscar Wilde, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Oh, how true that is.
Just take a second and think about how lucky we even are that as artists (studio owners, dance instructors, performers, etc.) that we don’t have to go to some 9-to-5 job that means nothing to us, where our value comes from performing meaningless, robotic tasks. We have chosen to pursue our passions and seek out something that mattered to us. Something that we thought could make a difference. That’s already a step in the right direction. We haven’t given in to the world’s battering cry that “art doesn’t matter.” We haven’t listened to the voices that tried to steer us into more stable career paths. We’re choosing to live, not just exist.
Even still, though, like I said artists aren’t immune to getting stuck inside this rut. I’m a dance instructor, but I’m also more than that. I love adventures and hiking, reading novels, and trying out local coffee shops. I’m still Ashley as a person before I’m Ms. Ashley as a dance instructor. Especially in a profession such as teaching where you give, give, give so much, you have to remember to re-fuel your own fire too. So you teach a lot? So what. Make time for yourself. Do whatever it takes to live and not just exist in this world because life’s really beautiful when you aren’t just rushing from the required point A to point B in your day.
Recently, I’ve been doing a better job of holding myself accountable to this. I’ve read countless books over the last couple of months to give myself some “me” time, one of which was Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you need an inspiring book to refresh your outlook on art or just for some fun, light reading, I highly recommend this one. Also, guess what? I’ve been dancing again. A new friend asked me to be part of a piece she was choreographing, and instead of saying no and making excuses, I said yes… for the simple fact that I knew it would make my heart happy. So maybe I’ll be a little extra tired, but who cares? Also, guess what? I’m looking into pursuing some writing opportunities. All because I put in a little extra effort and seized opportunities when they came up instead of thinking that “now isn’t a good time.”
I’ve been trying to focus on not letting life slip by, and I think you should too. Make everyday count. Make time for the things that matter to you. Don’t put it off either. Take it one day at a time. All you have to do is make one decision: one decision that moves you in the right direction. Be your own captain; no one is going to make the decisions for you. So whatever you’ve been waiting to do, go do it. Start a business, take up a side hobby, go on a road trip with a friend. Life isn’t going to wait for you so don’t wait for it.
As the author Robert Kiyosaki said, “If you are the kind of person who is waiting for the ‘right’ thing to happen, you might wait for a long time. It’s like waiting for all the traffic lights to be green for five miles before starting the trip.”