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April 27, 2011
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On a TV show once, I saw an experiment where a group of people was given glasses that made them see the world upside down. After wearing them for three days, poof! They started seeing everything normally again. Then, when they took them off, everything was back upside down for another three days. According to them, it takes your brain three days to make adaptations. Well, if you ask me, how exactly are you supposed to trust something like a brain, if it can’t even figure out something as obvious as which way is up and which way is down? That’s not to say, however, that I do not invariably end up entrusting my brain with most of the decisions I make on a daily basis. It just so happens that many of them are a little off.
Quitting dance after thirteen years seemed to be one of those utterly pigheaded decisions of my brain upon second thought. Technically, I would rather not call it quitting; it seems a bit harsh. “Quitter” after all, is synonymous with “drop-out”, “slacker”, “coward”, “chicken”, and “wimp,” none of which I desire to be. No, I prefer to call it accidentally-on-purpose missing the registration deadline for the first time, well, ever. Not that it mattered at that particular moment. I didn’t want to do it anyway. I had danced far too many days away, sprained too many ankles, and lost too many toenails for my liking. I was happy not doing it. Over it. Done. No other explanations were necessary (but here they are anyway). The spare time would be nice, I would never have to cancel plans again, I might be able to go to sleep before 3:00 AM on school nights, and I could finally enjoy eight slices of pizza, a whole bottle of Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider, and an entire chocolate cake without having a care in the world as to what my stomach looked like in a lung-crushing, skin-tight leotard.
Months passed of my dance-free life, with me thanking myself again and again since, surely, I had made the right choice. December soon came, and with it came the annual Nutcracker performance. This year, I wasn’t on the stage; instead, I sat in the audience.
It’s funny how a simple change in perspective completely messes with your head. Watching the stage instead of dancing on it, I was in a very different place. I remembered that music. I remembered that dance. I knew it so well I could count the beats in my head; still see the steps perfectly when I closed my eyes in the darkened theater. They changed the entrance of the snow scene. I liked the old one better. Last year I had slipped right in the center of that stage one minute into the dance and thought it was the end of the world. That random girl was wearing my costume, contaminating it. It had been especially made for me because my torso was too short and my legs were too long. My name was still sewn into it; it was mine! “No, no it isn’t,” said a weak voice in my head. “You moved on. Someone else deserves a chance.” There was the soloist, dancing that role, wearing that tutu that I had wanted to wear so badly. “But this year, you never even had that chance. You’ll never have that chance…” That was my stage. That was my home. Why wasn’t I up there, what was I doing?
I had missed my moment.

I needed to dance again. I desperately needed to dance again, to put everything right again. So two days later I went back to register, now five months late. All the class had little red stickers by them, indicating that they were full, not that I had expected anything different. Fortunately, I was quite confident in my ability to be charming when necessary, and I managed to jump a few waitlists. I was back.

Tuesday night was my first class. It took much longer than I had expected to track down my dancewear, but at 7:45 PM, I was once again sitting in my car in the much familiar parking lot. 7:49. 7:52. 7:53. Why can’t I get out? 7:55. 7:57. I opened the car door, put one leg out, changed my mind, and closed it again. 7:59. 8:02. Class had just started. I glanced out the window and saw two of my former team members, giggling with each other, probably gossiping about some new, unfortunate, individual, flipping their overly-fake blond hair in the wind so that all passersby would notice them, then finally grabbing a makeup kit to reapply for the twenty-first time that day. What am I doing here? I ran out of the car and into the front office of my dance studio.

“I need to drop a class,” I said.

“Okay, how many,” the woman at the front desk asked. I had never liked her.

“Umm, all of them.”

“Oh,” she replied, slightly taken aback, but her face twisted into a distorted smile. “Is there any particular reason why?”

“Oh, yeah…my work schedule got changed so I can’t make the classes anymore.” That was pathetic. I didn’t even have a job.

“Okay,” she said, “We’ll change it on the roll sheet.” She added “thanks,” but it was unnecessary.
And one more time, I glanced around the room at the photo wall where my faced used to be, at the lost and found bin which still held the jazz shoe that I never bothered to look for, at the dance floor that had on so many occasions caught me when I fell. As I walked towards the door, staring straight ahead because I couldn’t bear to look at anything else, as I tried desperately to catch the last notes of the music that was fading behind me, as I let go of the cool metal handle of the glass door, and as the corner of the building finally disappeared in my rearview mirror and my vision clouded with tears, I knew that I would never be returning. I wasn’t a quitter. My three days were up. My world had turned right side up again.

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