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Not “crazy,” just dedicated

by Julia Bluhm

When girls are young, Cinderella tells them “dreams really do come true.” As we get older, that philosophy changes and we learn that life isn’t actually a fairytale. You have to work hard in order to achieve something great, and even then it doesn’t always happen.  For me, ballet started as a fairytale and transformed into a whole lot of hard work. And I love it.

Like any professional-in-training, I spend about 20 hours per week training for what I dream of doing: becoming a professional ballet dancer. I don’t know if I’ll succeed (because the ballet world is extremely, extremely competitive), but either way I want to be able to say that I worked as hard as I possibly could.

People have said that I “have no life” outside of ballet. A teacher at my school has even said that “ballet is a waste of time” because I’ll probably end up burnt-out and depressed. Well, here’s what I have to say about that: How do you know? Yes, my schedule is very busy, but I would much rather be busy than bored.  I love being busy. I love being able to work hard at something, and feel a sense of accomplishment when I do something right. Yes, I need a break every once in a while (if I have a free Sunday I generally watch several hours of House Hunters International), and I know that life isn’t 100% about ballet (just about… 70%), but I also know that this is what I love to do. Let me do it.

Some people are programmed to find something they like and dedicate all of their time and concentration to it. Other people are not. Here’s the thing: Both types of people are fine. It’s fine if someone would rather study or go to rehearsal/practice than a party on a Friday night. That doesn’t mean they have a “no life” or are total nerds, it just means that they like spending their time in a different way. At the same time, who says you can’t dedicate yourself to something and still be happy and have friends? There seem to be hundreds of books and movies where a girl works really hard at something and is on her way to success, but suddenly decided to quit because she needs to spend more time with her friends/boyfriend/family.

Spoiler alert! The first example that jumps to my mind is the book Bunheads by Sophie Flack. A professional ballet dancer is beginning to gain more momentum in her career, but quits when she falls in love with a boy. I also think of the movie Morning Glory. The main character dreamt of becoming a news anchor on the Today Show for her entire life. When she finally gets the opportunity, she doesn’t take it because Harrison Ford tells her she’ll neglect her family and regret it if she did.

THESE STORIES MAKE ME SO MAD.

Before I continue, it’s important to note that if someone’s career/passion is seriously stressing him or her out and they decide that they just don’t enjoy it anymore, that’s a very valid reason to quit. People change and dreams change. But if you still really want to be an Olympic athlete and you think you have to choose between that dream and being able to spend time with your family and friends…. STOP. Why do you have to choose? Who decided that you couldn’t be happy and be dedicated at the same time? You won’t be able to do everything, but it’s your decision to figure out what things will take up a bit more of your time, and what things will take up a bit less. Your family and friends should be able to understand that you’re going to be pretty busy, and you should understand to take a day off every now and then.

Lastly, why is it okay for men to be super dedicated to something, but for women it’s seen as “crazy?” We all hear stories about a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates/ The Creator Of a Big Company who didn’t eat for two days and peed in bottles because they were so consumed by their work. Would a woman be celebrated for the same sort of thing, or would they be labeled as “crazy,” “obsessed” or having a “sad life”? We do not need these types of gender roles dictating what we do or how hard we work.

Do whatever makes you happy. If you like being involved in a bunch of things and it doesn’t majorly stress you out, don’t let anybody stop you by saying you are neglecting other parts of your life or are too committed. I’ve been able to juggle my ballet schedule and the activism stuff I do with SPARK, and I haven’t blown up yet. As women, we are often told that there are hundreds of things we can’t do for one reason or another. We also often end up blowing people away with how wrong they all were. If there’s something you are working hard to do, don’t stop because of what people may think or expect of you. Don’t let anybody’s judgments get in the way. You can do it. And I’m sure you will be amazing.

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