Exhaustion

Whenever I find myself in a situation where I am consistently unhappy, the first thing my mother will ask me is “have you been going to ballet?”

It’s a funny question to ask a distraught college student, but for me it makes all the difference. Ballet exhausts me, but in a good way. It’s the kind of exhaustion that feels earned and valuable. That kind of tired feet, aching back, prideful smile exhaustion. Sure, it still hurts, but you wouldn’t have it any other way.

I went back to ballet tonight after an unintentionally long break. I wanted to go back last week but ended up catching a pretty miserable cold that triggered another problem and extended the illness. In a nutshell, going to ballet would have been a bad idea.

Tonight I am exhausted. It feels amazing. I feel rejuvenated, my boyfriend thinks I’m happier, and I can’t wait for my head to hit my pillow.

Eloragh

Reaching for What You’re Bad At

I am notorious for enjoying things that I suck at. For example, my body is not really built well for ballet. It doesn’t want to contort itself into the positions that the art form requires. Yet, I still go and dance and have improved tremendously over the past two years.

Calculus kicked my ass today. I know I enjoy math and want to enjoy the process of it, but I find it difficult to do so when I’m so overwhelmed. With some patience, I hope the outcome will be similar to my experience in ballet.

Eloragh

Rejected

Tomorrow marks the start of my last week at Ballet Divertimento. Although I have enjoyed my time here, I am happy to say I won’t be returning to this specific school. Today was a wake-up call for me in terms of ballet and I saw exactly how the art I had fallen in love with could slowly kill me.

I met my friend for breakfast this morning. She is everything a ballet dancer should be – kind, resilient, strong, devoted, passionate, hard-working, loving, etc. She had been using this intensive as an audition for the academic program at the school and had been rejected on Friday. They rejected her for a few reasons, one of them being her weight.

I want to make it clear that she is not in anyway overweight. She is not unhealthily thin, but she is certainly not heavy. She, on the other hand, very much thinks she is. I left the cafe a little bit later with a lot on my mind. On my way to the metro station, I came to the conclusion that I would not pursue a professional career in ballet or even entertaining the idea of it.

It’s funny because I say this as if I ever had the chance of having a professional career, which I really didn’t. However, my friend’s disheartening end to her time at Ballet Divertimento did remind me of how unwilling and unkind the world of classical ballet is. Considering that I started late and do not have a body well suited to ballet has made it very difficult for me to find training, let alone perform.

Reality dictates that we acknowledge certain truths. We can choose to fight these truths or allow them to exist within their given plane, choosing to abdicate instead. I chose abdication. I could force my body into an unnatural state, get my way into a dance company, and say “ha! I won” before dropping dead. But I would rather live my best life and allow my love for ballet to persist.

This past week, I watched another friend break her foot. She was also at the intensive to try and get into the school’s academic program. I think her and I both knew, deep down, that she was a beautiful dancer, but the school was so skewed in its perception that it would never want her. Despite this, she soldiered on. Working hard through every class, every boring lecture, every plie. Now, her foot is broken, it may never be the same, she may never dance again, and it’s all because of a stupid school that didn’t care about her.

But I do. I care about her. If I were her, I would want to scream at the artistic director. I would want to write and write and write about how angry I am that young women such as her would endure such immense pain for the attention of those that would scorn them.

I love ballet. I hate ballet culture. I’ve never even really enjoyed performing ballet. All I want out of ballet is the opportunity to progress and find the beauty in my efforts. I refuse to break my back while trying to fit into the mold of a dancer. Ballet brought me life and joy when I was in 10th grade and I will never allow a school or a company to wring that happiness from it. They would take my love, they would take my passion and hard work and dedication and wring it from me until I had nothing left. I refuse to hate ballet, even if that means it will never be my life.

Eloragh

Deficit

My health has always been a source of anxiety for me. I’ve been overweight, underweight, all over the scale, but never intentionally. For most of my life, I ate intuitively. That is to say, when I was hungry, I ate, and when I wasn’t, I didn’t. I’m fairly sure almost everyone operates off of this system to some degree or another. However, when my health became a primary concern, I started counting calories and macros to give myself a better idea of how much I should be eating and where my energy should come from.

I haven’t tracked my food intake in roughly a year. Similarly to many people who follow their food for any period, I became a bit too involved in it and had to call it quits. I did gather a good amount of data on how I eat and how to optimize my intake before my control began to falter. Ever since then, I’ve maintained a healthy weight and continued my routine and diet.

When I stopped eating meat in October, I had to readjust to make sure I was still getting adequate amounts of protein and calories. I started eating more calorie dense foods such as peanut butter, frozen meals, and energy bars to make up the intake lost by leaving meat behind. I quickly learned that the energy held in these dense foods made it easy for me to get my calories without spending a half an hour eating. I restructured my diet to be calorically dense during the week and calorically spread out during the weekend to maximize efficiency and socialization.

Ballet changed that. I’m almost done with my four week intensive in Montreal, and I haven’t quite felt myself during it. I’ve been irritable, irrational, upset, lethargic, and not performing well. Yesterday, I tried on a pair of my shorts to find that they no longer fit. I was pretty upset; I hadn’t changed my diet that much, I had been working out more than usual, and I was walking everywhere. I decided to call it a night, not wanting to dwell on the knowledge that I had gained weight.

This morning I woke up early and realized I had no coffee in my apartment. I went to a nearby cafe and, essentially, said fuck it and bought a chocolate croissant and a vanilla latte. I don’t eat much sugar, but this morning I was hungry and unhappy about my experience during the previous night. Low and behold, my energy levels were significantly better today. I was able to focus better than I had since the first day of the intensive. I often talk to loved ones about the importance of blood sugar and keeping it stable to maintain my sanity, but I hadn’t thought much about it during this intensive.  It still didn’t add up though – I realized that I hadn’t been eating enough to make up for all of my lost energy, but why didn’t my shorts fit?

The reality is, I have gained weight. However, that weight is primarily lean muscle. I was not eating enough, that I know for sure, and it was causing a lot of fatigue because what I was eating was being directed towards my exhausted muscles. So, my shorts don’t fit because I’ve lost fat and gained an inch of muscle because of my excess rotation during the day.

What did I learn? Well, I discovered the same thing that I learned from my intensive last year – weight fluctuates. I gained ten pounds when I went to CPYB last summer, but most of my clothes still fit when I went home. Everything I own except that one pair of shorts still fit well. I’m not willing to sacrifice all of the efforts I have put into this intensive because it’s causing my body to change. I came to Montreal because I want my body to change. I want it to become stronger and more flexible and capable of enduring six hours of dancing every day. If that means I lose a pair of shorts for the time, so be it.

When I find myself focusing on how much my body has reacted to this experience, I try to remember that there are many more ways to measure my success. I can lift my leg higher, I can hold my rotation better during difficult exercises, and I feel stronger than I did before I came to Montreal. Life is often about aesthetics, but health cannot be sacrificed for them.

Eloragh