ballet, mental health

Not Fitting In

“Why do you go to a college preparatory school if you want to be a ballerina?”

I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked this question. My answer:

“I am allowed to receive a quality education just like everyone else, regardless of my career choice and college decision.”

Attending a college preparatory high school when your Plan A involves no immediate college education is not the easiest thing to do. While most high school-aged dancers pursuing a professional career in ballet are either home-schooled or cyber-schooled, leaving more time in the dance studio than in the classroom, I chose to take the traditional path. For me, I work best in a classroom environment with a teacher and fellow classmates. I chose to take challenging courses like AP English Language and Composition, Spanish IV, and Phenomenology and Existentialism. This often left me stuck underneath a pile of textbooks, studying for daily quizzes and midterm exams rather than training every day for multiple hours a night. But, I never liked to complain because I understood that the education I was receiving would benefit me far into my future. I wanted to have the best of both worlds; ballet and traditional high school. I chose to have the best of both worlds, and I do not see the problem with wanting the best.

Despite my wants, being stranded between both worlds often left me feeling left out and like I didn’t fit in anywhere. I was too busy studying to go to rehearsals and too busy dancing to go out to the movies on a Friday night with friends. It was a constant battle in finding my happy-medium.

Junior and senior year were definitely the most challenging years of high school. Being the stubborn young woman that I am, I was convinced that I was not going to be attending college right out of high school. I had no plans on applying anywhere all of my junior year. Yes, I took the required College Counseling classes and SAT Prep classes, but had no real intention of actually going to a college. I was going to dance. Plan A suddenly changed when reality hit me in the face during the beginning of my senior year.

The constant discussion of all my fellow classmate’s ‘dream schools’ and ‘safety schools’ and ‘Plan B schools’ made me realize I needed to implement a Plan B into my life too…and fast. I immediately began researching and found all the best dance colleges I could find.

By mid-December of my senior year, things seemed to be falling into place nicely, but I was preparing for the New Year expecting nothing less than utter insanity. Everything I had worked towards in ballet was coming to a culmination throughout the months of January, February, and March: professional company auditions. This was also conveniently the time I had to begin sending out all of my college applications. Once again, I had to merge both worlds into my own, finding the time to write college essay after college essay and to drive in and out of New York City for auditions every weekend.

I was lucky to have created a Plan B when I did, although I wish I had done it sooner, because I was not offered any professional company contracts this year.

My answer to the question above remains the same, but with a slight revision in place.

 “I am allowed to receive a quality education just like everyone else, regardless of my career choice and college decision. The educational system I chose to be a part of guided me and supported me throughout the months of company auditions and college applications and taught me how to handle the constant pressure and stress I put on myself. I would not be where I am today without my college preparatory high school education.”

And for that, I am forever grateful to my high school, the teachers, the faculty, and my fellow supportive classmates. Thank you.


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