My old ballet instructor had a poster on the wall of the studio that I can only assume was meant to inspire us. I'm sure it made her feel very groovy and inclusive whenever she turned her steely gaze away from our barre exercises long enough to do a visual check of the premises, the little rottweiler.
The poster was a close-up photograph of a ballerina's feet on tiptoe, in pink pointe shoes, with pink silk ribbons ferruling along the girl's ankles. The text laid over this image was the old standard:
"If you believe it, you can become it.
If you dream it, you can do it."
Which is an utter pile of pants, as we all know. True story: not all dreams can come true. But then, not all dreams should come true.
Especially not in ballet, of all places, where only one in several million will even have a chance at a career in the field, nevermind success. Hell, most of us never even got to wear those damn pointe shoes. And in retrospect, thank god.
There came a day in class when Madame Rottweiler announced who would be moving up from basic ballet to her advanced pointe class. Not surprisingly, the list was very short, and included only those girls she had been lavishing all her attention on for the last three years. I was not on the list, due to my woefully non-anorexic preteen form, and I was livid. God only knows where I had gotten the idea that if I only worked hard enough, applied myself to my goals, and dreamed big, that I could overcome any obstacles.
Well, I probably got some of those wacky ideas from my Mom, who was very supportive and who encouraged me to try anything I wanted to put my hand to, and then drove me around to countless practices as I carried out my various plans for prodigy-hood.
I wasn't ever really a prodigy, per se, but not for lack of trying. Which was probably where I got off on the wrong foot to begin with, you know? Aren't child prodigies supposed to just sort of happen, anyway? One day you magically sit down at the piano at the age of, say, two, and BAM your life is determined. You are gifted and talented, so off you go. That never happened to me. But then, the back of the wardobe in my grandfather's house never opened onto a snowy scene of winter in Narnia, either.
But ballet lessons did give me kickass posture, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the TV show FAME, which was on the air during my dancer phase. FAME also liked to push the notion that all you needed to succeed was hard work and determination. Inherent talent is such an elitist idea that we don't like to talk about it too much in our shining example of a democracy. Nor do we like to bring up such realities as accidents of birth, genetics, and sheer luck.
In retrospect, I'm glad I never got to take pointe. It is apparently horrible for your feet. Like, they BLEED. And I'm not so in favor of the bleeding process. And I walked out of those ballet classes -- which I stopped taking after the pointe-class incident -- with my excellent posture, right smack into middle school, which we all know to be the seventh level of hell. But at least I knew how to keep my head held high and my back straight as I faced the slings and arrows.
Sometimes you just don't realize what it is you have actually been wishing for.