Last night, Dora and I went to Joe's Shanghai and ate soup dumplings and pan-fried rice cakes for Thanksgiving dinner. This year's meal was so different from last year's. Last year it felt like tradition - I made my mom's bread, Ben made the turkey, Dora made stuffing, we all made pies, and we served up an enormous feast. Last year was the Thanksgiving dinner I grew up with, warming the house with the meal and the conversation, piles of dishes to do afterward, stuffing ourselves and feeling like family. This year felt like an intimate and sweet adventure, two friends catching up, no fuss, just the easy joy of each other's company and conversation.
Perhaps it is the days after the holiday that are harder. Quiet, normal days when others are busy with their families and selves. I work, clean the apartment for the umpteenth time, do laundry, cook healthy and simple meals for myself. I finally manage to get off Facebook.
This is not the life I thought I would have but I think I'm finally learning to leave expectations behind. Dora and I spoke yesterday of how easy it can be to rush and label things. Label people's relation to us, label periods of our lives, label who and what we are. And with those labels come identities, and expectations, and disappointments. If I can, instead, release myself from such labels, I become free.
When I first injured my foot, one of my coaches told me, "These things happen for a reason." In my cross-training and off-time reading, I have found a new awareness of my body and a new approach to cultivating the dancer's mind. I was forced to take the time to walk slow, live slow, and rebalance, and to think long about my life.
As a teenager, my first months completely away from home happened when I studied abroad in Spain. Torn away from everything familiar, I was able to build myself however I wanted to be. I could not rely on anyone's guidance to tell me how I should be or act. I sifted through my habits, kept many, discarded many. When I came back to the States, I remember feeling that I'd come to know myself for the first time. Not only that, but this process of making connections had turned my mind on - I left a B student and came back to straight A's.
These days in New York, when I cannot be a dancer, when in these holidays I am not around my family or a boyfriend, I find myself lost again. I recognize this place, though, and even though it can feel lonely and uncertain and difficult, I know how good it is for me. I know that this is the space I have so desperately needed - in this space, I can sift through who and what I have been, I can come to know myself. I have so often envied people who were able to say, "That's not me." "I'm not like that." I felt I could never really say what I was and wasn't; sometimes I felt myself a chameleon, able to fit into every and all situations. And while this made me perfectly agreeable nearly all the time, it also meant I was constantly living a sort of lie in which I was always hiding how I truly felt.
I believe that people can be who they want to be. I am thankful for this "white space" that drifts in the wake of my injury, and for all the loved ones who have helped me to take advantage of it. New Year's is still to come, but I feel that I have already been handed a new beginning.