Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

The Story of Four Years

Four years ago, dragging two suitcases and buoyed by hope and fearlessness, I arrived to a detritus-strewn New York City. It was the week after Hurricane Sandy tore through the city. I stayed in a sublet so inaccessible that I sometimes rushed off the subway only to spend 30-40 minutes in what felt like freezing weather for the bus. I'd been living with my boyfriend-at-the-time in his Durham NC apartment, working as a remote freelancer and falling into depression. There, despite being surrounded by trees and the world-class university, I'd alternated between incomprehensible rage and a bottomless sorrow, from which I thought only New York and dancing could save me. I told myself and others that I would go and pursue my dream of being the best dancer I could, that I would dedicate myself to it at the utmost, that I would "give it four years to see how far I could get." I packed my bags, I moved.

And now I am here.

How could I have thought things would be so simple? People sometimes say how much you have to want something, to have it. In the beginning, I found a good partner in Boston but could not give up New York to dance with him. I was asked to turn Pro, but could not give up my dream of getting into the top 10 of all the amateur dancers in the country. When Yuliya Klinchik found me for C, I breathed in relief: finally, I might make it!

Instead, I broke my foot. Rather than rise back from it, I took it as a sign - that I was not cut out for that life, that I needed another lifestyle "as backup". C stuck by my side through it, suffering through gyrotonics and swimming and pilates classes and icing and the "ugly shoe." I went home and my parents spoiled me. And I began to realize that although I would always be a dancer, I needed other things in just as significant proportion - conservation, people, technology, travel, relationships.

It was at this time that I also had a personal financial crisis. I was simply not able to pull in enough income as a freelancer to truly support the dancing I wanted to do, particularly given my heavy medical bills. When I had to borrow money from my parents to pay my taxes, I realized that I had another choice - to keep pursuing this dream and dancing "full time", or to join the ranks of the stably employed and pull myself out of the hole.

These days, I wake up earlier than I'd like to, face the glazed-eye commute, and go to my full-time job. On its surface, my life now is not so different from when I was at Google: I work, have dinner, dance, come home, pass out, and repeat. But I refuse to accept that it is regressive. In the past year, the team I helped to build has become part of me. They remind me to be humble, and to serve. They remind me of all I've learned as a leader and manager in the past six years, refuse to let me become complacent.

While I've been passing those four years, my family has experienced loss, and we have become wealthy beyond belief in the life of my little niece Zoe. I learned about love when I became an aunt, watched Robert and Julia grow as parents, and saw my own parents revel in grandparenting.

A little caramel-colored shaggy puppy has been cavorting around my apartment the past two days.My first foster, Cindy, taught me that sometimes the most wonderful things come in the most challenging packages. My foster pup Bearington, reminds me that in this life, as unplanned as it was, I am finally stable and knowledgeable enough to start giving back.

In the rest of life, C and I have settled into the kind of comfort that comes only from knowing one another for years. We found our coaching match in Thomas and Frantsiska; our dancing is finally shooting forward. And so, despite dancing "recreationally" once again, dance still feels real and serious.

Four years.

In the span of a life it is not significant. At the same time, November 1 marks the longest I've stayed in one city since I left Los Altos for college. This is the life I never could have imagined for myself. I am building it one day at a time, staying here but never stuck. I am in love with all this, and hungry for the world.
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