I was prepared when the phone rang this time. Teacher asked how I was and I said “I’m not sure…because you’re calling…”
Teacher was calling to inform me of the surgery necessary to repair the fractures in his wrist. So much for a clean break.
Surgery meant a longer recovery time. So for the second time, a goal has been crossed out and the future shifted back into obscurity.
There will be no Best of the Best at Ohio Star Ball for this dancer.
I initially wrote this post right after Teacher called me that second time. But I wanted to hold off on sharing it until after my first post-surgery lesson with him. Because the title is 100% true – life isn’t fair. But it is still worth pursuing.
In the middle of processing the second dream lost, I couldn’t articulate why anyone should bother if it all could be taken away without cause. So I waited until I had some time to process and then reconnected with Teacher and started working toward new plans for my ballroom future. I thought getting back into the swing of things would help inspire the words I would need to encourage and motivate you despite the random smackdowns life would give you.
I still feel like life is just totally unfair and I’m still struggling to keep myself motivated.
But screw it, here is what I wrote anyway.
First, the processing…
The second round of disappointment wasn’t as immediately devastating as the first, most likely because I was more prepared. I was doing my best to keep my expectations low and not hope for or count on going to Ohio Star Ball. I didn’t avoid it entirely though. The disappointment just crept up more slowly, peeking its head out now and then. Like a nurse poking her head into the exam room you’ve been sitting half-naked in for 45 minutes to kindly tell you the doctor is going to be a little while longer. And then 30 minutes later, she tells you sorry, the doctor can’t see you today, you’ll need to reschedule.
I had been working toward this goal since I won Best of the Best at California Open in February. And this one isn’t like USDC. There isn’t “always next year” unless I enter and win another Best of the Best qualifying event.
My demons reappeared with a flourish this time around. I think they were so shocked the first time that they forgot to give me trouble, we all just sank down into darkness together. This time, I had little feet in my head stomping and voices crying “it just isn’t fair!” A grump with her arms crossed started to mumble it was probably better, I would have sucked anyway. Another demon peered from behind glasses and told me that maybe now I can get my act together and stop wasting all this money. Even a ghost from the past appeared and whispered “he’s trying to get rid of you.” I can’t blame the ghost; she was born out of lies and manipulation. She was the first demon I addressed while I tried to put the others in a sugar coma by eating cookies for dinner on the night of the second fateful phone call. Don’t underestimate the power of comfort food.
It’s a strange feeling. You work toward a goal that you’re drawn to. You journey down a path and there are struggles and challenges, but you do the work. You persevere. You never give up. The only thing you have to fight to get there is yourself (your fears, doubts, etc.) because you can feel a greater force is guiding you, telling you that you are on the right path. You do everything that you are supposed to do in order to be successful!
Then you see your destination! You’re almost there!
Then that greater force jumps in front of you and says, “Sorry, this road is closed, you have to turn around.”
“Wait, what? Is there a detour or another way to get to where I’m going?”
Hard work and perseverance are critical in the pursuit of a dream. But they are not guarantees of success. Just because you want it more badly than others does not mean you’ll get it. You can do everything right, but it still might not work out.
Life has definitely been unfair lately. To have worked so hard and to have come so close, and then to have it all taken away… If we had gone to USDC and Ohio Star Ball and just didn’t place well, or at all, that would be a fairer loss. But to not even get the chance to try?
And I’m not just talking about me. Teacher and his pro partner work their butts off as professional competitors. They deserved the chance to compete. So did Teacher’s other students.
I’m reminded of Sarah in The Labyrinth, trying to get to the Goblin King’s castle. He would change things or send her back to the beginning whenever he felt like it. It was not fair at all. But in the movie, Sarah was able to accept that life can be unfair and that’s just the way it is. She kept working to find the way through the Labyrinth and eventually succeeded.
I feel like I was sent back to the beginning of my labyrinth just as I reached the gates of the goblin city. It freakin’ sucks.
It is easy to get caught up in the injustice of it all, but the fact of the matter is life isn’t fair. It is something you will have to come to terms with if you wish to achieve anything while on this planet. U-turns and detours are built into the journey. You’ve probably seen the quote that says something to the effect of an optimist recognizes that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s cha-cha. It’s cute, but what if it were two steps backward? Or 50? What if you can’t take another step forward at all because the path has been closed to you?
Keeping with the cha-cha analogy, I guess that is where the cha-cha-cha step to the side comes in, to put you on a new path to a new destination. But you might be lock stepping backwards for a long time before you get to step to the side.
Everyone goes through these WTF times when you feel like life just ripped you off. Bad things do happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people, which is somehow worse. And sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how carefully you plan, the unexpected still happens and everything falls apart.
So why bother? If all your blood, sweat and tears could be for naught, why even try?
Even though I gave myself some time to process, I still can’t answer that for you. I know, I know, that’s unfair.
But only you know why your dream is worth pursuing and only you know how far backwards you’re willing to go in order to find another chance to go forward.
A person who never faced any hardship (though I have yet to meet one!) cannot appreciate life’s journey as much as the one who was put through the ringer, and then endured a shit storm, and then hit rock bottom, only to get up and try again. Life is worth pursuing because it’s unfair. I’m not talking about just being physically alive. I’m talking about LIVING. Going after your dreams, exploring the world around you, learning, connecting.
You’re not guaranteed anything. But that makes your successes even greater because it’s like you beat the odds. Who doesn’t love an underdog or a good comeback story? So every time you hit a roadblock or a detour on your journey, just think how much better the comeback will feel when you do succeed.
That’s the weird part. I won’t tell you that if you work hard, give it your all, and let nothing stop you, you will succeed. Because it’s just not guaranteed. But you have to believe that it is. You are far less likely to succeed if you don’t believe you will and if you don’t believe that you can beat the odds.
So even though I’m still struggling to accept the completely unfair hand I’ve been dealt and I feel like I was tricked by life into going down a dead-end road, I guess I was able to articulate something here. I’m going to keep an eye out for new paths that may appear as I work my way backwards. Maybe I’ll explore some paths that I passed up before.
I have to believe that I can and will still succeed in reaching my goals and achieving my dreams. Even if they have to be revised or completely reworked along the way. There is no other choice.