For dance. For being a role model. For all sorts of things. (The Final Curtain Call, Revisited)

It’s kind of a big deal in dance today– it’s the first tryouts for my college dance team that I won’t be participating in, and it’s the last recital my dance studios seniors are in. Any other year, it’d be a tough choice for me to decide which to go to, but this year it was a little too easy, because I can’t really put into words how proud of North Andover School of Dance’s class of 2015 I am, even if I’m going to try.

Image via NASD Facebook
Image via NASD Facebook

I feel like every dancer comes to the moment when they’re like 14 or 15 where they realize that all the “big girls” that they used to idolize aren’t at the studio anymore, and that somehow they’ve become the “big girls.” For me, it was during a giant production rehearsal, and everyone in the room was just messing around. I threw a bunch of pirouettes, and the ridiculously talented 10-year-old in the room looked at me, and then threw just as many. My teacher caught it, smiled, tilted her head, and cooed, “aw, big sis and little sis nailing their turns.”

Big sis and little sis.

The next year the same girl pulled my name for Secret Santa, and on the evening of our Holiday Show gift exchange, I was pulling out big sis little sis necklaces. I knew, in the best way possible, that I was being watched.

Over the years I continued to hear about it: you’re being watched, Sara, work harder, someone is going to match the work you put in, Sara, don’t post that, you don’t want people to think that’s okay.

Maybe I’m just really flattering myself, and maybe all these kids weren’t really looking up to me the way I was imagining (hoping), but it doesn’t really matter. Because for me, it’s not really about what I could’ve given to them as a supposed “big girl”; it’s about what they gave to me.

I kept on working hard throughout high school because these little munchkins were always a pirouette, a leap, a tap trick behind me. I genuinely believe that I wouldn’t be the dancer that I am today if I didn’t have the need to make sure the little kids never got better than me (although that definitely happened…) I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am, either; when they eventually did get better than me, I learned how to support someone, how to stand behind them during their journey. I learned how to dance with integrity and confidence and love because I wanted them all to have that, too.

nasd recital
Image via NASD Facebook

So, NASD Class of 2015, I want you all to remember this today: Stay absolutely still in your head and in your heart. From someone who has done that final bow on the Collins Center stage, as someone who walked off from her final performance a short month and a half ago, I’m telling you to be still. Feel the stage lights on your skin, look at every fallen sequin on the marley floor, hold onto those moments in the wings for as long as the music lets you. Look everyone around you in the eye, and thank them for making you into the dancer you are; thank dance for making you the person you are.

And don’t think today that you’re never going to have this (the dancing, the friends, the studio, and the love that’s inside it) again. You will. I’m telling you from experience that you will. After months away, after millions of moments of happiness at college, you’re going to walk into that studio, it all is never going to have gone away.

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Wrangling the fear of graduation (there will be other joys, too.)

For the past day or so, I’ve been trying to scrounge together the words to part ways with my college dance team. In a way, saying bye to them and all of the experiences I’ve had with them is like saying bye to the entire college package; they were my first friends, and are certainly the best ones I’ve found in these wild, wild four years.

This past week we competed at NDA Collegiate Nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida, and despite the handful of practices we’re still going to run in these last fleeting weeks until I graduate, I can’t help but feel an aching sadness that things are coming to an end; things aren’t really going to be the same anymore.

But then today, when I returned to classes missed for my attendance at the competition, a feeling of closure fell over me like a cloud of grace.

My poetry professor, bless him, asked me how things went down at the competition. I smiled and thanked him for asking and told him that we ended in the middle of the pack; not our best showing at nationals, for damn sure, but still an experience that fills our hearts with gratitude. He smiled back.

“It must be so sad,” he said to me. “I know how much joy being on that team brings to you.”

I remembered my first class with him, back when I was small and a second-year student, when I handed in my first assignment about a specific day in my life. I chose to write about the breathless moments on stage with the dance team a few months prior, when we danced like champions and came home like some, too.

He really did know how much joy it brought me.

But there are going to be other joys, too,” he finished.

And suddenly I pieced things together; with humble and thankful fingers, I found not just the words about saying goodbye to my team, my first college friends, but words about saying goodbye to the last four years. To my identity as a student. To whatever river I’ve been coasting down for my whole life.

It’s frighteningly easy to fall into the fear of the future. I don’t have a job. I’m going to be living in my parent’s house (even though that’s a totally okay thing to do!). I don’t have any clue what I’m capable of, and I’m petrified that it’s nothing. I look at these joys that my time in college has brought me, and I want to white-knuckle cling to them.

But there will be other joys, too, and I want to do the challenging thing and face them with excitement and fearlessness.

I might be jobless right now, but there will be the joy of finding something to do and finding a spot in this busy, busy universe. I might be leaving the dimpling laughter of college friendships, but there will be joys of new friends and new relationships that will keep my hands light and full and good. There will be joys of knowing that the earth is spinning beneath my feet right now, and that if I keep sending love out there, it’s going to come back to me.

I can’t keep my feet planted in this place for too long. I’ve sucked it dry of all the nutrients, all of the love and peace, joy and lust for life that it’s given me, and I’m going to starve if I keep trying to feed myself here. I need to trust that every warm and loving vibe that I throw out into this world is going to come back to me some day. And I think now I’m starting to trust that there are going to be joys, bigger and smaller, coming my way; there will be other joys, too.