Growing up, my dad always wanted me to play sports. Throughout the span of my pre-K to elementary school years, I tried soccer, gymnastics and basketball. None of that really worked out.
The one thing that did work out? Classical ballet. I started at 3 years old and continued to pursue ballet, modern dance and tap dancing until high school graduation.
However, my dad wasn't crushed by this. Instead of fulfilling his dreams of coaching my soccer team, my dad played one of the gentlemen in the ballroom in "The Nutcracker" every year (and eventually even moved up to the role of Herr Drosselmeyer). My senior year of high school I performed the role of Belle and he played Belle's dad. He and my mom joined the board of directors of my ballet company and were involved in every way possible in my 14-year ballet career. For that I am forever thankful.
Throughout elementary and middle school, I didn't really take ballet seriously. It was more of a hobby, something I did after school for fun. When I was really little I'd even complain to my mom that I didn't want to go to ballet class, I just wanted to wear the pretty tutus and perform. Thankfully, my mom made me stick through the classes.
Once I finished eighth grade, I realized that my peers in ballet class were either starting to drop like flies or take ballet seriously. Parents do not want to spend $100 on each pair of pointe shoes a month if you're doing ballet just for fun. So I decided to start taking it seriously. I auditioned for my first ever summer intensive — and I got in!
Although it was close to home and only three weeks long, I got the full experience of living in a dorm, practicing ballet and contemporary dance every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It was extremely draining but also eye-opening. I saw all the girls my age that were so much more advanced than me and realized that if I was serious about this, I needed to step it up.
So the next summer I traveled even farther away to a five-week intensive, and ended up traveling each following summer for ballet.
Once it came time to graduate from high school, I had to make a decision. My dad wanted me to study business in college and one day work for his business in payment processing. But once again, I wasn't having any of that and did my own thing. Did I want to dance in college or did I want to pursue a degree in journalism?
I had put all this work into years of training, and I had to decide if I wanted to spend the rest of my life dancing. So in the process of deciding, I signed up for several college auditions in South Carolina, Pittsburgh and New York City. I got into some, didn't get into others and ultimately decided to follow a different career path: journalism.
I'm still writing about the arts all the time — they'll always hold a special place in my heart.
I was only able to have this awesome experiences, growing through ballet training and exploring my career options, because of my parents. They were the ones who bought the pointe shoes, drove me to ballet classes, helped me pack for summer intensives and traveled with me for college auditions. They were the ones who comforted me when I was crying over a role I didn't get or was dealing with bleeding toes from hours of rehearsing in pointe shoes. Having encouraging parents was the support system I needed to prepare for what I thought I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I am extremely lucky to have parents who did this for me, and I hope they realize how appreciative I am.
Parental support and encouragement has a great impact on a child's life. If a kid has a dream of becoming an artist, parent and family support can be vital, especially in a world where arts degrees and careers are often ridiculed for being worthless.
When I wanted to be a dance major (and I still get this as a journalism major), people would always ask me what I wanted to do. When I would respond with "I want to be a professional dancer," the follow up question would typically be "So how are you going to make money then?"
This was, and still is, hurtful to hear. I don't think any degree or career is worthless. No, you might not always have the best starting salary, but what if you do? And what if money's not the only thing you value in life? When I was considering pursuing a career in dance, money was the last thing I was thinking of. My thought process was somewhere along the lines of, if I can make it to be a professional dancer then that's enough. I've achieved my goal.
Regardless of what goals different kids have, parents should support their dreams and desires. Someone could be one of the best painters, poets or photographers and contribute so much to society. But if parents push kids into a field they're not interested in just because they'll make more money, the world would lack their son or daughter's passionate artwork that just might change the world.