The perils of dreaming
What brings frustration and a sense of failure may not be one’s reality, but rather his or her fantasies. When I was discontent with my life, I used to get lost in the dreams that had never been realized. For a very long time I dreamt of becoming a ballerina, just as Seo Hee became the principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater. More than 10 years ago, just as I was approaching 40, I regretted that my life would eventually end without me ever having the chance to dance professionally.
So I registered for an adult ballet class offered at the Seoul Arts Center, but I soon realized that my body was not ready to dance. When you perform ballet, the legs, arms, head and torso should move independently, but my entire body refused. So then I started private lessons. For three years I devoted myself to ballet. I took two or three private lessons every week at night. When I was in Hungary for a business trip, I would get up early in the morning and practice a routine in the garden.
I was so enthusiastic that I challenged myself with pointe shoes. When I put them on and stood on the tip of my toes, I felt as if all my pores opened up as sweat coated me from head to toe. It was a strangely pleasant experience. But one day, an accident happened. It must have been too demanding for my aging joints. I hurt my ankle, and my ballet lessons had to end. As I recovered from the injury, I had to deal with weight gain. I had started too late.
My experience taught me that I don’t have a natural talent for dancing. I realized that my life was not going the wrong direction - not following that dream did not ruin my life. I was disappointed, but liberated at the same time. Previously, I envied Kang Su-jin when she became a principal dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany. Later, when I heard the news that Seo Hee had become a principal at ABT, I was delighted.
My friends often complain about their lives. For a while, they elaborate on the challenges and travails of sending their children to college. Nowadays, they talk about their unfulfilled dreams. Their sighs and regrets often have a hint of anger. Of course, I totally understand how they feel, as I know too well how dissatisfying a life can feel when a dream is restricted. However, my ballet lessons have taught me that I could not fulfill my dream not because I was unlucky but because the life I have right now is the best choice for me. If I had become a dancer, I wouldn’t have been able to become accomplished like Seo Hee because I simply lacked the talent. Then I would have been devastated. Another thing I realized is that excessive celebration and obsessing over a dream can be unhealthy.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Yang Sunny