For this piece I’ve decided it’s only right to mention my colleagues- past and present- that inspire me daily, before I move on to the one person in particular that has been my life’s inspiration. I can honestly say that I have found almost all of my fellow dancers, teachers and employers a source of inspiration in one way or another during my training and career as a professional dancer. I have been in the industry for almost a decade, so a lot of people have come into my life and offered a piece of themselves. Some dancers inspire with their natural talent- the artists that you could watch all day. Some have an incredible work ethic and a strong will- these people offer incredible motivation when you are having an off day. Some have magnetic stage presence, and watching them bring a role to life can be enlightening. Then the older, established dancers have so much knowledge to pass on after years on stage, that almost everything they do or say carries weight.
I work in a really special industry and- cliché as it may sound- I find just about everyone I work with an inspiration for doing what they do. It’s true that we love what we do and are passionate about the art form, but the difficulties that we encounter physically and psychologically are immense. It’s tough, but infinitely rewarding, and I am honoured to still be a part of it.
All this being said, the person I am writing about has never been on stage, and hasn’t had a career in the arts. She’s always been a pillar of strength within my family, and continues to inspire us all, years after passing.
Nana was a sincere, funny, and above all loving woman that was adored by everyone. The reason I find her story uplifting is that she only discovered life and it’s wonders, after she turned 40. Nana married and started a family at a young age, and she had what she thought to be a very predictable life as a home maker all laid out. Sadly, my grandfather died when he was just 41, leaving her and 4 small children behind. Although his death was horrifically tragic and sudden, it was only after this experience that Nana really found herself, and realized her strength.
She acquired her first job at 41. She boarded an airplane for the first time at 44, which then led to a love of traveling (she flew to Las Vegas- alone- in her 70’s). She learned how to drive at 48. Most remarkable of all, she overcame a terminal cancer diagnoses at 55. She was only given 18 months by the doctors, but managed to defy all odds, and lived until she was 84. I got to know her in those later years, and I think something indescribable happens to people who have overcome such trauma. She seemed to want to make the most of everyday, and the very thought of her essence and energy is enough to lift my spirits.
To say this woman was remarkable, is an understatement. I can’t imagine going through the ups and downs that she endured, but her strength, sense of humor and genuine interest in others was so beautiful, sincere and of course, inspirational, that it makes me believe that anything is possible.
Like most people, I find the idea of approaching 40 scary. Aside from all the obvious reasons, it will most definitely mark the end of my dance career. I see so many great artists struggle initially with the loss of their expressive outlet, and knowing it will happen to me, regularly fills my body with dread. Dance is the only thing I have cared about- other than my loved ones- for as long as I can remember, so the idea of continuing after it, is often a terrifying prospect. But when I take a step back to think of Nana, and the years that I knew and loved her, I feel a quiet calm knowing that no matter how scary the next step in the journey may prove to be, there is always more ahead in life to love and discover.