September 23, 2011
You represent second chances. From your name to your style to your mom’s overwhelming friendliness, all of it is familiar now. You see, I had a student like you once. It started out wonderful, but I feel like I made the mistake of depending too much on it all. Too much on their talents, too much on their time, and too much on the generosity of their family. As their life changed, and dance faded for them, I held on with a tenacity borne of investment. I saw that it didn’t hold joy for them anymore, but I was unwilling to let go. I was sure it was my fault. “If only I had…” became my inner secret. If I had done something better, they would have loved this more. If I had been more lenient, they wouldn’t have burned out. If I had handled situations as they came, they’d still be here.
We parted on friendly terms… at least, as friendly as likely never seeing someone you love again can be. I’ve done this a lot, students growing up and growing apart, but I don’t think I can ever get used to goodbye.
Then you walked in my door. I have to keep reminding myself that everyone is different, but I still have a surreptitious fear that you’re the same, that I will love you more than is prudent. That we will invest hundreds of hours again, only to end on retirement, transfer or all-out disaster. Why am I mourning something that has just started?
Then we get to those second chances. Every student that has walked in my door has taught me something. From the simplest thing like a way to phrase your first introduction to turning out your feet, to how to handle a family that decides that a transfer is like an ugly divorce. You should not represent a future personal tragedy, but an opportunity for growth. What will you teach me? Even as I write this thought, my heart lifts a bit. There are happy times. There are beautiful moments. There are hours of introspection about how you build my life up. They will be things that cannot be tainted by that inevitable goodbye.
Please forgive me. Old wounds can still tingle, like when a soldier feels pain in a leg that was amputated a long time ago. The instinct to protect myself may make me a little hesitant to throw myself into getting close to you. I may take your mom’s generous offers with a little more business-like aplomb instead of friendly candor. You’ll still get all I can give as I teach you technique and steps and we will still have a lot of fun, because that’s what I do. But I come to you with a little less heart. They took some with them when they left, you see.
But I’m still left wondering, where do I find a line where I can still love you like I want to without breaking my heart when you’re done dancing?