I Want to Be a Ballerina When I Grow Up; Holding onto Idealism when Reality Says to Let Go

After declaring my exodus from my teaching career, (https://boilsdown.com/2015/04/10/how-teaching-broke-my-heart-the-greatest-breakup-since-justin-and-britney/), the question I’m being asked by colleagues and friends is, “What are you going to do now?”

Well, I hadn’t really gotten that far yet. The impetus to throw myself off of the quitting cliff was pretty much all consuming and didn’t leave a lot of brain space for day dreaming.

That’s not true. I’ve known all along what I want to do, it just sounds so silly when I say it out loud; it sounds unrealistic and pretend. It’s on par with saying that I want to be a ballerina, or an actor, or a professional basketball player.

I want to be a writer.

Actually, I already am a writer. I write constantly. I want to be a writer that actually publishes what I’ve written and receives some sort of monetary compensation for my words. I want to be a paid writer.

I can continue to be a writer whether I get paid for it or not, and I will. However, since I’ve already made this dramatic career exit, now seems like a good time to mix passion with practicality and take the plunge into the working world of writing. It’s a scary world, full of secret handshakes and mysterious doors that you can’t enter without the code word. Failure to make it at all is the fear that whispers in my ear while I’m sleeping.

I think about my mom when I am faced with an obstacle that is daunting. It’s a long story, and not mine to tell, but my mom has been left partially paralyzed by a brain and spinal cord disease and has had to make major adjustments to her life multiple times due to surgeries and continued symptoms from her disease.

When I was in middle school, she had her most traumatic surgery and woke up paralyzed. She had to relearn everything. How to move, how to sit up, how to walk, how to drive.

Even more challenging, she had to relearn everything backwards.

My mom was born right handed, but her right side became paralyzed, so she was forced to become left handed. She had to retrain her brain. And she did.

Years later, a series of falls took away more of her mobility. She was forced to retrain her brain again. This time, to draw. Mom swears that she couldn’t draw a stick figure when she was right handed.

She taught herself to draw portraits with her left hand; she taught herself to draw portraits using her left hand with the paper upside down. She draws upside down because that’s how her brain is able to interpret drawing.

Mother and Child
Portrait drawn by Anna Conrad Eberhart. My mother.

Mom literally flipped the world upside down and made it work for her.

The word I would use is resilience.

I have been told that I’m an idealist. There was a great deal of eye rolling involved in the accusation, insinuating that my dreams are not in line with reality, that I will be perpetually be disappointed if I don’t adjust my expectations.

I’m going to offer you a rebuttal; I have to be an idealist. My reality has been too sad to live in permanently. I can’t stay there around the clock because staying in the reality without holding onto idealism leads to depression and anxiety, both of which I’ve spent enough time with to know that I don’t want them to be frequent dinner guests.

Life is hard and unfair. I’ve figured that out. Life is also amazing and surprising. Life is magical and inspiring and that is what I’m clinging to, not only for myself, but for my children. As they begin to navigate their own life journey, I want them to see what I was fortunate to see; that even when reality is impossibly hard, there is enough beauty to be found to live through it.

My mom is having difficulty holding the pencils now. Her hand has weakened from overuse. So, she has decided to try watercolor painting.

She will stay resilient, even though I know that she doesn’t want to be. She has no choice; it’s just the cloth from which she’s cut. She has to live in idealism more often than reality, too. She has to think of big dreams and magical solutions to stay sane because reality has let her down.

So, yes, I want to be a writer when I grow up. It’s my dream and I’ve clung to it since I was in the fourth grade. I’m going to risk taking a plunge into a career that is difficult and possibly not at all lucrative, but fits my idealism perfectly. It doesn’t sound like such a crazy idea when I look at it that way.

Maybe I’ll be a ballerina, too. You never know what can happen.

(Thanks, Mom. When you gave me this amazing life, you didn’t know how much time I would spend
analyzing it, did you? Good thing you did such a kick ass job. Love you more.)