A friend of mine linked me to this clip of Carey Mulligan tearfully singing “New York, New York” in Shame this morning, and it made me emotional for reasons other than the actress’s pathos. The video brought me back to the days when I danced to this song with a makeshift top hat on my head, black cane in hand, and shimmery gold shoes that were two sizes too big on my feet. I thought about the summer I spent shifting between ballet and tap classes, like the overly ambitious little performer that I was at around six years old. It’s funny how drastically people can change.
Every time anyone came to our house, I would rush to slip on my costume before they could see me, then make a grand entrance down the banister of our stairs. I would dance and they would smile, amused, then I’d yell “You’re not paying attention!” when their interest eventually waned. I waited for applause every single day. I would practice for hours in front of the mirror, perfecting every foot position and heel tap, and dreaming of one day earning my toe shoes. I attended the dress rehearsals and showed off my so-called talent with a sense of confidence I no longer possess.
But on the day of the recital, I chickened out and feigned illness. To this day, I still don’t know why I gave it up so quickly or why my passions always seem to fade so easily. I gave up piano after two months. I gave up guitar after two years. I had no concrete ambitions as a teenager, had no goals to speak of by the time I turned twenty, and still don’t know what I want to do five years from now. Hell, I don’t even know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.
All I know is that I fall in love so easily with the simplest of things, from television shows to a song I hear once on the radio. I love it so much and so fervently that it consumes my every waking minute. Then one day, I wake up and that love is gone.
Maybe that’s why I can never commit to anything, or why I’ve never tried to forge any lasting relationships. Maybe that’s what you get when you burn too bright and live too fast. All I know is that sometimes I miss the music and the moves, but I can no longer stand being the center of attention.
Someone wrote an essay about me in my last semester of college as part of a writing assignment. She put to paper something that I’ve always noticed but never wanted to acknowledge. She said that whenever I open my mouth in a crowded room, people hush and turn their heads to listen. There’s a certain power in that kind of attention, but I can’t bring myself to seize it. I’ve been on a stage a few times since my ballet and tap days, but I haven’t danced since.
Sometimes I feel like I’m giving a different kind of performance, though. One with staggered choreography, multiple costume changes, and a progression that changes as I go along. I hope I can one day learn to master the steps.