I went on a journey to find what I love to do, thinking that my self-worth came from my talent and performance level. I began this search by learning to play the piano when I was 5. I loved it so much. When I was 10, my piano teacher went to college and I fell in love with my new teacher. Her energy and kindness enhanced my life, and she made me feel so confident and special. Although I never practiced, she saw something in me. She saw my maturity and ability to play with emotion. When I did practice, she saw the cleanliness and cohesiveness in my playing. She would tell me that she couldn’t teach my energy, and saw me becoming a professional pianist one day.
But I didn’t see myself that way. Whenever I played a song, it never sounded right to me. Competitions became abrasive until I confidence in me remained. I hated being unable to deviate from the sheet music. So, I started trying new things. I started dance when I was 12. I think I liked the idea of dance more than I liked dance itself. 12-year-old Lea was so self-conscious with her wire glasses and awkward arms, and ballet helped fix my posture. But being stuck in ballet 1 from the start was honestly extremely frustrating as I had no idea where dance would get me in life.
So 8th grade came. I was 13 then, and I decided to start figure skating. I had always loved the way skating made me feel after all. My parents saw that I was starting to lean less and less towards piano and were worried that I would quit and regret it for the rest of my life. So my dad sent my teacher an email, and my teacher responded saying that I was too old to get anywhere with dance, that my only hope was playing the piano.
I was so infuriated. Everyone warned me that I would regret quitting piano because almost everyone quits regrets it. 70 years from now I’m going to look back and everything skating has brought me through, and I won’t regret quitting piano. Instead, I’ll say 2 words. Worth it. So with that, I quit. To me, I had just trashed all of my talent. But little did I know that I had just traded something I liked for something that I would love.
Figure skating. My memories of figure skating consist of beautiful moments full of me falling and getting up again, learning what it truly means to be passionate about something. The rush of the ice is something I greatly miss today. From the clean, crisp sound of landing an axel to spinning so fast that you can’t see anything, skating really enhanced my life. Desperate to prove my piano teacher wrong, I became obsessed with a regiment of stretching and got extremely bendy in a few months time. In 6 months, I was skating at the level most people wouldn’t get to in years. I had 3 amazing friends that I always skated with, and we competed together and told each other everything.
Then, that summer, I had to test for 4 levels at once. I totally broke down in tears during my Freestyle 4 test. I made my test proctor feel horrible and after the test and she made me repeat the words, “I don’t suck” a few times before passing me. After that, I realized that skating, although amazing, was not going to fill the void in my heart or give me a purpose by any means.
Then I started going to youth group. I hated it at first. Everyone here seems so fake. But I kept going because I had been wanting a place where I could freely ask my questions about God forever. That was the first time I realized that my self-worth came from God. Finally understanding what my life should be about, I got baptized the day after my 14th birthday.
I ended up quitting skating because I wanted to go to Mexicali, and that was the easiest way to pay for my trip. When I got back from the trip I realized that I didn’t need skating in my life anymore. I would take everything I’ve learned about going all in and being insanely passionate about something and apply it to my faith. After making that decision, crazy things started happening to me all the time. In essence, I traded skating for God, something I thought I loved for something I was ecstatic about.
I couldn’t go without physical activity though, so I continued to dance. The day before my algebra 2 final my parents told me not to go to rehearsal, but I went anyways and fractured my foot on a switch leap. I totally failed that final despite studying every day for 2 months, and I had never felt so hindered in my life. But that was the first time I had ever felt peace in my life. No one expected me to do anything because I couldn’t do anything. However, the support I got from everyone blew me away. My dance studio is inside my church, and I woke up on the day of my final with so many people texting me that they were praying. I called my teachers expecting the worst as I couldn’t dance in the recital, but they responded with an unfathomable compassion.
I was scared to dance for awhile, but eventually, despite my doctor’s orders to not dance for 6 months, I started again. But all of a sudden I was leaving dance feeling so empty for no reason. When my best friends would take me home, we would just complain about everything we couldn’t do. There were days that it was super fun and I was super close to my dance friends. But then recital happened and I was bawling tears afterward over a misunderstanding because my parents didn’t congratulate me. It was the best recital I had, don’t get me wrong. But instead of celebrating like I had envisioned, I was outside thinking that my parents were still pissed at me for quitting piano and would never be proud of me, with one of my teachers telling me, I went through the exact same thing you did. And the most important thing is not what your parents think of you, but what you think of yourself. It ended up being fine, but it still hurt a lot.
So still feeling the weight of piano on my shoulders, I wrote my piano teacher this long message, keeping things as positive as possible. It had been 3 years since I quit. She responded with such love and support that I felt like I could finally pursue whatever I wanted with no more false motives. (I may post something about forgiveness)!
This year, after consulting many of my mentors, I chose to take a year off of dance and youth group to focus on school. As long as you have a place where God is filling you up, and it looks like the hospital is filling you up more than youth group anyways, you don’t need to do everything they told me. I wrote about my experience with that here. I traded dance and youth group, things I liked, for AP chemistry, a class that taught me so much more than dance and youth group would’ve ever taught me combined. This I find weird because school is a worldly thing, and school grows my faith so much.
So here we are towards the end of my junior year. Next year I will have time to have a life again and will need to decide whether I want to go back to certain things or try new things. When I look back, I never hated piano. I just hated myself, and how I played. I loved skating and I was good at it but was insecure about it anyways. Not dancing this year has brought me closer to God, because dance was the last thing I was holding onto as a clutch and putting before him. I think we tend to be insecure about the things we are best at. This is why we must always seek God first because he knows us best.
This is just a piece of my journey. But what I’ve learned from all of this is that God will never make you give up something you like if he doesn’t have something greater and more amazing in store. =)