I honestly do feel as if I’m going through some midlife crisis or something, but actually, it’s a good thing. Instead of it being full of negative connotations and experiences, it’s rather making me think about what is important. It’s a time of reflection, which I am able to do as I find myself retired from teaching ballet, and the mother of two adult children. Zac and Jed, 20 and 18 years respectively.
I don’t know if it’s the combination of not having a job, my age, and adult kids who are now embarking on their career journey’s and academics, that have me looking back and re- thinking my own choices.
I cringe when I haul out my old Senior Certificate and look at my marks. I do know that I didn’t really study much, as just wanted school over and done with, just wanted to get out of the system! We had just moved back to Cape Town from Durban, after my Mom’s divorce from my step dad ( which we were both more than happy to leave), and I started standard 9 (Grade 11) at Ellerslie High School which then amalgamated with Sea Point High in Matric. Those were not the best circumstances, and to be fair, I was not in a good place myself due to the abusive family situation we had just left. Maybe I’ll tell THAT story one day! I was also going out with a guy, my first boyfriend (at 17) and he was 25, and knowing that I should break up with him. I don’t think he was really a Christian, but I met him at youth (why was he at youth at that age?) and we started going out. And I just knew it was wrong, it wasn’t what God wanted for me. So I was conflicted. And distracted. Actually, in hind sight, I’m surprised I passed at all!
I then took a gap year to focus on my ballet, as this was my dream. To go to UCT school of dance, and dance all day! However, I had started ballet late, was far behind, and had a lot of catching up to do. My teacher in Sea Point, Adelaide Kessler, was amazing. Encouraging me and allowing me to come to as many classes as I could, during school hours and after, as this was during my gap year. I also attended classes at UCT school of dance. However, I did not realise I would need a matric exemption to attend UCT ( I know, duh, right?) as I did not have any guidance. And there was no Google back then!
Anyway, I didn’t get in, even though my teacher asked if they saw me dance, and I said no. She said they should see me dance, and do I want her to phone them. I said no. They just looked at my Senior Certificate and laughed. Nice. I think the exact words were, ” How did you think you would ever get in here?” I walked out of there, all I’d worked for in tatters, and this boulder sized lump in my throat. I felt sick. As I walked past the Music building I bumped into a missionary from my church, Mary, who attended classes there ( I think?) as she played the sax or something. Anyway, I remember telling her what had happened, and she said something along the lines of , “God’s will might not be what we want,” something like that. It was small comfort at the time, but true nonetheless. And I always remember her words and the fact that she was right there, at that time. Definitely a God set up.
My back up plan then, was to pursue art. I attended Cape Town Technical college, got my N6 Certificate in art, and long story short, ended up back in Ballet. Got married to my one and only true love. Trained further, a few more exams under my belt, teacher training, got pregnant, stopped my teacher training, had Zac, 2 years later had Jed, bought a flat, moved, bought a house, moved from Tamboerskloof to Bothasig, started dreaming again, went back to teacher training, qualified, opened my own studio, worked hard, was a success. Succeeded!
Having retired now, my musings have been, I wonder if I was ever meant to teach ballet at all? Maybe I just forced it, and should have just followed my art leanings and natural capability? However, I think that I am not really that good at art either. It is very difficult to make a career out of Art . For me, I feel that I am not offering anything different. I am not your typical creative artist that thinks outside the box. I like order. I like paintings with order. I appreciate other artworks of expressionism etc. I love it. But I can’t think like that. I like painting flowers, and little landscapes and seascapes. And ballet dancers. Realistic with a touch of passion or inspiration! It’s not very interesting or eye catching or different or even very good.
And that’s okay. Because God has been talking to me, over and over, and over, about my value, and not having to be good at something. He has also been talking to me over and over, that it is not my place to provide. He does not want me working, and feeling that I need to make money. It’s been hard to lay that feeling of responsibility down, especially as we have been going through hard times financially. I also hate feeling helpless. But I am learning to trust in God, and not in my own plans. I always like to have a plan!
I had a thought the other day, that for so long I have felt that it must either be art, or ballet. That I have been locked into these two mind sets and that maybe it was neither? Maybe there is something else there that I haven’t seen or been open to? Which opens up another whole rainbow of possibilities! I looked at going back to study, I always enjoyed English and Literature, and so I started researching courses I could study. A few years ago I looked at Theology as well, but it wasn’t the right time. But only a few weeks ago, I got to the place of being content with where I am at. Of being a housewife, and not having to succeed at something else now. You know, you’re finished with the ballet, now you must do well, be good at, something else. When actually, no I don’t. I don’t have to. I don’t have to prove my worth, my value, by being successful at something. God has been showing me that just being alive, just breathing, is good enough. Gives me value and worth in His eyes. Only by being taken out of my career, did I realise how much of my identity, and self worth, was tied up in what I do. How well I do. God has been rebuilding foundations in me, that were cracked somewhere along the lines of growing up. Foundations of worth, value, being loved by Him. I have tried to build upon cracked foundations to prove to myself, and to myself, that I am enough. He has had to take away all that I have built , which was crumbling and faltering anyway, to get to the foundation, and start laying line upon line, and precept upon precept, of truth. I have just remembered a scripture God gave me, must be sixteen years ago? During a serious bout of depression:
“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted,
behold, I will set your stones in antimony,
and lay your foundations with sapphires.”
I thought He had been doing that all along, but I am realising that He’s really doing that now. Yes there has been a lot of work on my “foundations” over the years. However, there seems to be a crack or two in my foundations of who I am, that He is now working on.
I woke up this morning remembering something I read last night in a book, which caught my attention:
“There are different definitions of success.”
To backtrack a bit, I have just this last week been looking into studying, getting a certificate in Christian Counselling. Not for work potential, but because it may be something God is calling me to, and because I have a desire to help people. However, I have had to have a hard look at myself, prayerfully, and ask these questions…
Am I just looking for something else to be good at? To succeed at?
Am I looking for a new identity?
Am I trying to prove something to myself, that I am smart?
Am I doing this because I feel useless?
Can God use me to help others, without a counselling certificate?
Do I need gifts, talents, and to be “good” at something, to have value?
No. Looking outside at the rain falling gently, I know I have worth just by breathing.
I am enough.
The other thought I had was,
“If you don’t know what direction to go in, don’t move. “
Not my strong point! I have been known to be impulsive at times!
Do what I DO know to do, right now. Which is write. Blog. Spend time, waste time, with Jesus, building friendship with Him. Spend time, waste time, with Jed, who is at home with me doing his GED. I have looked back with regret, to when the boys were young, and seeing on specifically Jed’s report card that he needed extra attention. Which was the plan when he was 3. We moved to Bothasig, he was going to stay home with me, but he ended up going to play school after a couple of months. And I started teacher training. And I regret not being there more. I feel I may have been selfish. But to be fair I was battling depression, and I honestly did my best, even though I was broken myself. I know I shouldn’t look back with regret. The past is over and I can’t do anything about it. I did do a lot of good things too. I think I got some things right.
But I don’t want to be selfish now. I want to be here for Jed, and build into his life, and give him the attention he needs. Not out of guilt, no, I must be careful of beating myself up. But rather out of a sense that, this is the time. The right time. Embrace, enjoy the space and time, to love, to build relationship. To be. We don’t have the money for me to study right now, and we need to pay for Zac’s studies, and then Jed’s. It is their time now.
What is my definition of success?
A family that live, and breathe, and love Jesus, each other, and others.
What does the future hold?
I don’t know.
But for now, this I know.
Stop. Wait. Breathe. Enjoy. Love. Write. Paint.
Embrace the season I’m grateful to be in.