I’ll admit it: I love creature comforts. Dinners out, spa days, hotel stays, flannel sheets in the winter, margaritas by the pool in the summer … I’m here for it all. But I’m also deeply committed to my career in the arts, which of course does not exactly yield the lifestyle of the rich and famous. There are times when I find myself tempted to take the skills I’ve developed through dance and use them in pursuit of a more lucrative career. I know many people who have done this – friends and former students alike – and I proudly shout their achievements from the rooftops. There are so many ways that we can apply what we’ve learned through dance out in the world, and it always excites me to see dancers and former dancers succeeding in whatever path they choose.
As for me, though, I know that dance and dance education are my calling in life. I’ve known it since I was 12 years old. Following this calling has led to a career that I love: teaching thousands of students, supporting other dance teacher/choreographers through this blog, advocating for art education, and attempting to bring both joy and awareness of pivotal issues to my communities through choreography. I believe that this, in addition to raising my kiddos, is my purpose in life. I believe that we all have a calling, and that our life’s purpose is fulfilled when we follow and live out this calling.
I’ll admit, though, there are times I don’t understand why I was called to this path in particular, especially when the world seems rife with suffering and need that can make the arts feel frivolous. (Note: I actually do not believe that the arts, and especially art education, are at all frivolous. You can read more about that in this blog post and in this one too. But still, I think it is natural to have doubts from time to time.) Regardless, I know that pursuing my purpose in life has made a difference, at least in small ways to the individual students, audiences, and readers I’ve connected with. Moreover, living a purpose-filled life has made a difference for me. I’ve experienced more lasting joy in my life’s work than any vacation, steak dinner, or spa treatment could ever offer.
I believe that whenever we follow our purpose in life, we have the opportunity to experience true joy – not the fleeting happiness that comes from seeking pleasure, but real, deep, unwavering joy that carries us through difficult times. In the same way, I believe that by living for our purpose, we make a real difference in our communities and in the world. Even if what we do feels small in comparison to the enormity of the world’s suffering, we are still making an impact in our small way. There is a wonderful quote, attributed to Ursula Wolfe-Rocca on Twitter, that reads: “It can be overwhelming to witness/experience/take in all of the injustice of the moment; the good news it that *they’re all connected.* So if your little corner of work involves pulling at one of the threads, you’re helping to unravel the whole damn cloth.”
When we follow our life’s purpose as dance teachers, artists, advocates for education and the arts, parents supporting our kids when they pursue their calling, or dance students bettering ourselves in so many ways through our training, we are all working against the world’s injustices. We are bringing joy, beauty, and nuance to a world that so often only values profit, productivity, and a “my way or the highway” mentality. We are helping children learn their true value and find personal empowerment, knowing that dance is transformative. We are creating strong, supportive communities, fighting against the isolationism that runs so rampant in our society. We are (often) taking a stand against broader social ills like bully, discrimination, intolerance, and hate, in how we teach and in the work we create. We are working in whatever ways we can to pull at the threads of injustice, making a difference for others as we do.
So this month, I invite you to consider your purpose in life. Are you living out your purpose? How is it bringing you joy to do so? What difference are you making as you pursue it? Following your purpose may not bringing the immediate, short-term happiness that pursuing pleasure does. You may still, like I do, dream of a house at the beach, unlimited sushi dinners, and weekly massages. But I guarantee that it will bring you the kind of joy that really counts in life.