“The score never interested me, only the game.” – Mae West
Some might consider dance to be a sport, others consider it to be an art. Regardless being an athlete is required. As someone who was deeply invested in the sport/art that is ballet, and then abruptly quit I have an interesting perspective.
Preperation For Real Life
As a competitive person in a competitive sport, you are programmed to believe that your worth is in your physical capabilities. And that positive attention and affirmations come your way when you perform well. While, yes, this is true. No one prepares you for the slight hole that you feel when you leave the environment. And you no longer receive validation or attention for just existing.
No one prepares you for walking into a gym or a studio for the first time after moving on from the thing you dedicated your life to. The thing that becomes so ingrained in your soul that it became who you were, it became your personality and now it’s not.
There is no way to prepare for the way your body changes, or the confusion you face surrounding food. There is no way to explain to your body that you are trying to be a regular person and that it doesn’t have to be at peak performance.
Realizing What You Missed Out On
No one prepares you for the moment you realize that you missed out on your childhood or school experience. The shocking realization where you feel so far ahead in many areas. But you feel like a child because you missed out on parties, relationships, traveling, and more.
There is no way to prepare your mind or body for leaving when it is all you know. No way to know what the “real world” is like until you enter it. There is no way to describe the fear of not knowing how to be a regular person.
It’s so easy to blame your mind or your body for not transitioning easily. But there is no way to transition easily. It makes sense that many former athletes struggle with disordered eating, body image issues, and a bad relationship with exercise. Because it is all we know. We hope and pray that we made the right decision and know it will be good in the end. But the in-between will be messy, you’re going from all you know to a life you don’t know but everyone else does.
While going through this the mind, the programmed mind, of an athlete will blame themselves because that is all they know. When in reality society should be blamed, the messed up athlete culture should be blamed. The environment that no one is trying to fix should be blamed. Not us, when we got into it we were too young to know what we were getting ourselves into.
Your worth is not dependent on what you look like or your ability to perform. Worth does not fluctuate as your weight will. Your worth is secure, unlike your spot on every team or company out there.
It is okay to be scared because it is scary. It’s okay to be dealing with issues and habits for years to come because you are having to relearn how to live. Don’t be so hard on yourself.