I did something, a bit ago, that I feel quite good about. I’ll mention it in the form of a story, for anyone who wishes to read it.
When I was 16 years old, I had just experienced the first severe depression of my life. I nearly flunked the year at school because I skipped many days, hiding secretly at home. When it was realized, I was more punished and scolded, than comforted…for feeling so ill. Some of what triggered the depression had to do with ballet, and my seemingly squashed dreams of becoming a serious ballet dancer. The rest was just the inevitable onset of a disorder destined to show itself, anyway.
As I was forced back to school, I attempted to return to ballet, after also missing weeks of those classes. I remember my mother accompanying me to the ballet studio, that first day back. Apparently, she was overdue in paying the tuition for the previous quarter’s classes. In my mother’s view, she need only pay for the classes I attended (which were many fewer that quarter). My ballet teacher felt the tuition was the same, regardless of my absences. After all, it was a discounted amount, anyway. Not a pay per class, deal. Sort of like college tuition, where they don’t charge you less for “skipping/missing classes”.
I stood there that day, with my mother arguing (almost yelling) ferociously at the ballet instructor (also the company/school owner). In the end, my mother managed to stiff the instructor/owner. I’ll confess that the altercation and circumstances disturbed and embarrassed me, greatly. I also felt that it would make me unwelcome at the school, in the future. I’m not sure if the ballet instructor/owner felt that way, but wouldn’t it seem logical? Certainly she didn’t blame me, only a teen. In any case, I never returned. A school that I had spent most days of the week – my most cherished ones – for years.
A recent online conversation made me think of my old ballet teacher. Despite 35 years passing, the embarrassment and guilt have remained in my mind. I found that the teacher is now the artistic director for a large ballet company in Connecticut. Prior to that, she also held high positions at well-regarded ballet companies in San Francisco and Philadelphia. I went to the Connecticut ballet school’s website, and made a donation in the amount that I believe my mother stiffed the teacher for. I confess that I now feel better about this. Almost freeing, in a sense. With my donation, I included a note of thanks to that teacher. I didn’t go into other details, though.
The above gesture is not too unlike Steps 8 and 9 of the Twelve Steps of AA. I’ve had to do similar, even for behaviors resulting from my bipolar disorder. In fact, making amends has been one of the most liberating actions in my bipolar recovery. In the beginning, I fully excused my behaviors as “Well, I was sick, so I don’t have to apologize.” However, learning that I, too, must take responsibility for my wellness (and its effects on others) is crucial. I suppose in this case, with my ballet teacher, I’m a bit apologizing on behalf of my late mom. That’s OK, though. I still find it freeing. I don’t hold any grudge against my mom for it. I know the time period was tough on her, as well.
My old ballet teacher played an incredible role in my early life. She sponsored me to audition at one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the US, twice. That dream obviously did not come to pass (long story), but despite disappointments, dance and music have lived on in my soul. They are part of what makes me, me. Even down to my walk. So I no longer cry for what I didn’t quite become. I rather celebrate the experiences, that if not lived, would surely have left me less enriched, less strong.
A Bipolar Bird Dancer