Announcement of Joy!

Since graduating from college in 2008, I have been waiting for 4 years to say what you are about to read…

I have always loved dancing, but I didn’t fall in love with teaching dance until I was 22. But when I was 22, the economy had just crashed and I was kicked off my parents health insurance the day I accepted my degrees from VCU. Eek!

So I took a full-time position with a local law firm downtown with only four distinct goals in mind:

Buy a brand new car and pay it off in one year [check!]

Pay off all undergraduate school loans [check!]

Get health insurance [check!]

Grow up, figure out what I want in life, become a stronger person [check!]

Throughout my four years with the law firm, I have met some amazing people and some crazy people. I have had great days and horrible days. I have laughed and cried, loved and hated, experienced success and failure. I have learned lesson after lesson, each of them shaping me into a stronger, better person.

Then, the best thing of those 4 years happened; something amazing that changed my life: I got a dance job teaching children and adults at night.

Teaching my students, my beyond-amazing, full-of-love, truly inspiring students, captured my entire heart. I fell in love with seeing their smiling faces, guiding them through their dance education, and tracking their progress. I adore my conversations with their parents, and it is those very parents who helped me grow up and talked me through life challenges in those 4 years. And boy, were there challenges!

For 4 years, I have worked 60+ hours a week, dividing my time as a full-time paralegal and part-time dance instructor. I have worked from 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM. I have changed clothes, eaten meals, cried, taken naps and choreographed in my car on the drive from Job #1 to Job #2. I have worn ballet clothes under office clothes, transitioned from hair down to hair up, streamlined my coffee intake, switching to tea at 2 PM. I have snacks stashed everywhere to keep up my energy. By 10:00 PM, I fall into my bed, completely exhausted but fulfilled.

I did all of that hard work because I knew what I wanted: I want to dance full-time.

I knew my dream, but I knew the timing wasn’t right. The logistics had to be figured out before making such a drastic change in my life. I wanted to be strong enough to face the change and I wanted to be ready for my dream.

So I kept working my crazy schedule, but I did everything I could to keep my dream in focus.

The first thing I did was to post sayings around my office:

You can buy this print HERE! Side note: The artist of this print, Mae Chevrette, was able to quit her day job and paint full time due to this very print! I’ll take that as a good sign!

“It is in all of us to defy expectations. To go into the world and to be brave and to want, to need, to hunger for adventures; to embrace change and chance and risk so that we may breathe and know what it is to be free.” – Mae Chevrette

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do it ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I also hung up all of the drawings my students made for me. Covering my office walls are ballerinas, ballet shoes, the word “dance” in all types of fonts, and a golden star with the word “DANCE” scribbled in the middle.

When I received my acceptance letter from Old Dominion University telling me I had been accepted into their Masters of Education, specializing in Dance Education, program… I think I stared at it for a very long time. Emotions are hard to label when they are running all over the scales from ecstatic to scared to sad to overwhelming joy. So I stood there, holding the piece of paper and blinking.

I have given myself months of marinating on that piece of paper. Should I go? What about my students? What about my job? What about the life I have created here? What about the people I love? How will I survive? How will I pay? What if I fail? What if I don’t?

Last week, I delivered the news to my students first; they are my heart. I took a deep breath and told them my decision: I would go and get my Masters in Education. Their encouragement instilled within me a joy and strength I didn’t know I was capable of!

The next day, I told the shareholders at my law firm. Their support touched my heart, and I knew – finally, without doubt – I had made the right decision. I also realized that – finally, without doubt – I was strong enough now for my dream: to dance full-time.

In 50 business days, I will be transitioning from being a full-time paralegal/part-time dance teacher to full-time dancer.

Sure, the details will shift as opportunities come or go away. But I am so beyond thrilled to take on this adventure!

In July, I will be moving to Norfolk, VA to get my Masters in Dance Education. I am so thankful to everyone who has loved me, hated me, shaped me throughout these 4 unforgettable years. Leaving Richmond, a city I have fallen in love with, will not be easy for me but…

To my co-workers: You have helped me grow up. You’ve taught me how to focus on details, hold my tounge, speak up, stand up for what’s right, plan, cover my booty, and accept difficult times as growth opportunities.

To my students: You are why I want to be the best dance teacher I can be. You re-sparked my heart’s passion. You put me on track. You have blessed me beyond what I can put into words.

That being said… this isn’t goodbye, and it never will be. You are all a part of my life and always will be.

To dreaming! To being crazy enough to think I change the world! To being patient! To trusting my heart! To every single person who has stood by my side when I wasn’t strong enough to stand on my own! To those who believed in me! To those who have had to listen to my frustrations and exhaustion over the last 4 years!

I will never be able to re-pay you for the time you invested in me to help make me who I am today. But thank you, thank you, thank you…


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8 responses to “Announcement of Joy!”

  1. So, so happy for you S! You inspire me…

  2. Jamie says:

    Congrats Sheena! That is an amazing accomplishment. Dan and I were your students for only a short time, but the impact you had on us is unforgettable. You helped make our special day perfect.
    Best wishes.
    Jamie & Dan

  3. Mike Barnes says:

    Thanks for sharing that Sheena and congratulations. It is wonderful hearing of someone pursuing a dream and making it come true. Good luck with your masters degree, and I hope sometime soon I will follow that path myself. However, it will be in a different discipline but with dance still the core theme.

  4. Mike Barnes says:

    Sorry, I got my link wrong in the last comment.

  5. Allison says:

    Sheena, you’re an inspiration for anyone struggling to see the dream at the end of the tunnel. By anyone, I mean me, and by inspiration, I mean thank you! I wish you all the best in Norfolk and beyond!

  6. Jenni says:

    SHEENA! I am SO proud and SO excited for you! You will have to give me more details of where you are living and the program. My family lives in Chesapeake, so we will have to see each other when I come home to visit. Miss you. Love you. Inspired by you.

    Your Henni 😉

  7. Fred R. Skaggs says:

    Sheena, as one who has been blessed to stand by your side from the beginning, it has been a joy to watch the dream grow–and you to grow with it. I’m a great believer in “Once you have learned something, you can never go back to a time when you didn’t know it.” You have learned that you were born to dance, and you have also cultivated the skills necesary for sharing that dream. You have already left footprints in the lives of many people who will never forget you because they can never forget what you’ve already done in their lives. Keep fanning the flame, and whatever it takes it will be worth it all. Remember the old Tibetan proverb: “It’s better to live one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep.” Go tiger! And take us with you. Love ya!

  8. Stephanie G says:

    Oh Sheena! You have been given a gift and I am so glad you will continue to share it with others. You are a beautiful person inside and out! I will be the first to tell you that dreams DO come true. There are sacrifices, struggles, and definitely moments of complete chaos and doubt. Push past them, and push hard. You will reach the top of that mountain before you know it! You are an inspiration to so many. Don’t ever change! Get it, girl!

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