As I packed my bags to walk away from the theater… I was overwhelmed with love from my students, their friends and their parents. I sat and listened to everything they said to me, but it was hard to believe they were talking about me. Had I made a difference in their lives? Had I improved their dancing? Had I made them smile or feel better on a bad day?
I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I wanted to keep making a difference in their lives, improve their dancing and make them smile. I wanted to stay.
As I walked to my car, tears were running down my cheeks. I couldn’t decipher if these were sad tears or happy tears, so I decided to accept them as both. I decided I was one very lucky girl to be standing outside a beautiful theater, after pulling off a fantastic show, and being showered with gifts and feeling this right here, right now.
I love my students and their families and here is why:
1. My students made me grow up. Being a teacher forced me to dive into the material in a different way than I ever had as a student. I had to learn new ways to communicate and express. I had to manage schedules, emotions, different levels. I had to learn how to read each one of my students and help them through whatever they were going through. I had to put my exhaustion aside and be there for them, with equal energy and passion. My students taught me, that as a “teacher” you are a default role model, and you should serve as the best example you can for them. Show them, don’t tell them.
2. My students helped me through a broken heart, and then through a really broken heart. They were always there, even on the days when I wasn’t there. They knew when I was hurting and they would listen, or they would distract me – whatever they felt I needed. They helped me more than they’ll ever realize, just by being their smiling, loving, energetic selves. They showed me how loved I was even during times when I felt very unloved. They’d remind me of my strengths (sometimes without having to say a word). They give the best hugs in the world, and they bring me Starbucks coffee. They sit in a circle around me and let me talk it out, or they dance my choreography which expresses my feelings – and ask no questions.
3. My students work their little booties off. They make the dances I see in my head… a beautiful reality on stage. They have no idea, and may never truly know, how honored I am to have them dance my choreography. They make my dreams tangible. What better gift could a choreographer ask for?
4. They accept me, even on my very bad days. I never have to explain myself to them. Their presence in my life has been precious, constant and filled with unconditional love. I could have had the worse day ever (which happened frequently) but it all fades away into happiness when they enter the studio, prepared to dance, prepared to work, prepared to create. They are always willing to try this or that, even if it looks goofy. They are always open to new ideas and new movement, and I love them for that.
5. They have made me a completely different person. They have filled me with love, strength and they have taught me to trust my instincts. The 22-year-old they met back in 2008, is now a 26-year old who is stronger, more efficient, more clear minded, and more loving than I ever was before. I owe that to them. Their beauty rubbed off on me. Their joy, their innocence, their energy, their lives.
6. They showed me how to be a leader, and not just a boss. They taught me cultivate the strengths of others, and listen, and understand. They taught me how to lead in a supportive way and not tell in a demeaning manner. They taught me to believe in everyone and everything. They gave me their trust, and it was my responsibility to lead them, and I… I am in awe by their trust in me. On days when I didn’t trust myself, they would look at me, and I knew they were waiting for an answer or guidance, and in that very moment, I would pull it together and lead. They taught me how to do that. They also taught me that it takes a group willing to participate to have an effective leader.
7. They were constant reminders that I always had 400 reasons to be happy. Each and every one of them is joy in my life. A little beacon of life that emits positive energy into the world. Then there was their siblings and their moms and their dads. Everyone touched my life. Everyone gave me advice on life, love, finances, relationships, teaching. I love them all.
The truth is… these students and their families are one of the best things to happen to me. They, along with the studio owner, have changed my life. They took me from a lost 22-year-old, unsure of what I want in life, to knowing exactly what I want in life. Where would I be today without them? I don’t want to know. Because I know I was meant to be right there with them, in the studio every night, growing and working toward a bright future for us all.
The support I have felt over the past few weeks has been nothing short of enchantment. Every night before I sleep, I have to pinch myself to make sure this is really real.
To every single one of you:
Thank you is not enough.
I love you is not enough.
I admire you is not enough.
I adore you is not enough.
You have changed my life is an understatement.
You will always be with me is an understatement.
There simply are no words to describe how I feel about each one of you; there simply are no words.
As I move forward to tackle a new adventure, I know I would have never been strong enough to do this without each and every one of you. Know that, please.
“Before you walk away, don’t say goodbye. Look in my eyes, so that I always will remember. Frozen in time, always be mine. You’ll be young forever.”