Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
As I reach into the back of my closet for my go-to tee and gently tug it off its hanger, its hem brushes against a yellow tote bag that hasn’t left its spot on the bottom shelf for months. Without opening or even peering down into it, I can visualize its contents.
This monogrammed tote with its worn canvas interior is my dance bag. I still like to think it has similar mystical powers to the bag Mary Poppins carried, limitless in what it can hold. Inside, is a seemingly endless accumulation of dance shoes of every kind. There’s a single tan jazz shoe in addition to two black ones, reminding me of the gratification that accompanied my first pair of black jazz shoes in lieu of tan ones, a badge of maturity and progress toward being an advanced dancer. The same is true for the black and tan pairs of tap shoes. Next, are two canvas ballet shoes, with holes at each big toe just like the countless blown out pairs of ballet shoes I’ve had before. But the principle culprit of the entanglement? The three pairs of pointe shoes I kept in my bag at any given time, laden with satin ribbon, annoyingly apt to catching in the zipper pocket and fraying.
Once I’m past the chaotic mass of shoes, there’s a black ballet skirt I wore while learning many elegant, classical variations that made me feel like a prima on stage at the Met instead of a student in a studio in South Georgia. Finally, beneath the skirt, is a large, purple pouch. Its contents, carefully selected for the utmost preparedness, include extra hair pins, hairspray, safety pins, a sewing kit, scissors, second-skin ointment, and a consistently deficient supply of blister band-aids.
Dance was my labor of love, my foundation for hard work, my outlet for passion. It was the place that I had spent the overwhelming majority of my time outside of school. The thought of leaving that behind scared me like nothing ever had. As gut-wrenching and sentimental as it was to snap my worn, yellow tote shut and place it on the shelf, I realized that it was what I had to do. I can acknowledge now that I had been unknowingly and tediously preparing for that moment for the past thirteen years. Because I’d felt first-hand the fulfillment and joy that come with giving my whole heart and efforts to something, I knew it was time to move forward and do just that in the classroom.
My bookbag lies open now against the desk in my room. Its front two pockets, dedicated to my graphing calculator, page markers, highlighters, several pads of post-it notes, and a consistently deficient supply of black ink pens, are stocked for the utmost preparedness. The two larger pockets are an accumulation of textbooks and corresponding binders along with spiral notebooks filled with meticulous notes, a new kind of labor of love. Instead of poster-board projects I carried as a child, I now carry research papers on my laptop, a badge of maturity and progress as a student.
I realize now that leaving dance allowed me to be a more fulfilled person by allowing me to pursue knowledge and satisfy my passion for learning. The nylon at the ends of the zippers is beginning to fray, and the backpack is beginning to look more worn; still, it has a ways to go before it can carry the same weight as my dance bag did after all of those years. So as my shirt hem brushes over the closed dance bag, I send a mental salute to that old yellow tote, thankful because I am ready and capable to move forward with my bookbag and all it might carry in the future.