The weight of expectation

by - May 24, 2021

Dance was something we shared from the very start. It was a constant of our life together.

But now, as I contemplate leaving that world behind entirely, I wonder if I’m abandoning her too. I worry I’m not holding up my end of the bargain, that I’m failing to fulfil the legacy so many assumed I would realise. 

The weight of expectation is heavy and greets me every time I show up to work at the dance studio – the place that feels both incredibly foreign but strangely like home at the same time. It’s there when I send young dancers on stage with a fleeting “chookas” as they whisk past me through the wings; or as I nervously open the door as they make their way into their ballet exam.

It’s there as I stand in front of the junior ballet class and mindlessly offer generic corrections as if by rote, all the while wondering where my passion for this work – her work - has gone or if it was ever really there in the first place. Did I really mean to end up in this place or was it out of sheer convenience or a loyalty to her and respect to the impact she made in so many young lives?

Grief is layered and it appears mine has led to the loss my true self, my identity and my own path. The absolute devotion she had for the work we do – and once did together – eludes me and no matter how hard I’ve tried to carry on in the hope it will miraculously appear as I make my way out of the haze and into “life after”, I continue to feel numb and as if I’m merely following a road map she left for me.

It’s not my dream but for the past four years, I’ve believed it was my destiny. I believed it was my duty to continue the legacy that, under her watch, had touched so many lives. But as the haze of grief slowly lifts, I’m starting to see that this half-lived existence spent wondering wouldn’t have been her dream for me.

Grief has, in a funny way, become my teacher. Quite ironic considering it’s the role of educator that I’m so scared to let go because of a fear of losing my unique connection to her. But grief has taught me to be brave – to have the courage to deviate from the map. It doesn’t mean I’ll get lost but might just mean I find myself.

This piece was entered in the Hunter Writers Centre Grieve 2021 writing competition.

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