My big sister is a goddess. Not taking away from my other older siblings, because the are also remarkable and ethereal beings, however, my sister Claire is the literal cats pajamas. For my entire childhood (and to this day) she was my best friend, my ride-or-die, my number one wing woman, but there was always an elephant that got in the way of our relationship. That elephant was named Comparison, and he was a sly little fucker. Claire was my biggest competition, and let me tell you she did not set the bar low… a 4.0 through both middle and high school, commanding officer of NJROTC and captain of the marching squad, on honor roll, she had a lot of close friends, she was beautiful and funny, she got featured roles in the musical and was adored by every single one of her teachers (except for Mr. Kurtz who frankly can suck my toe for screwing her over), and on top of all that she was just a great fucking person. She still is all of those things, and more. She is reaching her final year in college, still in the honors program and working long hours at both a hospital and homeless shelter while also achieving her dream to be a nurse with flying colors. She is the entire package. So where do I come in? I’ve never been an academic. Honestly, my hearts just not really in it. I get good grades because I have somewhat of a natural ability, but it’s never been my #1 priority. I have made so many cliché mistakes; sneaking out in high school, getting my heart completely ripped to shreds my junior year, not listening to my parents, getting caught going to parties, the whole shabang. I was so wildly imperfect and to make it 100% worse I had the image of perfection standing right next to me making none of those mistakes. Let me tell you, my parents took severe note of this. As did everyone else. In middle school my band teacher actually approached me with the question, “Callan, I don’t understand why you aren’t better at this, Claire is so talented”. Every teacher I had knew Claire and loved her and was in utter disbelief of me and my subpar devotion to the riveting text of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. To be quite honest, I stopped caring very early on in my schooling career about living up to Claire’s standards. I had other passions. I loved to dance and sing and act and paint. I liked reading whatever the hell I wanted just for fun and turning literary essays into creative writing bits. I loved doing my hair and makeup and devoting every morning to picking out an outfit that no one had seen me in before. I cared about these things, but because they weren’t inherently “academic”, I was wrong. Throughout all of high school I can honestly say that my passions were looked over for the pressures of school. If I did well on an essay I was praised, but if I danced center-stage at the 5th Avenue theatre in front of hundreds of people it was a “nice job” followed by “did you do your homework”. I know my parents meant well, but every step of the way they refused to look at my passions as legitimate accomplishments or appreciate that I wanted to pursue them further. It was all just frivolous extra-curriculurs to them.
Fast-forward a year and I have been accepted into one of the top visual arts colleges in the nation as a dance student. I was one of 25 dancers to be chosen. I filled out the application and sent in all the materials without my parents blessing, I took a tour of the campus and networked with the staff all on my own. I got together all of the information I could so that when I presented my case to my parents they would take me seriously. After a few months of collecting everything I needed to and sending everything in, I really did not believe I would be accepted. I wasn’t that confident in my dancing and I knew there would be a lot of tough competition. I had been making plans to taking a sort of gap year in 2017 and getting a job while maybe doing a few classes at a community college. So, when I got that massive envelope from the front desk of my dormitory I almost had a heart attack. I checked the name on the address probably 50 times to make sure that they hadn’t made a mistake. I was close to hyperventilating. I called my sister first. She was so happy for me. She had supported me and had my back the whole time and was a huge reason why I even applied in the first place. The next person I called was my mom… the first thing that came out of her mouth was, “what’s the price tag?”. I had to ask her to congratulate me. It hit deep, friends. And mom if you are reading this, this is not a slam on your character. This is me telling you that I am trying to pursue something that I am good at. Like, Claire good at. Which is huge. I have the same drive for dance as Claire has for nursing and if I were to be put into a situation where that was looked at as a legitimate skill and validated as an accomplishment, I know I would thrive. I just need some support.
I really didn’t intend for this post to be a personal letter. I guess I just want to put this narrative out into the world, because I know that I am not the only student who feels this way. Like the only thing that is ever going to be deemed an “accomplishment” is your ability to do long division without a calculator or remember all of the significant figures at the end of a chemistry problem. I am here to tell you that if you aren’t good at these things or just don’t really care about them, then you are not untalented or unmotivated. You are not lazy or stupid or on a bad path. Yes, it is important to do well in high school so that you can graduate, but that doesn’t mean that the information you learned during that time is the end-all. You are allowed to love to dance, model, design, act, or anything else. You are allowed to do something that is not considered “academic”. And let me tell you, the work you put into those things is no smaller than the work a science student puts in to finding the reactive agent (is that even a thing?).
I don’t know if my dream to go to Cornish will come to fruition. It really is a lot of money and sometimes there’s just not enough of that to go around. But if there is one thing I have learned thus far, it’s that I want to be a dancer and a creator. And that doesn’t make me ignorant or lazy. It just means I have a passion that I didn’t develop in the walls of a high school and that is A-okay.
Note: I love both of my parents and everything they do for me. Everyone has a reason for the way they think and I am not trying to invalidate that in any way shape or form. I guess I have just had a build up of things I have never been able to articulate and this is me speaking out about them. Nothing confrontational, just my personal experience.