The Tower Dancers hammered the last nail into the coffin of any illusion I ever possessed of being good at everything. Hammered.
How did I end up at 10 AM on a Saturday morning in my little ballet slippers trying out for a college-level dance troupe? Some kind soul told me that I danced well, that I caught on to things well, that I moved with the grace of a natural dancer. A very kind soul, apparently, because when I started Ballet I this semester, I alone out of all the other dancers in my class could not for the life of me even walk like a ballerina.
"Don't bend your front leg," my poor instructor pleaded. "No, glide into the front leg, don't step. That's it. That's not it. No, like this."
My dancing consists of grinning like a fool and fluttering nervously to the other end of dance floor. I get hopelessly mixed up. Immediately after learning to walk like a ballerina, we learned to sashay: "Now you can bend your front leg, Bailey!" called the instructor, inwardly rejoicing...until Bailey found she could not bend her front leg after the drill of being told she couldn't bend that leg. Repeat grinning and fluttering. (Bashing my head against the wall obviously isn't graceful.)
Of course, as soon as I get home to my encouraging roommate and kick the ethernet cables out of my planned path of travel, I can walk and pirouette and glide like none other.
The strained, confused smiles of my instructor during Ballet I ought to have warned against stepping foot in the dance studio on that fateful Saturday morning. The subtle glint of horror in her eyes when she saw me step foot into that dance studio should have struck fear into my heart. "Run away! Run away!" was (I think) the proper translation of her explanation about the audition forms.
I failed to listen to reason. "Oh, it'll be fine," I assured myself while surrounded by girls who could bend themselves in every graceful position possible. "What's the worst that can happen?"
Not much. Just lose every shred of dignity possessed in a human soul.
Apparently, it's possible to pick up on an entire dance choreography in ten minutes and then perform it beautifully within small groups while all eyes watch. Apparently that's just a natural talent of all normal human beings. Glorious -- I missed the memo and needed the instructor (this poor, poor ballet instructor) to perform along with me and my group of fellow amateurs whose memory went out when under pressure.
Everything went downhill from there. My body failed to bend in proper places. Grace got jammed up somewhere in dark recesses and didn't appear in any limb. I'm pretty sure my face was contorted far more intricately than any move I attempted to complete. And just when I thought I was done, just when I'd had enough of pitying glances and half-smiles and humiliation, the instructor called, "I think we have time for the groups to run through it one more time, don't you?"
No! screamed my pride while all the other girls chattered enthusiastically.
By the time the auditions let out, I needed a solid faceplant in my happy-colored pillow for about fifteen and half years to feel remotely okay about myself.
See, I'm not used to be an epic fail. I used to catch on to things. I used to be the best at everything. I used to be able to rely on the ambiguous but true assumption that things will work out well for me because they always did. Even when I messed up.
Not today, folks. Not today.
Even though I tried to laugh/wail it off at lunchtime to my roommate, I was shaken at how humiliated I was, how horribly I had performed. And I realized that the reason I was so shaken was because my entire identity was wrapped up in being the girl who had it all together. I never looked stupid if I could help it. I never looked like the bottom rung of any ladder. I never got into situations where I wouldn't shine at least a little bit.
You know what? It's impossible to always look perfect and put-together, to be shiny and wonderful at every single thing. It's impossible to expect that I'll be the best or at least better than most people. Maybe I could pull off that deception in a small rural town, but not in a liberal arts college, not next to people who have specialized in and trained for things I only messed about in. I don't know why it took me until third week of first semester of sophomore year to realize this.
What's worse, my identity of perfection and wonderfulness was centered solely on an imperfect human being with no Jesus or grace even in the picture. Such an identity is bound to crack open sooner or later. And it has.
So where do I go? What do I do? I need to reshape my identity, figure out a more realistic and Christ-centered identity that won't go to pieces after failed dance auditions. I'm done with trying to be perfect and shiny. I want to be a girl who can mess up with grace -- who possesses joy no matter how idiotic she appears -- who radiates love and acceptance and encouragement -- who isn't afraid of people's opinions or looking dumb or imperfect. I want to live for things that matter, like love and Jesus, not perfect ballerina grace or the most accolades. I want a different perspective on myself that never shoves me into the spotlight without grace and forgiveness and Christ. Because I need grace. I need forgiveness. I need Jesus. And any identity that tries to be perfect without Him just isn't worth living.