That’s not a word I use often, unless it’s in a phrase such as “I can’t resist this temptation.”
It is easy to give up, or refuse to try, using the blanket excuse “Can’t”. It’s a giant stop sign over your life, and most commonly it is used for little things like “I can’t afford to take this class” or “I can’t do a pull up.” Yet stories of sheer will overcoming obstacles are numerous – people who are told they may never walk again that grit their teeth and say “Oh, yes I will” – and do it. One of the girls in the training program with me literally broke her back and was told she would never dance again, yet her determination to prove them wrong not only turned her into a professional belly dancer, it has gotten her into an intensive training program.
I have had many things happen in my life where the word “can’t” was used by many people in my situation. I come from a kind of messed up and dysfunctional home life (although we try to forget that that’s what it was like) – my parents split up when I was a toddler, both struggling with personal demons, I had experienced the pains of growing up between two households below the poverty line. As a child, I dreamed of taking ballet classes, but we couldn’t afford them, and we tried every avenue we could think of. I have 5 siblings, and some dreams had to be put aside to make ends meet. (As I got older, I started finding ways to do what I wanted, working as much as possible to fund my school trip to NYC on my own, for instance). When I was 16, I became a teen mom. I was told by many people in my life – even the social worker – that I would have to drop out of high school. Instead, I gathered up my paperwork and went to my school office and asked “How do I graduate?” Not only did I graduate, but we found a way for me to do so at the end of my junior year.
And, instead of thinking I was done with my education because I was a single teen mom, I was determined to go to college. I found scholarships and loans that would cover most of my tuition, one of which provided a life coach to help get me through and on to the next chapter of my life. I received my degree with only a small amount of student debt.
None of this was easy. There were times when I would sit in my room and cry hopelessly because the challenges I faced seemed insurmountable. I remember sitting down with a friend and having a rather frank discussion about how I didn’t think I could be a parent, and how I was thinking I should have put my child up for adoption. There were many points where the thought “I can’t do this anymore” crossed my mind, and I swiftly pushed it out. In my teen years, I didn’t think I had a choice. It felt very much like something I simply had to do. I think a great deal of that push came from societal values of going to school and getting a well paying career. Emphasis was on education and not on happiness. I do not regret my decision to go to college at all. I met so many people through my years in school that I am very close friends with today and people who helped shape my career as it is now. If it hadn’t been for university, I wouldn’t have met the juggling club where my circus path started, and I wouldn’t be on this great adventure right now. But I have learned that years of unhappiness doing what I thought I had to for stability and an uncertain future wasn’t worth it. Three months into living in Boulder, working my little tail off to pay my bills, and spending every other moment enveloped in the circus world here has made me incomparably happy. I look forward to every day, as hard as I know it’s going to be.
This is where I could use some help though. Tuition for this Aerial Dance Professional Training Program isn’t cheap, and I’m supporting myself and a child through it. I’ve set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover tuition and equipment costs. I can do this, there’s no doubt for me. But having some of the costs covered through this campaign will allow me to focus on training, act development, and necessary rest. Consider this – a $5 donation covers one of my drop in classes. $60 covers a private lesson. Can you help?
I am determined to see my dreams to the end.
And I challenge you: remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary, and surprise yourself with how much you actually can do. Start small – don’t try to climb a mountain if you’ve never walked a mile before. Find tasks that challenge at the appropriate level, and don’t be afraid of falling. Sometimes, you grow wings and fly.