What Rejection Taught Me About Creativity

imageBefore I went to university, I was a dancer for many years. Ballet was my favourite, but I also did jazz, hip-hop and tap. I loved the rush of endorphins I felt when I moved my body and got my heart pumping, and I loved creating beautiful shapes, lines and silhouettes using choreography.

Dance lessons had been a part of my life since I was really young, so I had always taken them for granted. But it wasn’t until I hit the age of about fifteen that I thought, “hey, maybe I could do this as a career.” I bumped up to five lessons a week and signed up for a summer intensive in the states, hoping to improve my technique.

When I got to the summer camp that summer, all the students had a placement exam so we could be divided into multiple levels. I had been placed in the second lowest level of 20 or so, and I couldn’t believe it! I had been working so hard on my technique, and I loved ballet–what was wrong with me?

I worked tirelessly anyway, attending three or four tough ballet classes a day, and watched as others in my class were moved up to higher levels. In between classes, I would sit in on the highest level’s class and marvel at their tight technique, ease and grace, wishing I could be like them.

The next summer, I did another five-week intensive. At the audition, the owner of the company said, “you’re a little weak, but I guess you can join us.” It was crushing. To make matters worse, I remember asking another girl in my class what he had told her when she auditioned, and she said “he told me I must have a really great teacher because I’m really strong.” We had the same teacher!

My dance career was full of moments like this. Most of them were only ego-bruising, but the one that really changed my course in life was when I was rejected from the professional dance program at Ryerson University. When this happened, I made up my mind to hang up my dance shoes forever and choose another, more “normal” career.

I dropped in on a few ballet classes while I was in university, but I wasn’t nearly as committed as before, and slowly, it faded off into the background as “something I used to do.” I had done what no creative person should ever do: I had allowed fears, doubts, insecurities, others’ negativity, and rejection seep into my consciousness and I had given up. 

But what I hadn’t known at the time was that if you always choose to do what you love, you’re already winning. You don’t have to please others with your decisions, and you definitely don’t have to justify your decisions to anyone.

Does this mean I regret quitting when I did? Hell no! If I hadn’t been rejected, I never would have studied journalism at university, and who knows if I would even be writing this today.

Now, I’ve adopted other forms of movement like barre and yoga that still give me that same rush of endorphins and pure joy. I feel so privileged to move my body in ways that I want to every day, and the best part is that I feel confident enough to do it because I love it and it makes me happy.

With the level of joy, freedom, love, and peace it brings, creative movement is no doubt a spiritual act. To me, spirituality is about connecting with something bigger than us, and allowing our lives to flow with ease, grace and joy. I believe we all have built-in access to this wealth of knowledge, wisdom and beauty, and creative movement is one of the best ways to tap into it.

Whether I’m doing yoga, barre, or my made-up version of Irish dancing in my kitchen, I’m finally realizing that the only person who needs to approve of the way I move is me. How freeing is that?

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