Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Photographs, Harry Potter, and the Time I Went to Boston


It's bizarre, I can recall memories from my teenage years so vividly, before the glorious invention of the cell phone that took photos. Before the camera where you could see yourself before the photo was taken, painstakingly making sure your duck face was perfect. We called selfies, "Self Portraits." I had rolls and rolls of film from the camera I received for my 15th birthday, but I never had them printed. I forgot and time passed, and the film slowly disappeared. Perhaps they're in my childhood bedroom somewhere, hiding in the depths of the closet or under the bed.

One of my favorite memories was when I was fifteen, I had practiced ballet for ten years at that point and I was admitted to Boston Ballet's prestigious summer program. I was wait-listed first, and I found that to be an enormous insult, so when the acceptance letter came, I outright refused to go. My mom had other plans. I was sent to Boston for six weeks over my nine week summer. I thought it was my worst ever punishment. I was being sent across the country, away from my friends (!) a week after school got out (!!) for most of my summer vacation (!!!).  My summer was ruined. But I recall such great things from that time. My mom was right, and I was a pouty little brat. I was given an enormous gift, and I didn't want to go.

The night before I left on my 6am flight to Boston University (who was putting us up), I stayed up until 11:30pm, and forced my brother to drive me downtown to Barnes and Noble. The fifth Harry Potter book was coming out and this was my compromise, if I was going, I was not going without that book. If I didn't get the book at midnight I didn't know how long I'd have to wait as it would be sold out EVERYWHERE.

I stayed up all night reading and we left for the airport at 3am.

Before I share what I'm going to share next, the reason I bring this story up, is because this trip played a large role in shaping who I am today. At the time, I had no idea the impact it would have on me.

My first week in Boston, I took classes from 10am until 4pm every day. By the second week, I was practicing triple pirouette's in point shoes, where up until that point I'd never been able to accomplish a double pirouette, let alone a land a triple gracefully. But I figured it out. I'd perfected it! I landed four in a row!

As I was practicing my masterful pirouettes, realizing I'd made the right choice and my life would be determined by this new talent, (and now I'd definitely get a lead *tutu* wearing roll in the Nutcracker later that year) -- When my overconfidence attacked me and I fell. I turned my ankle and when I hit the ground I thought I'd be sick. I couldn't stand and had to scoot myself below the ballet barre to try to recoup. No one noticed at first.

Then someone asked if I was okay and I couldn't speak. My vision had gone black and I was dizzy. Three of my friends grabbed me under the shoulders and hauled me off to the hospital. It was the worst sprained ankle my doctor had ever seen and I had a stress fracture in my foot. I wouldn't be dancing the next four weeks of what was left of the five week program. I was given a boot and told to heal and return for physical therapy. It was a waste. I was a disappointment, and I couldn't believe I'd ruined my amazing opportunity. My goal was to be the Snow Queen Senior year! And now that goal was killed before my eyes.

Suddenly I was stuck in an unknown city with nothing to do. I was supposed to attend the ballet classes and watch, but the walk to the school was almost a half hour, which doesn't exactly induce healing. So I stayed back in the dorms and read. I finished Harry Potter, ( which, by the way, Sirius was COMPETELY ruined for me when my roommate mentioned *someone* died in the fifth book. Impatient and horrified ME flipped to the middle, saw who it was and threw the book away from me in rage. And then I cried), and spent all the money my parents had given me for the trip on books and bagels (with jalapeno cream cheese) from the Barnes in Noble around the corner.

I bought at least twenty books over the next four weeks. I read a ton of Francesca Lia Block (Weetzie Bat & Necklace of Kisses) and the entire "Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging" series. I wandered the shelves for hours by myself, picking out my favorite covers and sitting cross legged on the carpet of Barnes and Noble. I'd sit and read pages and pages of each book before I'd make a decision  and hobble back to the University dorms. There, I'd sit on my over-sized windowsill on the 4th floor with the window wide open, listening to Jimmy Eat World's "Sweetness" on repeat, and gazing down at the courtyard while thunderstorms raged overhead. I fell in love with the summer rain and lightning.

It was one of those defining life moments that shapes you into the person you'll become later in life. I read and read and read, staying up late at night with packages of mac and cheese and a flashlight.

I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. I was fifteen. But I didn't return to my ballet school that fall.

All my love,
L.B.