How Do You Know When You’re Done with Something?

Not material things, in this case, but a hobby, project, or pastime. Am I the only one who has trouble with this?

This post is going to be kind of a long one, about something that’s been on my mind for awhile now.

I have this inner struggle between needing to see something through once I start it, and knowing when to just let it go. I push myself to keep reading a book I haven’t finished when I don’t really like it. I keep working on a painting that’s not doing what I want it to, instead of just starting a new one. I have a hard time finding the line between, “yes, this is hard right now, but it will be worth it once I get through it,” and “I hate this and it’s not worth my energy anymore.” Most of the time the situation isn’t quite that black and white, of course, and my thoughts on something can change from one day to the next, which only further complicates things.

I also struggle with not giving something my all, even if I don’t really care about it. (My bosses always love me, as you can imagine. In my most recent review [for a job I do love, mind you] my manager told me that she thinks I’m “fantastic” and she wishes she could clone me. #humblebrag)

A pencil drawing I did that was inspired by a photo of a dancer from NYCB

The particular thing I’m thinking about right now doesn’t really have a “completion,” per se. As you might or might not know, I’ve been taking ballet classes for a few years now. With ballet, you don’t reach a point where you’ve accomplished it. You keep practicing, honing, refining. Or, at least, that’s what you do if you’re making it your life’s work, which I’m not. Maybe that’s where my real struggle is: knowing where and when to spend (or save) my energy instead of having to give my all to everything. (This is not a #humblebrag. I think it’s actually probably a sign of anxiety, and knowing that I’ll beat myself up about something later if I don’t give it my all.)

When I was in grad school, I was taking a junior-level class that met 3x per week. On Fridays, the professor didn’t lecture; the T.A. led group discussions instead. As a grad student, my attendance didn’t get counted toward my grade and participation wasn’t graded either. Still, it was a revelation for me when I complained about not having enough time to do my other work, and my program advisor suggested, “don’t go to that class on Fridays.” There was literally no consequence for not going. So I took her advice (somewhat hesitantly at first), and I still did fine that semester. Better than fine, even, because I was able to use that time and energy to do more important work.

So, back to the point. Right now, I’m doubling down on my efforts to make Fairy Tree Studios successful, particularly on the back end. I’m also working 25 hours a week at my day job, and doing a couple other major (non-art) projects to help fund this hustle (and our eventual wedding). I’ve brainstormed and started implementing ways to actually make FTS more profitable in other ways while I continue to build up an art portfolio (I have about three major events in the pipeline that I’m excited to share soon!). Long story short, I’m running out of room for extracurricular activities.

Me in my first pair of pointe shoes, 2018

I started ballet classes almost four years ago because I’d been watching ballet movies and TV shows and wanted to try it again. (I took classes on and off from about first grade, but it had been about 13 years since I’d last put on ballet slippers.) When I learned, from the director of the studio, that going en pointe was possible even as a 31-year-old who’d never done it before, I signed up for more classes and got a barre to practice at home. A year later, I had my first pointe lesson and was ecstatic, even though it was hard and my progress was much slower than the teen and tween girls I was taking classes with. Of course, I was taking class 2-3x per week, while the top levels were doing 5x (plus cross-training in other disciplines — jazz, tap, acrobatics, etc.).

Nonetheless, I was hanging in there, until the pandemic hit and shelter-in-place started. We moved classes to Zoom but didn’t do pointe most days because many of the girls didn’t have floors suitable for it. Once the summer semester started, my studio began a particularly rigorous summer intensive with a new set of teachers, and I fell further behind, even once we were able to get back into the studio. I took class twice per week, for a total of 3 hrs, while the rest of the girls were doing 15 hrs each week of just ballet!* I knew they were training hard, and yet it was still a frustrating experience, seeing how I was holding the class back or still stuck at one level while the rest of them improved so dramatically. After the summer, I dropped back down to the one-hour-per-week adult ballet class, which is much more my speed. I haven’t put on my pointe shoes since spring.

A painting from a picture I took of my own feet.

And now, I’m at a bit of a crossroads. I’m telling myself I should keep going, or even step it up again. It’s good exercise (which I definitely need more of), plus I wanted to get more adept at pointework, and I HAVE been making progress, even if it’s not as fast as I wanted to… But the fact of the matter is, plain and simple, I only have so much mental and physical energy to dedicate to all my goals and hobbies. Something has to give somewhere. I have a really good arrangement with the studio, wherein I clean for a couple hours each week and get to take up to two classes per week for free; there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t get that back if I did walk away. I kind of feel like I’d be letting the studio director down, too. But then I also tell myself, this was always just meant to be a hobby, and, like I do with many other things, I let myself get carried away thinking I had to give it 100% all the time, to the detriment of more important things.

So, that’s where I’m at. In any case, I’ll finish out this semester, which goes into mid-December. That gives me a month or so to figure out what’s next. I do still love watching ballet, and I definitely have a greater appreciation for the professionals now that I’ve taken the classes myself. And, as you can see, I’ve done some ballet-inspired artwork and have plans to do more. If I do quit, or even scale back my commitment level, I can come back to it again later.

Have you ever struggled to let go of something that you once thought was fun, or was serving you, but doesn’t anymore? How did you take the leap? Any regrets afterward?

*A bit of explanation here. In the spring, my ballet class only met 3x per week for my proficiency level. The summer classes were meant for kids of all levels who didn’t have school and could be at the studio for 6+ hours per day. I, of course, still had to work, so I couldn’t have done the full curriculum even if I could have afforded it.

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