He asked what in the subway?!

A city filled with roughly 1.6 million people, I am bound to meet a whole new group of friends, a best friend, (maybe) a boy friend, an enemy and even a handful of really strange/annoying/odd people. 

I am a sucker for meeting new people and engaging in conversations with strangers on the subway or in line at a coffee shop (but that's only when I'm in the mood too). It's interesting to hear about other people's "back story" and what they are passionate about in life. Most recently, a kind gentleman asked how my world has shaped my dreams and aspirations while I was just about to hop off the train! Such a deep question to ask (don't ya think?) and I didn't really know how to answer in just 10 words or less. So here I am writing it in hopes maybe he follows me on my social media haha.

Since the age of three, the bright stage lights have shined on me as a ballet dancer.  On stage, I have nowhere to hide as every movement of my body is critiqued and evaluated. I have been living in a world of intense scrutiny for most of my life.  A misstep during a performance can lead to turmoil – injury, poor reviews or even snickering – and I embrace the pressure to perform flawlessly each time the curtain opens.  This brittle stage I have chosen to walk on taught me three important facets: discipline, focus and mental toughness.  These elements have defined who I am as an individual and continue to drive my passion to be a successful professional contemporary ballerina. 

Ballet is discipline for both the mind and body and it starts immediately at a young age.  At three years old, I learned to be attentive in dance school and to respect my fellow classmates as we tumbled across the floor. As I grew older, I learned that to succeed in ballet, I cannot treat it as a hobby, but a full-time endeavor.  In order to offer this time commitment, I sacrificed a typical childhood in the backyard for endless practice sessions in the dance studio.  I knew in order to succeed in school and ballet; I had to give up the joys of childhood. However, twirling on the dance floor generated a unique kind of happiness and drove me to attend all my training sessions, listen attentively to my instructors and dedicate myself to ballet.

Ballet also taught me to focus as the mind of a dancer must be focused towards the intricate dance movements. Learning from simple mistakes, I realized that more focus is necessary in order to improve and prevent serious injuries that can squash my dreams. When I was nine years old, my teacher gave me a solo that I embraced immensely.  For this reason, I danced carelessly, without paying heed to the minute details of the repertoire and this caused me to blank out on stage. Luckily, I did not suffer a serious injury, but learned to balance my emotion while dancing and concentrate every second.  With focus, I am now able to control my passion and execute my movements. 

In ballet mental toughness is equally as important as physical prowess.  The way the mind functions during ballet has a big impact on the way the body responds. As a dancer, I constantly receive both good and bad critiques.  During my student years, one of my instructors told me I would not receive a job as a professional dancer at San Francisco Ballet.  Sacrificing 13 years of my childhood life in dance, I suddenly felt depressed and lost. With much support, I moved on and worked harder.  I wanted to prove to my instructor and myself that I could be a professional dancer.  More importantly, I wanted to prove that I can bounce back from this setback and return as a strong individual. This experience has mentally prepared me for any other mishaps in the future.

I realize that discipline, focus, and mental toughness have given me a unique opportunity to excel in not only ballet, but in all aspects of my life. These three fundaments not only have shaped my dreams but also the person I am today.

Candy Tong