The World Owes You Nothing, Darling
I wrote this blog post yesterday morning in the bath, and jotted it down on the train. I was still glowing from my recent trip to Paris and coming back to a huge class of 40 eager ballet students, even ending class with a can-can. I didn’t get a chance to post it last night and today I was feeling the post-Paris blues, and it cheered me up.
You’re Doing It Wrong. I know, I know, I don’t usually say you’re “wrong”. People have too many negative messages in their heads for me to add any more. Even in ballet class I usually say “you can do it better this way”, or something to that effect, but this time I’m telling you you’re doing it wrong because it’s the stinky truth.
I know you know this, but my dear, the world was not made for you, and other people were not created to serve you. Sadly, your boredom and unhappiness are all on you. Even Ballet was not created to cause you pleasure — or pain either, you sicko. 😊 Ballet was not created for you at all, you were created for it. But you think you live and dance for yourself, and that is where you are wrong.
Life is painful. You don’t need me to tell you that there is cruelty and jealousy and hatred and anger and sadness in the world. The pain of this thing where you must wake up every morning and go to the job you hate and deal with the commute and the rain and the bs of it all — hasn’t it occurred to you that everyone else is dealing with all of that stuff too? My mother died, but I’m not the only one who’s lost a loved one and I can’t sit down and give up. You are nodding your head, but it isn’t enough to know these things but then still expect people to be nice to you. No.
Maya Angelou said:
“Living well is an art that can be developed: a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings and assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift.”
Mark Twain said it like this:
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
I will take it a step further and say it is your job to lessen the pain in the world by being the best version of yourself that you can be. That means sometimes you are the one who serves up the joy to the sales clerk suffering through her day of demanding customers. You are the one to see her truly as the beautiful, complicated mother, daughter, sister that she is, to have a moment of connection, maybe even bring her a smile or even make her laugh. The suffering of life unites us and it is your job to ease that burden for others by bringing your delight to the world, not the other way around. Though sometimes others may do this for us, we must repay the gift by appreciating their efforts.
Do not bring people pleasure out of penance, while rolling your eyes, or because you secretly think you are a bad person. Do not misconstrue my meaning, I’m not saying be a doormat or don’t ask for what you need or want in the world. I’m certainly not saying don’t get paid for your art. I’m saying stop complaining that the world owes you something and feeling miserable and hoarding your joy. On the contrary, you are thinking of it all wrong. The world owes you nothing, and this thought can set you free.
The most magical thing about sharing your smile, your love, your humor, your sparkle, and your art is the joy you bring others will multiply miraculously back to you. Dance for yourself yes, because it is fun, special, unique, makes you feel pretty or like a total badass. But recognize dance is an art form performed for others — to tell a story and because it is beautiful. You have the capacity to bring a vast measure of joy to the world. But don’t just sit there and take my word for it. Go right now and make someone’s day. Bring someone joy and see how it feels. Compliment a stranger’s shoes, smile at a kid. Be kind, loving, forgiving—oh there’s that word again, “give”. Dance and smile and share your joy and love for the world and all of the beautiful people still in it. You are alive, and that alone is a reason to celebrate.
Please see the Classes page for my current teaching schedule. I’d love to see you at the barre!
* Photo I took in Paris of the full moon rising over the Seine.