Month: December 2013

Falling in Love with a New Endeavor

Mary Slate Williams, 2013 Sono Osato Scholarship for Graduate Studies Award RecipientMary Slate Williams

My Mother says I started crawling before I learned to sit. I have always loved to move. My first love was not the music, costumes or audience. I did not fall in love with performing; I had never even seen a ballet. I fell in love with the work. I wanted nothing more than to sweat for hours in the studio with no audience. This left me, unsurprisingly, to be a rather dull performer. My senior year in high school our gala performance was Harald Lander’s Etudes. In the final movement doing a tombe coupe sauté, something clicked. I felt the music, the full force of the music and I began to really dance.
After just one semester in college, I became a trainee for the Orlando Ballet under the direction of Fernando Bujones. I danced for Fernando Bujones for four seasons. Being coached by Fernando was magical. You could work for days on a variation and then he could come in, give you three notes and the whole dance was transformed.
I injured myself shortly after Fernando passed away, I had surgery, my contract was not renewed, I moved to Chicago to dance, and moved again to Idaho. I kept dancing for four years after my surgeon had given up on me. I was sure my perseverance would eventually pay off. That is how the world is supposed to work. You just keep working, putting your heart and soul into something and eventually reap the rewards. Somehow along the way, I ran out of soul. I no longer enjoyed showing up to work every day. I no longer felt joy when I danced.
Although I have always been aware that a dancing career cannot last forever, I was never able to fathom what actually stopping dancing might feel like. I always assumed that someday I would have a moment of realization when I would fall in love with a new endeavor, and be every bit as passionate about it as I was with ballet. Instead, it has been more of a slowly growing swell. I searched in earnest for a new career, and I kept landing back at pharmacy.
My final season dancing people asked me with some regularity why I wanted to go to pharmacy school. My response was always “seems like a good idea.” There is a lot of truth to this flippant response. It seemed like a good idea, because it just felt right and even though I did not know it yet, it was absolutely one of my best ideas. Being a pharmacist is the perfect non-dancer job for me. It is emotionally inspiring, mentally challenging and I am always moving. I am continually amazed by the human capacity for love I witness while at work. I talk with people who have a loved one at home dying, who have just miscarried, who desperately need relief from depression. I am able in some small way to ease their burden. Pharmacists do much more than even I realized. Every day that I work in a pharmacy I learn something new and meet someone wonderful. I am currently working as a pharmacy intern and am entering my third year of a four-year Doctorate of Pharmacy program.
Entering a new profession has taught me a lot about how people develop professionally. In pharmacy school, I am not just learning about medications. Since beginning school, I have had meetings with roughly ten state legislators, served as the student liaison to the Washington State Pharmacy Association, given a speech to a few hundred and been challenged in numerous other ways. One of the most valuable things I have learned from pharmacy school is that careers have cultures. The culture of pharmacy is vastly different from the culture of ballet and I have gained much by being a part of both.
Career Transition for Dancers has helped to make this transition feasible by assisting me financially and supporting me emotionally. Stopping dancing is probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Career Transition for Dancers helped me to remember where I came from and where I was going. Working with Career Transitions for Dancers I felt valued and appreciated as a dancer in a way I have not for many years. I began working with Career Transition for Dancers after I had already made up my mind to transition. I wish I had contacted them earlier; they have so much insight and support to give.
An unexpected bonus, I now love dancing again! I thought by retiring from ballet I was losing the art form forever. Instead I feel like I have gotten it back. After about a year and a half of crying after each ballet class I woke up one morning healed. I do not know how or why it happened, but I finally arrived at the place where others opinions of my dancing no longer matters to me. I do not get to dance nearly as much as I would like, but what I lack in quantity I feel I make up for in quality. Taking class is not a chore, it is a treat and I try to dance every chance I get. I have even found some small performance opportunities. This summer I had the amazing experience of spending a day in a hospital IV room mixing medications followed by an evening on stage in a tutu with Boise Dance Coop. It was probably my proudest day.