I was twelve the first time I wanted to quit. Like most young girls, I harbored the unlikely fantasy of becoming a professional dancer. But it was neither the passage of time nor the pursuit of other interests that coaxed me away from this dream: it was my instructor. I’ll never forget the moment he coldly looked into my eyes and dismissed my dream with one statement, “this isn’t for you.” In that office, in that moment, I wanted to quit. My mother dried my tears and, while she did not quote Dr. Parker directly, her words echoed the simple brilliance of his: it is always too soon to quit.
I didn’t quit, but it would be years before I would find my place among the pantheon of those who blossomed out of adversity. I would be remiss not to acknowledge the truth of another of Dr. Parker’s statements: People are not often changed for the better by having life easy. I propose this statement, along with the statement upon which this essay is based, form a symbiotic relationship. Those who are faced with adversity must decide whether it is too soon to quit, and those who answer that it is indeed too soon are changed for the better through the following journey.
To say my journey was a winding road would be an understatement. Archimedes famously pointed out that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The shortest distance between formation of a dream and its manifestation in reality, however, is whatever the opposite of a line might be. While I hadn’t quit dance completely, I was afraid to give it my all. I chose a “safe” field of study in college and a “safe” career as the centerpiece of my life. My new dream was to become an attorney, a dream which felt to be in direct conflict with my dream of a future in dance. As a dancer, therefore, I felt I had failed.
In business school, we learned to view a “failure” as a “pivot.” As a married woman with student loan debt and a mortgage, I began a pivot that would mean throwing caution (read: financial security) to the wind, by enrolling in a dance MFA program. As the only student not to have studied dance in college, the learning curve was tremendous. I immediately felt overwhelming guilt for putting my family in financial jeopardy to pursue a childhood dream. This time, my husband dried my tears and echoed a familiar sentiment: you’ve come too far to quit.
I began to research a form of movement analysis pioneered by a dancer and translated for use in professional settings. I was additionally aware that trial consultants – which are cost preclusive to most litigants – use movement analysis to aid in jury selection. I realized I could marry my dreams by utilizing this system of movement analysis as a framework to create a training program that makes movement analysis accessible to attorneys who represent the most vulnerable litigants: indigent criminal defendants. By developing a training program that I can teach in seminar format, I can use my love of dance to promote equity in the criminal justice system.
Throughout my journey, Dr. Parker’s words rang true. I’ll never dance Swan Lake in front of an adoring crowd in New York City, but I will make the world a better place through the marriage of my love of dance and knowledge of the legal system. This is a future that would never have been possible, had I not believed it is always too soon to quit.