For my last blog post of 2019, I want to reflect on Thanksgiving through my years at Juilliard.
Since I live across the country, I have remained on the East Coast every year, which was initially a difficult break in tradition for me. But every year has been quite special and memorable. I have been surrounded by different people, in different settings, with different feelings and mental states each time.
I’ll start with this year: My friend and classmate was generous enough to invite us to his home in Manassas, Virginia. Having never been to the South, I was curious as to what rural life felt like. But after feeling a little bogged down by the city for three months as well as having the stress of being a senior who is constantly planning for the future, a quaint farm with open fields, sunshine, animals, warm food, and best friends was just what my psyche needed. It felt amazing to hit pause on my life for a few days— something us Juilliard students rarely do. My time there taught me that it is just as valuable (and necessary) to do nothing as it is to do a lot of things. As an aside, I also discovered my love of farm animals!
Last year, I stayed in New York, but I was graced with the presence of my family, which was so special because I usually do not get to see them for Thanksgiving. They came to see me perform in Juilliard’s Choreographers and Composers concert the weekend prior and then helped me cook over break. I loved showing them what I get to work on everyday, because they are incredibly supportive of my pursuits at Juilliard. It felt so good to be celebrated, loved and cared for, and I hold on to that feeling even when they are not here.
On the previous Thanksgiving, my state of being could not have been more drastically opposite. I had just come out of knee surgery a few weeks before, so my energy and spirits were justifiably low. The experience of rehabilitating an injury, however, taught me so much about my health and well-being as a person who demands a lot of my body. The timing of the holiday could not have been more prime, because in that moment, I was realizing how much dance meant to me. Especially at an intense training program like Juilliard, where you are prone to the mundanity of your routine, it is easy to let your passion and appreciation for your art fall to the wayside. Being forced to take time off and really reflect on my life here was a blessing in disguise. It was like the universe reminding me why I chose this path. Now, when I come upon bumps in the road (as there have been many since), that experience of surgery, recovery, and perseverance keeps me grounded.
Finally, Thanksgiving in 2016 was unforgettable. Not only was it my first holiday away from home, but it was the first time I really got to experience New York as an independent adult. I walked down Fifth Avenue, visited a family friend in Harlem, and went to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. I loved seeing the city come alive for the holidays; it felt like a scene from Elf or Home Alone. I was a young, awe-struck, eager 18-year-old in a world of possibilities!
My four years here are represented in four milestones: wide-eyed wonder, a newfound appreciation, familial love and celebration, and a moment of pause. As different as each one has been, they all have taught me the importance of time off. I have to constantly remove the judgment of “laziness” that I inflict on myself whenever I take a break, and instead look at it as refueling an empty gas tank.
The other lesson that I have learned is that so much can happen in a year, much more than one can imagine in the present moment. This becomes more and more pertinent whenever I try to imagine my life after Juilliard— anticipation of my future is impossible and futile. But wherever I end up spending Thanksgiving and the holidays next year, it will be a time to reflect, once again, on these wonderful Juilliard chapters.
Attend a student performance on campus.