…throwing it back to a Danish New Year’s, January 1st, 2020:
Looking out over a grey-swept city, the ghosts of fireworks over Tivoli long gone… washed away by a miraculously bold sunbath pouring through the distant sky, showering the city in amber glow. Windmills whirl to the silent rhythm of a sleeping city. Smokestacks drift, lazy as lava lamps. Dearest, Denmark.
It’s a strange kind of gift to find myself here, of all sacred cities… pondering my past through skyline reflections on copper rooftops.
Ten years ago, 2010, marked the end of my first year calling Copenhagen home. Freshly 19, wide-eyed, curious and insatiably absorbent of Danish culture, traditions, friendships, ‘family’… I’d ride a basket full of fresh herbs around the city on my first set of wheels (a big green “shopper’s bike”) and play with words on what would become this little corner of the internet. Busying myself out of homesickness, touring to Budapest and Danish countryside’s… Thirsty for more, energized by everything life was lining up. I battled a serious hip injury, survived my 1st dark winter and weathered on. The next few years brought triumphs and tribulations of a (retrospectively) magical sort: Travels to the middle east, Europe, American tours, weekenders to Paris, London, Berlin… dancing around studios & stages the world over, indulging in the wanderlust of my wildest dreams.
My retirement from Royal Danish Ballet will forever feel raw… a company-wide farewell post performance and tears for days, likely enough to fill the sea I sailed back across to keep dancing closer to home. 22 was ripe and ready for every luxury I grew up with as an American. Surplus, convenience, longer days…performing for family, rehearsing alongside old friends and new, forming a sisterhood that made it all worth the bargain. I’d gallivant around New York City on weekends, make mistakes, nurse injuries, raise a puppy.
Figured out how to digest love in all its lost and found forms… I dipped back into school, collaborated with artists and immersed myself in realms of creating… 23, 24, 25 and I marked the half-way point with the loaded decision to hang up my pointe shoes— to everyone’s surprise – in ways, my own most especially. A choice I’ve found I will likely continue to consider/gratefully mourn as long as I live and breath…
Having fueled my young career with enough heart and relationship to invest in a path beyond dancing, I moved back to my favorite sleepless city to finally get back around to that College – thing. Columbia turned out to be everything and more I could have wished for… a decadent bridge of support, perspective, education, and purpose between my dancing self and all the other selves I hoped to embody.
26, 27 and 28… three challenging years of my head stuck in books while my heart skipped stages a rough 60+ blocks south of the libraries I called home. Early morning walks with Oli around a sleepy Harlem block, reading for days and writing for nights… papers and projects and finals and seasons marked by semesters… Never enough Broadway shows, subway-inspired poetry, famous introductions and serendipitous run-ins… New York, the smallest big city in the world — you are so much to love and lust for.
. . . The ‘20’s were always an era I found curiously resonant. A “roaring” decade of prosperity & promise, flappers and flirtation… An age of Jazz and Gold and greed… of polyphony in notes and nuance. If I’m being honest, I fully romanticize it and gather quite the kick out of dreaming up the lifestyles of those who lived to see the flip side of WWI, what fancy freedom.
To think we get a second chance at defining a favorable decade seems equally daunting and daring. I didn’t anticipate kicking off this 29th year of mine back here in sweet, Denmark. To even entertain the idea that only 7 years ago I called these cobblestoned streets home still manages to tickle me red & white. Whenever I come back here, roam these historic, quiet routes in silent reverie, it’s almost as if I’m re-reading a familiar childhood fairytale, rather than having lived the story myself. Perhaps it will always feel this way… a somber disconnect to a life chapter I held so close despite it having finished. It’s hard to feel like I can adequately explain the emotions that surface let alone process their presence in the first place. Contradictory cocktails of nostalgia & intrigue, loss & love, growth & glamour, abundance & loneliness, all swished into a bitter sweet sip… How delicious to taste, how sour to swallow.
It’s absolutely extraordinary what colors nostalgia can paint your memory. My years here were equally full of wonder and reasoning… of heart-opening awe and heart-wrenching ache. Looking back I see how this blog became a bit of an undercover therapist I didn’t know I needed. It masqueraded as an indulgent reflection of everything I was living & learning as a tiny ballerina… an excuse to highlight the flourishes of a Jewelry Box career, spent largely closed, in training, rehearsing, battling injuries and homesickness… pushing away the unfortunate truths of sacrifice and surrender in lieu of midnight poetry, culinary chronicles and spot-lit seconds.
. . .
The years that followed Copenhagen were every bit as character-building and beautiful, save for cobblestone reveries and Royalty. Boston convinced me to fall back in love with America, New York was close enough in proximity to tempt me with its ever magnetic pull… one strong enough to merit a career pivot and a one-way ticket to Penn Station.
I read once that most people who live in New York are not in fact natives, but upon arriving, felt more at home than ever. I remember the exact moment I found this to be true. I was 11 when my Mom first brought my sister and I up for the weekend. I remember the overwhelming rush of humans, navigating sidewalk seas and feeling my actual bones plug into the neon lights of Broadway and Times Square. Sigh. What an immediate addiction.
So back I went… for learning, loving, living and soul-searching in the very neighborhood where I once felt so directed, so on course as a wee child. But this time, with a heart full of lived life and a head full of new knowledge. With scars of sadness and lines of laughter and a somewhat timid trust that despite not knowing anything for sure, keeps me company through the questioning.
. . .
Last week marked the bookend of my own personal 20’s decade. If these indulgent years have left me with wisdom to share, I might just say that “your 20’s” are as fabulous, frivolous, confusing and contemplative as “they say” they’ll be… School will teach you how much you have yet to learn. It’s way easier than you think it is to give away your joy, your power, your day in small increments that turn into weeks, months or years…Happiness is the choice the Sage’s say it is.
…and after all this memory excavation, this look-in-before-I-look-ahead, I think I’ve finally happened upon an epiphany that’s been sitting there for me to surface all along:
The past decade has showered me with love in all its forms. From family, friends and career paths, to sweet new homes and foreign cities. My heart has known the highest of high, for having weathered the lowest of low… At times I’ve tried to give bits of it away, only to have them handed back or perhaps lost in the wash of life’s plan trumping my own. My recent summers have been chock-full of weddings and bridal/baby showers and reminders of the possibility of finding a certain kind of love, a certain kind of lover — in a bright light, I come home full of hope… in the shadows I surrender to doubt, linger in loneliness.
What I’ve found, on the flipside of the 2010’s… on this return home from the second city that taught me how to love, is just how much heart-spilling experience I’ve had the overwhelming pleasure of having already found. Beyond my own extraordinary family… the ‘parents,’ ‘cousins’, and sisters sprinkled abroad that have come to hold such significant parts of my heart and purpose… what innumerable gems. So yes, 29 and single, and in more meaningful, heart-bursting relationships than I could ever hope to dream up or imagine. And to know that I have so many versions of love permits me to let go of my desperate search for the one version I don’t. And this is so so much more than enough.
Before us, a new decade of contagious smiles and tears the taste of life lived to its very fullest.
Tusind tak, til mine dejlige stjerner. . .almost over jet lag, never over Copenhagen.
Skål, Santé, Clink,