Every Wednesday and Friday at the gym, I do my physical therapy warm-ups in a quiet, open area next to the almost-empty group exercise room. I say almost empty because, in that cavernous room, is one elderly lady, gracefully doing plies at the bar.
Ingrid is 70 years old and has been a ballerina all her life. We met in passing two weeks ago and have become informal "gym buddies".
Ingrid is in better shape than me, without a doubt. Her posture is almost perfect, she is lithe and strong, and her movements are graceful and purposeful. She can lift her 70 year old foot above her waist with a control and poise I'm quite certain I have never mustered in all my 37 years. She can sweep her arms around her body so beautifully so that, if you squinted a little, you would believe our ages to be reversed.
But this is not why I want to be Ingrid - although I do wish that I had pursued a vocation that kept me in better shape.
What gets me is when Ingrid talks about ballet.
When Ingrid talks about ballet, her face lights up, her eyes twinkle, and her body vibrates with passion. She was a company dancer for the New York City Opera House, has tutored many a young girl to some of the country's top dance schools, and devoted much of her early years to teaching ballet as therapy to children with polio, in some cases helping children walk unaided for the first time.
Although she retired from teaching ballet several years ago, she recently returned to work after a school in Sacramento practically begged her to. She talks about her students with love, affection, and pride and, is again, watching with eager anticipation as one of them applies to the New York City Ballet.
And as my ears listened to her stories, my heart beat a little faster, feeling her enthusiasm through osmosis and wishing that I had spent my life doing something I felt so passionate about that, at age 70, I would still look and sound like that when talking about it.
In 30 years, I want to be Ingrid.
Separately, and on a seemingly unrelated note, I watched the Kony 2012 video this week and was blown away. (If you have not watched it yet, first of all, where have you been? Secondly, you should do so right now. Click my link.)
Of course I was moved by the plight of those kidnapped children and, yes, I put my money where my mouth was and signed-up to support the movement. But, yet again, what "got" me more than anything else was the film-maker. He saw something so unimaginably wrong, a situation so large and overwhelming that it was absorbing thousands of children a year, thousands of miles away and he dared to think that he could make a difference. He didn't quietly lament the state of the world or give $20 to some Christian aid charity, he put his money and his time where his mouth and heart were and achieved something truly worthwhile.
At this point in my life, at this crossroads, I am struggling with what my life means and what's the point. What is the difference I have made? What is the reason for my existence if not to be Ingrid and living it in pursuit of something that I really give a shit about? The things I thought would matter no longer seem to or, at least, seem to matter a lot less than I imagined they would and, in many ways, it feels as though I've been heading in the wrong direction for 20 years.
I have no answers right now, only questions.