The Real Cost of Ballet
You want fame. Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying...
Lydia Grant in Fame
I wrote about taboos in my last blog, so I thought that I would just keep going with this one too ...
The car just had to be fixed, again. It was starting reliably from cold, but then failing to restart an hour or so later. Just before Christmas I spent about two hundred quid on it because the hot air blower had broken - there was no way to defrost the windscreen. This time it was the temperature gauge - which, I am told, controls the choke. The symbolic implication is not lost on me: inefficient hot air and an inability to gauge the temperature. Perhaps, it is time I face up to things.
There has been an elephant in the room for a long while. You may have noticed an issue that I very occasionally skirt around, but am too scared to mention outright: the real cost of ballet. Eighteen months ago I left a prestigious but relatively badly paid job to become self-employed and hawk myself out as a consultant. Ironically, while I have sacrificed a sense of financial security, and a degree of self esteem, I make the same amount of money as before but with considerably less effort. Now I just go into a place, do my job and leave; before I was dealing with political issues, staff issues, and matters of personality. I have been set free. My days are spent fulfilling a new intrinsic sense of purpose: I write, I swim, I walk the dog, I work, I procrastinate, I notice the life that is going on around me. There are also days in which I work; I 'consult'. I am simultaneously more at ease and more on edge. I know what I am doing there is a risky plan. My main source of anxiety is whether I will have the courage to see it through. Doing all this at this time of my life was foolish. Giving up the security of my poorly paid job was stupid, because the huge nagging fear at the back of my mind all the time is the literal cost of ballet. The sword of Damocles will eventually descend and crush my skull, and it will be in the form of a ballet-school invoice.
Our son and I am involved in a sort of financial trade-off. I have decided to take some time to invest in my own quite risky venture at the same time as we are investing in another risky venture - the professional ballet career of a twelve year old. I am now nearly at the end of my second year of paying for his tuition, so it is only now that I really understand the financial implications. By now, I could have bought two new small cars. I wouldn't be involved in the false and futile economy of patching up my twenty-year-old pile of rust; we'd be driving around in something that still purrs when it drives and still smells of the factory polish. Once a year, I take my car to the Albanians down the road, it comes back smelling of cleaning product, but let's face it, even with their 'gold' service, it still looks crap. Every night I go to bed dreaming of the car I would drive - how as a family we are sailing through the British country-side in something sleek, smooth and silent. And every morning I wake up to the harsh reality of a stumpy clunky hatchback which is slowly being replaced entirely, part by part.
But, it is not all about the money. We are involved in another trade off. We are reaping value from the investment in the moment. We have a son who is fulfilled and positive - he has a belief in something greater than himself, and understands the importance of keeping his dream alive. He is playful, curious and focused. He is learning that effort brings its own reward. He climbed into an institution as I climbed out of one; he, too, is learning to deal with some quite complex situations and surprising personalities. He is growing in strength and independence, and learning the value of being resolute and single minded. If, for whatever reason, it all ends tomorrow, it will not have been a waste of time, effort or money. He is carving out an experience for himself that is unique.
My real concern is for my daughter. I dread the day that she says to me:
It's okay, dad. You can pay me my money in two instalments - the first when I turn eighteen, and the second when I graduate.
This conversation occurs every night in my nightmares ... just at the point when I see my brand new car disappear into the sunset.