On and Off Campus Blog: Does everyone need to have “a thing” these days?

April 12, 2024

By: Raina Mankodi ‘25

Everyone has a “thing” nowadays; I can almost guarantee that. At this point, that’s just
how we introduce ourselves: “My name is ___, and I play ___ .” I’ve always disliked that.

Growing up, everyone in my small private school had a main sport. Most of the
boys in my class played soccer or baseball, and almost all of the girls in my class
played soccer. So naturally, I fell into the world of soccer. I played town soccer for
Newton since kindergarten, and I could have become a good player if I’d done more
than stand in the defense area watching the game like a spectator.

I tried everything in elementary school. I did a number of other sports, such as
lacrosse, swimming, and tennis, and many different forms of creative arts at the same
time, like theater, dance, voice, and not one but two instruments, the piano and violin. I
even did Taekwondo at a point in time. It’s like trying to find your size in some types of
clothes, like leggings. All of them fit the same, so eventually, you settle on a size and
stick with it forever, though it might not even be your size at all. That’s what happened
with me and my “thing”. I never quite found it, so eventually, I just settled on one and
stuck with it.

My mom didn’t have a lot growing up, and her parents couldn’t afford for her to
be a dancer, a lifelong dream of hers. She always wanted me, her only daughter, to be
a dancer and flourish the way she had wanted to. Dance and I have had a complicated
relationship since age 3. I started my time at Joanne Langione Dance Center at a young
age, taking baby ballet twice a week. I can still remember the way I would cry during the
car rides and mope around the changing rooms to avoid going to class. A few years
later, my mom got sick of my tantrums and sent me to another studio, which I honestly
detested even more. Heartbroken, she finally stopped trying and let me quit dance

Then, one day I came to her wanting to try again. I went back to Joanne
Langione in seventh grade with six hours of ballet, jazz, tap, and modern weekly, and
slowly, I started to love it. The girls surrounding me at the barre became my best
friends, and my teachers became my second moms. I didn’t complain about going to
class every week; instead, I was excited and felt lucky to be dancing with my friends
every day. I loved it so much that I started to assist younger classes, coming earlier and
earlier to the studio each day just to be there.

No matter how much I’ve grown to love JLDC and dance as a whole, there’s
always a little something that tugs at me whenever I see my friends master an
advanced trick, tricks I’ll never be able to do. Though I spend hours in the studio per
week, in class or by myself, just stretching and trying to advance my technique, it pangs
me inside that I’ll never be able to do some of the things my friends can, just because I
haven’t been dancing for my whole life and some of those things only come with time.

Part of me is glad that I quit at a young age, so when I came back to dancing, it
was because I wanted to work for it rather than my mom wanting it for me. But another
part of me is sad that I quit so long ago because I had the opportunity to be just as good
as everyone else and just as much a part of the community as everyone else, and I
threw it all away. “If only I’d stuck with it” is something that runs through my mind

No one talks about the people who don’t have a “thing,” who don’t have a
passion that they will carry with them through college, or who don’t have something that
drives what they want to do in life after. Whether it is sports, theater, writing, or math,
everyone has that “thing,” that thing that practically defines them. No one talks about
how even if you have a “thing,” it can be complicated.

I love dance, my friends, my teachers, the kids I assist, and the home I’ve found
at Joanne Langione. But, at the end of the day, dance isn’t my thing. It’s so hard when
people ask what sport I play. I say dance but I also know I’m not defined by dance like
others may be defined by their sport.

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