Recently, I asked my teacher about “the next level.” I felt stagnant. I needed to know where I was going. I needed to know what it would look like. I needed to know where this was taking me. I made some suggestions. He delicately told me no, that I was trying to jump too many steps. I told him I was frustrated. I wanted to be better. I wanted to reach “the next level.” And no matter what, no matter how long I’ve been at it, I feel like I’m always at the same level.

Of course he told me that wasn’t true. That I’m always improving. That I’ve made huge leaps since I first started. That everyone can see it.

But I don’t. Not really. I’m never holding back. I’m always doing my best. But right in front of me is always better. When it comes to learning a skill, there is no good-better-best. There is only always doing your best and always wanting to be better. And that’s all I can feel. Always best, never better.

I’ve heard it said before that it’s hard to see your progress when you can’t be outside yourself. Internally, it’s constant and ongoing. Like growing out your hair, each day it never seems to get any longer until one day you look in the mirror and all at once see the accumulation of months. And dance can be like that. That footwork or spin or combo you once struggled so much with suddenly works and keeps working. While these victories always feel amazing, they’re also usually brief because you’re still at that “edge of better.” Yes, it’s good, but shouldn’t it better? Shouldn’t it be cleaner? Why not a double? Triple? There isn’t much looking back when you’re focused forward. And those victories get lost amidst the next struggle. Like the proverbial dangling carrot: always moving forward, but never reaching the goal.

It’s usually here when I ask myself what I need to do about it: how am I going to fix this. But I feel the real question is should I want to? Do I really want to step back from the edge of better for a moment of satisfaction and complacency? Do I really want to take a moment to stop when I could be pushing forward? I’ve never been particularly good at balancing the things I care about. When I commit, I commit. It’s frustrating to be sure. Satisfaction feels good. Complacency is easy. But it’s not better.

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