I am a Professional Irish Dancer and have been for the past eleven years.
Even writing that is absolutely crazy. I can’t believe it has been that long! So many memories.
I have met some of the most incredible people along this journey and I am grateful every single day for everything that dancing has given me. Best friends, incredible memories, goosebumps, tears, highs, lows, and everything in between.
When the pandemic hit a critical point around mid-March last year, people who were abroad had to fly home to ensure the safety of themselves and their families. I was abroad in Germany working for a dance company at the time. Our tour was cut short, along with all the work I had lined up for the foreseeable future being canceled/postponed. Everything was beginning to get canceled. Artists were panicking. This was serious.
My nightmare, however, began two weeks prior to this when I was dancing on a faulty stage and the stage came apart mid-dance, resulting in a very shaky Nerissa, hobbling off stage, as gracefully as possible and ending up in a random German hospital with our friendly bus driver, Jürgen.
I think every dancer has experienced that fear at one point or another throughout their careers. The unknown?
What if it’s broken?
How long will I be out?
That’s all my work for the foreseeable future, GONE!
I can’t even work a ‘normal job’!
Who hires someone on crutches?
After what felt like an eternity of waiting for X-ray results to come back, we eventually enjoyed a three-way conversation that I like to call ‘guess the translation of the diagnosis’. From what I could gather, straight away ‘NO BREAK’, I started crying. I was so happy. Then they continued to inform me/acting it out, ‘band, near break’, which on further investigation/google translate of the diagnosis they gave on the note, we came to realize that this meant the ligament was close to snapping. Then, came the big boot, the dreaded boot that I had to wear for six weeks. I cried again.
We had approximately two weeks left of this current tour and with the fear of having no work to go home to, I stayed on and took on a new role: costume lady. That first week of shows, not performing, killed me. Being backstage where I would normally be changing my shoes and costumes and hearing what was happening on stage instead of me being out there dancing hurt a lot. I cried a lot.
Then people began really worrying about Covid-19. This disease that seemed so far away had made it to Ireland! Promoters and venues began canceling shows. The stream of emails and messages saying ‘Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the government has decided to place a ban on public gatherings’… All our work. Gone. In the blink of an eye.
Now, the selfish side of me thought, ‘wow, kind of good timing’, because as all dancers tend to do, I duped myself into thinking I could maybe get back on stage by the next tour I was due out on. Three weeks exactly to the day after being told I had to wear my funky boot for six weeks. Deluded, I know, but dancers must dance. I had time. I had time to heal properly. I had time to rethink a lot of aspects of my dancing life and career path. Up until this injury, I had never been out injured for longer than ten days. Six weeks is a long time of not dancing for someone who has danced consistently for approximately twenty-seven years!
I started to become so much more aware of how well my body has served me over the years. When I arrived home, my physio said ‘wow, you are very lucky you have such strong bones. If that was anyone else, that would have broken.’ Then I thought to myself, upon reflection, 'I am so lucky.'
I wanted to tell you my story because it was a journey and a half. A journey of self-discovery. I shocked myself the other day while I was in the coffee shop when someone asked me what I did and I said ‘Aw, I’m a Personal Trainer’. I walked out of the coffee shop and thought…’WOW, that’s the first time I DIDN’T say I’m an Irish Dancer.'
I never thought I would ever find anything I was as passionate about in Life as Dancing. But when forced into a reality whereby I had to re-think my entire career, I had to dig deep. I have a Master’s Degree in Applied Sport & Exercise Psychology and I worked in a gym a few years ago. I loved it. I really did. I LOVED helping people. So I said why not get my Personal Training Qualification and see how that goes. I have ALWAYS wanted to work for myself and so I gave that a bash this year too.
So here I am now, three and a half months into having set up my own online Personal Training & Mindset Coaching Company – Shea Fitness and I have NEVER BEEN HAPPIER. Why? Because every single day I help people feel better about themselves and more confident in their own skin.
The testimonials, texts, videos, and voice notes I receive from my clients make my heart SO FULL. It truly is a passion of mine. I go to bed at night excited about the next day and I wake up in the morning and jump out of bed.
I LOVE my job and if I didn’t need money to survive in this world, I would do it for free. I genuinely never thought I would feel this way about anything else in life other than dancing but sometimes when life throws you into the depths of the darkness you are FORCED to explore new avenues.
Dream new dreams.
I was asked by a friend to write a post on following your dreams and although this is more of a story and less of an ‘advice’ kind of post, I think it proves to everyone that there is ‘more than one way to skin a cat’ (or so the phrase goes, horrible visual, I know). I was forced to explore a new career path and sometimes life does that, but sometimes you need to search for it. Find something you would do for free if you could and pursue it.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Facebook: Nerissa Shea