Out of the Box

Elizabeth - Nashville, Tennessee
Entered on September 4, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

Life is so simple when you grow up in the South. The minute you’re born, its just assumed that you will grow up to be a fine Southern girl who will marry a fine Southern boy and have fine Southern babies. Along the way, you might go to a small private girls school, date the right boys and when its time for college, its just assumed that you would never look beyond a solid SEC school with a big football team like Ole Miss or Alabama. This is the way my life would have very likely been had I never slipped on my first pair of ballet shoes at age four. Dancing has cracked the door to a broader world in a way that I could have never imagined.

When I was 13 and all my friends were preparing to go to traditional summer camps, I auditioned and was accepted to the Summer Intensive Program at Miami City Ballet in Florida. This incredible opportunity is what my parents refer to as “the beginning of the end” for me. Living in South Beach that summer opened my mind and heart to the different cultures that reside outside my comfort zone of Music City USA. Since that wonderful summer, I have enjoyed short stints of living outside my comfort zone…studying dance during the summers at American Theater Dance and Broadway Dance Center in New York, taking academic classes at FIT, and most recently, interning at Harper’s Bazaar Magazine in New York.

Every chance I get, I try to seize new opportunities. But these short stints in New York and Miami have only made me yearn for more. The one thing I have yet to accomplish in my life is to establish myself as a woman who grew up in the South with all the traditions yet was educated in the North and exposed to a broader sense of cultural diversity and intellectual thinking. I want to live among people who didn’t grow up like me while I’m in college and learn about their heritage while teaching them about mine. I love the life that I have lived so far and will always cherish my Southern roots, but my desire to add more complex layers to my life is a burning one. I want to think outside my Southern box and live more confidently in our global society. Attending Syracuse University was a way I have stepped out of the box, especially not knowing anyone my first year. But so far it has been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything else. Not only has going out of my comfort zone exposed me to new opportunities that are leading me closer and closer to my true purpose in life, but I have found that going through experiences in an unfamiliar world have made me a stronger person as a whole. You only get one chance at this life, so do everything you can to expose yourself to something different.