Or, maybe: "The person who swims with Shamu."
Or: "A paleontologist."
When I was about ten, I might have said, "veterinarian" or, "jockey."
When I was thirteen, it was a foregone conclusion, and the only thing I wanted to be was a dancer. I didn't want it desperately; I wanted it with steadfastness. It was the only thing I wanted to be, the only thing I could be, and the only thing I imagined I knew how to be. Everything else was either a pleasure, an irritation, or irrelevant.
I said no to lots of things. Horses, nice guys, invitations. A four-year scholarship to the University of California. Skis, hobbies, summer vacations. Dancing was so huge and complicated and wonderful that it took up all available space.
I sometimes wonder how I could possibly have been so sure, such an absolute and fervent believer.
I'm reading a book right now about memory. It makes the point that time seems to speed up as we get older because things are less new. We have done so many things for so long that our minds have less novelty to savor. The edges wear off and the seconds and minutes and days slide past us.
When dancing is going well, time does funny things. Sometimes it feels like the most perfect special effect. The suspended water drops. The muffled pause inside an explosion, with every piece of debris hanging still in midair. The only other time I've felt the same endless expansion was one evening when I drove down the freeway and a car in front of me lost control, spectacularly and ridiculously. It spun the way cars do in movies, actual elliptical twirls that carried it across the entire spread of lanes, first one way and then the other. It struck the central divider and pinwheeled off again, and everything looked so gentle and so inevitable that when it swung towards me, it seemed to drift along an obvious curve and I had all the time in the world to twitch my own car the smallest degree to the side and watch it slide past. Time suddenly opened up, every edge of it unfolding, like some sort of weird, reversed version of origami.
And that, I think, is one of the reasons why I still dance.