Money & Careers

Molly Fisk: On Not Becoming A Ballerina

5539667446_aa358e9206_zPhoto by Flickr user Gerald Pereira. (Creative Commons License)

Well, I seem to be having a mid-life crisis. I hoped to avoid this by staying very busy in the middle of my life, which was around age 37. Even though many Baby Boomers pretend middle age begins at 75 and old age doesn’t really start until a few days after you’ve died, some of us have enough common sense to remember that two plus two equals four, or in this case, 37 plus 37 equals 74. Seventy-four sounds young the closer we get to it but is in fact a reasonable lifespan, and longer than both my parents lived. I’m frankly a little surprised I made it to 60, and perhaps that’s part of the problem.

Do you remember the day you realized you weren’t ever going to be a ballerina? This strikes a girl at about 15. Real ballerinas start dance classes when they’re six or seven and continue in a somewhat driven and fanatical manner for a decade, appearing in the Nutcracker each of those years. They wear their hair slicked back in a bun and walk with their toes turned out like ducks down the halls of American grade schools, middle schools, and high schools. They’re also, pretty clearly from the age of six, built like gazelles: long of leg, narrow of hip, small of bosom. The rest of us, built like an assortment of other African animals, carry on happily ignoring pliés and at some point realize it’s too late: we aren’t going to be able to catch up. Our 15-year-old bones are too old to slip easily into fourth position, and American Ballet Theater is now out of reach.

It’s interesting facing this sort of loss at 15. It’s both shocking — because it’s real — and silly — because most of us didn’t want to be ballerinas in the first place, and we’re so young almost every other option is still open to us. But I bet if you interviewed ten random women on the street and asked when they knew they weren’t going to be a ballerina, each would have an answer for you. I’m not sure if there’s a parallel situation for boys — perhaps Major League relief pitcher.

I did not turn out to be a ballerina. I’m also not a mother, and lately, now my friends’ kids are having babies, I’m aware I’m not a grandmother, either. This doesn’t really bother me… much… but it opens the door to the question, “Well what the heck am I, then?” A very cold draft is blowing through that door.

I’ve been a waitress, house-cleaner, sweater designer, bookkeeper, Fortune 1000 lender, investigator for the EEOC. A poet, a teacher, a speaker, a radio commentator, a painter, a radical life coach. Also a daughter, sister, niece, aunt, cousin, girlfriend, fiancee, and landlady. I’ve been a bridesmaid, a cocaine addict, a rower. I’ve written six books and sung Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in Boston’s Symphony Hall.
My question is, who cares? What does any of this matter? And what am I supposed to do now? If you think of an answer, please drop me an e-mail, before I tear out all of my nearly completely gray hairs.


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  • Leslie - Fay Mikiska September 24, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Being age 61 and having lost both my parents , I am truly saddened that I will never be the hero that both my parents have become to me.

  • hillsmom June 19, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Dear Molly, How can you ask who, or what you are? You have so many talents, one has a hard time trying to enumerate them. I always look forward to your essays, especially those involving nature and birds. I thought of you when the morning concert started at dawning moving west with the light. You are one of the few who ever commented on it. Do you really need a title? How about humorist, activist, beloved talented person, yes, and as Shirley said above, an inspiration. How fortunate that WVFC gives us access to you. “Live long and prosper…”

    P.S. If you really need a title, ask Roz because I know she has some extras from an essay she wrote. 😎

  • Pam June 18, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    I am with you in wondering what next. I had hoped to feel new life at 60 as I did at 50 but instead I felt trapped. It will be different in a few days when I turn 61 because my husband died in February. For me this next stage of life needs a new set of priorities, but I don’t know what they are yet. I’m wishing for something more I will be remembered for and yet also to be more true to the wounded child inside me.

  • Janne June 18, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Just keep on collecting some more great and interesting experiences! Hope you keep writing about them, too. I love reading you!

  • Joan June 18, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    As an 81 year old here, my advice is to just keep on ‘doing’ what you have been doing (except for the addiction). The more you stay active the younger you feel!

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. June 18, 2016 at 12:31 pm


    Your questions of “Who am I now and what is next?” are universal and important. The answers will come to you because you are what we all strive to be: authentic.


  • Mickey June 18, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Yes, what does it all mean? Hugs and what flowers are in bloom right now? Pet your dog? cat? We love you no matter what you decide you are, became, are becoming…thank you. More hugs.

  • Shirley June 18, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Molly, you are an inspiration to us on Saturday morning who also sometimes wonder what it’s all about. You show us wonderful places and creative people. Like a flower in the desert.B-)

  • Molly Fisk June 18, 2016 at 9:05 am


  • WENDL in Manhattan June 18, 2016 at 7:47 am

    Molly, you are a writer who makes people laugh, think, and care. Then, part of you becomes part of them. I like my Molly-part a lot.