Artist Angle: No Pain, No Gain

Claire Lundin // Columnist

When I was eight I thought I had broken my arm. I was trying to show off my sick new dance moves at a Christmas dinner party, forgetting that I was wearing my sophisticated, lengthy dress and not jazz pants. One battement and I was on the ground. Waiting in the ER turned out to be much more excruciating than the pain in my arm – especially when that wait had just been for a sprain. I was told that sprains were harmful and that sometimes they hurt just as much as breaking the bone itself. At the time I believed it and I believed that my pain was valid, and for my age and low pain tolerance it probably was. That was my “big injury” as a kid. I grew up always making safe choices and never taking risks that could potentially result in pain. Playing it safe worked for a long time, until I took the biggest risk of all: I decided to pursue musical theatre. And pain? It’s all part of the game.

Ten years after that fateful night of rocking a little too hard around the Christmas tree, I discovered that, during my first semester of university, I’d developed shin splints and tendonitis in my legs. Walking was no longer easy. Dancing was painful. My daily routine began to include giving myself extra time between classes to take the elevator, icing during breaks and taking epsom salt baths nightly. In the past year alone, I have tried all sorts of treatments from laser to shockwave therapy for my legs – I’ve had multiple x-rays and ultrasounds to identify back and rib pain and I see a chiropractor, physiotherapist and massage therapist regularly – I’ve had to adapt to a new lifestyle. I’ve learned how to better take care of myself, and that my pain is valid.

There was, however, a point last February where for the first time I felt my conviction in what I was doing, start to quiver. I was in so much pain and didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t see how I could possibly get better when there was no time to rest. If my own self-doubt wasn’t hard enough, the commentators were relentless. I got used to the “What’s your backup plan?” questions from concerned adults in my life, and learned to smile and say musical theatre was the plan. However, I was thrown off by the doubt in their maybes – “Maybe your body can’t handle this program. Maybe this isn’t the right industry for you. Maybe you should re-evaluate.” They were no longer questions. They were suggestions. While I was physically drained, I sometimes think I was more so emotionally. The mental challenges of getting past an injury aren’t something you’re prepared for. These adults had valid points, but they didn’t understand and could not understand that I had no other options. I had to do musical theatre. For every step of pain was a story I told through song. For every specialist appointment was a moment of self-discovery in acting class. It’s hard to describe the need to create and tell stories to those who don’t consider themselves to be artists. It’s hard to describe the perseverance required and the determination it takes to get past the mental blocks. When I stopped listening to the maybes around me, I found the certainty in myself that I was doing what I was meant to do and ultimately, what I needed to do.

I’m not fully recovered, but slowly but surely, I’m getting better. It’s worth it to do what I love every day, and worth it for what I’ve learned about myself. I am resilient. I am an artist. My hope is that, 10 years from now, this will have been my big injury from my young adulthood. I’ve learned and flourished from my pain. I know that what I feel is valid. And while a sprain hurts, and tendinitis definitely takes its toll on me, it has all been worth the risk. And if I had to, I’d choose it again and again – I do every day.

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