I’m officially the only “Beginner Adult” ballerina at The Arts Academy in Napa.

To be fair, Kirsten Livingston’s ballet school at Lucky Penny is new. She just started accepting students this past fall. When I saw an advertisement for her open house, I had already decided that I needed something that was just for myself and thought that something might be ballet.

After two months of classes, it turns out I was right.

Growing up, I never really participated in anything. My parents were too busy breaking up, working, and dealing with my delinquent older brothers. It just seemed better for me not to ask and, eventually, I came to believe I just wasn’t athletic.

I can’t totally blame my parents, though. Maybe I should’ve pestered them more like other children might. Instead, I was jealous that my brothers were able to participate in things like basketball, baseball and the Boy Scouts while I played alone, just me and my beloved Barbie dolls.

Even when I did try something, like the two times I went to a Girl Scouts meeting, when it seemed to stress my mom out, I would find fault with the group and quit.

“It was boring, anyway,” I’d say. We were already struggling with money and time management. We didn’t need another burden.

It wasn’t until I was older and could find rides with my friends when I started to join things. Still, everything I did I was behind in. I became a pretty good bowler, albeit inconsistent, but would never catch up to the girls in softball who had played the sport all their lives. They started as soon as they could hold a bat. I was 16.

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Between all the chaos of my adolescence and then holding multiple jobs throughout college, it seemed as if I would never find that thing that made me feel whole: mind, body and spirit. I tried things, sure, but I never fell in love with the activity, not enough to make time for it.

This isn’t the case with ballet.

It took a lot of courage for me to join ballet and, to be honest, I rather like that I’m the only one in class for now despite the fact that Kirsten is a wonderful instructor and beyond deserving of more students. Being alone, at least while I’m learning the basics, has allowed me to get through my insecurities and doubts. Kirsten, formerly of the Santa Cruz Ballet Theater, has turned out to be a great fit for me – she pushes me, but we can still have fun.

Ballet is everything I was looking for. It requires focus, providing me with a sort of meditation, while also challenging my body to do things I never knew were possible. (Who knew you could move your toes without moving your foot?) And, for the first time in my life when it comes to anything athletic, I don’t feel like I’m bad at it.

I truly have fallen in love with ballet. (Don’t worry, I’m not quitting my day job.) I love it so much that I sometimes feel embarrassed to say so. When I do admit it, I may even tear up – a big grin on my face, my cheeks rosy. It’s that moment when I know that the little girl inside me is happy and, dare I say it, proud. It’s a damn good feeling.

Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. Jersey Girl runs every other Sunday. Follow her on Twitter at @RiaSestito or email her at msestito@napanews.com.

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