Merritt had two loves and she did not want to choose one over the other. So she did both- pursued academics and dance and excelled in both. Today Merritt is a quantum physicist and professional ballet dancer. She has degrees from Harvard and Oxford and stage credits with the Zurich, Boston, English National, and Norwegian National Ballets.
Read about her fascinating journey and how she did it in issue#12 of Smore.
  • Don’t limit yourself.

You don’t have to choose between different things you like to do. Merritt loved both physics and dance and decided to pursue both. It was only when she let herself pursue both of her passions that her work in both truly got better. If you pick just one, you might limit yourself from being happy because you will always be wondering if you should have done something different that you enjoy as well. Try your best to find balance and do as many things that make you happy.

  • It’s never too late to start.

Merritt didn’t start dance lessons until the age of 13, which is considered “late” for dancing. And even though she always felt like she was catching up, she continued with it. No matter what, it is never too late to choose and pursue a new dream. We are always learning and growing and nothing should ever stop us from trying to be our best self. If you feel like there is something you want to pursue, don’t let anything, especially your age, stop you.

  • Find motivation by doing what makes you happy.

You excel and shine when you are doing the things you love which, in turn, motivates you to do other things. At one point, Merritt decided to forget about dancing and focused on academics. However, she found that without dance she didn’t really care as much and her work suffered because of it. If there is something else you want to do, find a way to do that as well and balance your workload. Even if it is a hobby or something you do on the side just for fun. Make time for doing things that motivate you and make you happy so that you can be in the right frame of mind to be better at other things.

  • Seek out a mentor or source of inspiration who understands how you work best.

Merritt found a teacher in her community that showed her that dancing isn’t really about being perfect but about shining in her own unique way. It is very helpful when you have someone who is skilled at what you want to do and speaks to you about how you should pursue your own set of skills in that field. Is there someone in a field that you are interested in that could be a good source of inspiration for you?

  • Be unique and different, not perfect.

Merritt’s mentor told her “perfect is replaceable. Be unique, be different. What can you bring to the table that’s you?” If you focus on being perfect or like everyone else all the time, you might not feel like you are good enough. But it’s not about being like everyone else. Try not to compare yourself to others, but instead focus on being better than you were before. The world doesn’t thrive or grow when everyone does the same thing. It’s about knowing what makes you stand out from everyone else and letting yourself grow that way. Enjoy your passions and use your skills in a way that allows them (and you) to truly shine.

  • It’s mostly about hard work.

Merritt took longer to become fluent in dance and also to understand concepts in physics, but she put in the work. Practice and patience are essential to improving your skills. Don’t worry about other people seeming like they have a “natural talent” at something or being better than you. If you are willing to put in the work, you can get much better at something you care about.

  • Give it a shot, even if you think you will fail.

Don’t live with regret. You’ll never know how good you are or how far you can go if you don’t try in the first place. Don’t think about the “could have” and “should have” scenarios just because you thought you would fail. You can’t predict the future. Instead, focus on the “I could” scenarios and push yourself to try more things despite thinking you might fail. It is okay to fail. Failure is part of how we learn and get better so we can try again. You may not always win, but if you always stay positive and believe in yourself, it’s hard to lose.

  • Don’t worry about what other people think.

Feel free to mess up and don’t stress about other people’s judgments. If you genuinely want to improve your skills, then keep at it. Don’t quit just because someone might disagree or tell you that they don’t think you are good enough. It really doesn’t matter what they think…only what you believe you are capable of doing. Be true to yourself and don’t hold back on pursuing your own happiness.

  • Always give hope.

Aim to inspire others to go for their dreams as well. Let your passions be contagious. If someone sees you enjoying your life by going for your dream, they will be more likely to pursue their own dreams. We need more happy dreamers in the world.

So don’t be afraid to go after everything that you want to do. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it!

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