There’s No Shelf Life For It

I have a thing for Mikhail Baryshnikov.

A friend turned me on to him in college and I haven’t been turned off since. Before we go further, some basics:

Mr. Baryshnikov is 5’6. He was born in Latvia, danced all over the world, but now lives mostly in New York. While his name appears 42 times in The Oxford Dictionary of Dance, he also acts in TV, movies, and theater; exhibits his photography; and runs the Baryshnikov Arts Center. He has enough awards to sink a rowboat. And he tries not to eat milk products.

Every so often, I revisit my affection for Mr. Baryshnikov. It’s got to be past its shelf life, I figure. So, I read his latest interviews. And without fail, the son of a gun has taken on a different form. Mr. Baryshnikov refuses to stay in one place.

Or, in his own words:

“Change in any person’s life is propelled by an almost primal need to explore, to test boundaries,” he told the Harvard Business Review. “I just follow that urge…Sometimes it works, sometimes I fail. There are no guarantees.”

I know what it’s like to ignore that primal need, to stay put and accept boundaries. It’s painful. It’s the pain of being outdone by fear and inertia. Of choosing guaranteed knowns over unguaranteed unknowns.

But I also know – as I’m sure you do, too – what it’s like to change. It’s painful, yes. But it’s the pain of breaking through old skin. Of growing into who we are, rather than remaining who we were. It’s the pain we were made for.

So, I still have a thing for Mikhail Baryshnikov. And I’m developing a thing for change.

There is, after all, no shelf life for it.

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