When you have a dream, sometimes you have to let it go and change directions. It is hard to do, but you need to look beyond the negative and look for the positive in your situation. In the end you will come out better than you ever thought possible, but you first have to be willing to look beyond the immediate heartbreak and look toward what is possible on the other side.
For the past several months I have been enjoying doing something I haven’t done in over 16 years, ballet. It’s impossible to describe the pure joy that I experience when taking ballet class. Ballet taps into a part of my psyche that runs deep.
I vividly remember telling my parents at the age of 15, “Mom, Dad, I am dedicating my life to dance. When I’m not dancing, I’m not breathing.” I was very dramatic teenager. But I was deadly serious as I said it.
My parents were incredibly supportive. I took dance classes every day of the week; I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to run through the snow in Erie, Pennsylvania every day before high school. Then I would train after school until late at night. My mom found dance camps to send me to over summer, Hofstra University in NY, Pittsburg Ballet, and many others. Before I graduated high school, I left Erie and moved to Clearwater, Florida to pursue my dream.
I auditioned for every show I could find: theme parks, cruise ships, ballet companies. Between auditions I had great success as a cruise director on a local day cruise. The passengers loved me, and I was happy to have a job entertaining people in any capacity while auditioning for shows. This continued for a few years.
April 8, 1996 my entire life changed in a single moment. I was a passenger in a tiny 2-seater Toyota MR2. I was headed to an audition on the west coast, and, ironically, I asked a friend to drive me there because I worked a 17-hour shift on the cruise ship the day before. I didn’t want to risk getting into an accident by driving while exhausted.
The rain was terrible. I remember waking up thinking “Holy crap, I better put on my seat belt.” Less than 2 minutes later we came upon an expected curve known as “Dead Man’s Curve”. We lost control of the car. We hydroplaned into incoming traffic, and hit a camper going 45 miles per hour, head on.
I remember it in slow motion. We hit passenger side to passenger side, I pulled my legs up to my chest, and the camper literally hit me right in the backside fracturing my pelvis in eight places. The dashboard slammed right into my seat, and if I hadn’t pulled my legs up I would have lost them both at the knees.
After that, it’s blurry for days. I remember emergency workers putting a raincoat over me in the street, and remember waking up in intensive care to reassure my Dad that everything would be all right.
Despite the assurance I gave my Dad, I wasn’t all right. In addition to two collapsed lungs, broken ribs, all my teeth knocked out, damage to my face and other injuries, my pelvis breaking caused my right hip to pull upward leaving one of my legs an inch longer than the other. The doctors said that I would walk with a limp for the rest of my life, and that it was likely that I would not be able to have children.
Not only do I not limp, I have an amazing 12-year-old daughter. I knew not to put my faith in doctors but rather to put my faith in God. Prayer got me through some of the most incredible pain I’ve ever experienced in life.
Obviously, this was the end of my dance career. It took me six months to relearn how to walk and get back to work on the cruise ship.
After I got back on my feet, literally, I landed an audition on one of the largest radio stations in Tampa, 98 Rock. I made such an impression on the DJs that night that they offered me a job on the classic rock sister station down the hall, Thunder 105/5.
For the next 13 years I would broadcast daily on major radio stations in Tampa, including WMTX MIX 100/7 where I hosted “Into the Night with Carrie Kirkland”. I also had the privilege of being mentored by and broadcasting along side such legendary broadcast names Mason Dixon WRBQ Q105, Bill Connolly, Marvelous Marvin and others.
Radio is where I met and fell in love with my soul mate, Chris Rokosz. He’s an actor, broadcaster, and producer, just like I am. Together we founded ROKOSZ Studios and have produced more video content for the Internet than any other company in the world, over 40,000 videos with over 1.5 billion views.
In the back of my mind I always wanted to go back to ballet class, but I never could find the right place or the time.
Recently I discovered Suncoast Academy of Dance and Music in St. Petersburg. It’s amazing. Eileen and her staff are supportive and encouraging. I can’t believe how much I enjoy talking ballet again. To say it’s fulfilling would be a major understatement. Whether you were a serious dancer when you were young like me, or have never taken a ballet class before in your life, I can’t express how enthusiastically I recommend this school.
My life didn’t lead me to the professional ballet company of my dreams, but as I look back, it’s easy to see… that it all worked out, just as it should be.
Carrie Rokosz is co-ower of Rokosz Studios located in Largo, Florida and a founding member of The Center for Advanced Business Communications. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida with her husband and daughter.