The Boy Who Ran Away to the Circus, And Found His Life Again

Daniel Patrick - Pyragraph

Photo by Brandon Soder.

How did I get here? What made this exciting and beautiful life possible? You might think it’s all fun and games running away to join the circus; our entertaining skills take you away to a fantasy land where everything is majestic, impressive, and colorful. This makes me the happiest person, to bring joy into other people’s hearts. Taking human beings away from their daily troubles and stresses fills my heart with a sensation that is indescribable. The journey that led me here, however, might not be as colorful as you think, but I am here now, and forever grateful. Let me explain.

When I was 16 my father passed away from a massive heart attack: we had no warning. After that day, which I will never forget, I began what seemed like an endless cycle of depression and isolation. When you lose someone that close to you, before you’ve fully developed, it is hard to understand how to move forward. I needed my father, to teach, guide, love, and protect me. I was lost in my mind, locking every door behind me, not letting anyone in. I could not breathe. It felt like a thousand swords were being thrown at me from every direction; right, left, in front of me, behind me, falling from the skies, and shooting up at me from hell. At some point, I gave up trying to dodge them, and let those swords pierce my mind and body.

That Cirque Du Soleil show lit a fire somewhere inside me that to this day has not exstinguished.

I was lying in bed for what seemed like an eternity. All I had were my tears. I felt like I would never get up again and walk on my feet. I had no motivation or ideals for what my life could or should be. When someone told me to do this, I did it, because my own self could not develop a plan as to how to contribute to society and live this precious life of which we may only be granted once. They told me to go to college, to dive into a wise education, and that the contributions to society, and proactive nature would allow myself to re-gain focus and happiness. They were wrong.

A new adult, a year and a half in school, and I still felt empty inside. The other students judged me. The teachers pressured me. And I never fully gave into the schedule. My advisor called me into her office one day.

“What are you doing here?” she asked calmly.

“I am trying to fulfill my family’s, my friends’, and society’s wishes. Isn’t this what you are supposed to do?” I replied unknowingly.

There was a moment of silence, and that awkward timing felt excruciating.

“Who are you outside of class?” she asked.

“I’ve never known,” I replied softly and with a noticeable sadness.

A complete representation of how my life was during that time.

“What is something you’ve had in your life, the thing you’ve had for the longest time, that consistently shows up as a positive force?”

I tried to think. I could find nothing of meaning. So I searched harder within myself.

“Flipping upside down.”

My sweet advisor, with gentle brown hair, and soft hazel eyes, did not have to speak another word. The day became a little clearer.

Daniel Patrick - Pyragraph

Photo by Brandon Soder.

Once I said those few words, I knew what I needed to do. I just wasn’t exactly sure where to go. From that moment on I began searching for classes, trainers, programs, other individuals, anything that could help me to indulge in a healthy physical activity. A few months went by. I practiced at home, at the beach, on the playground, at school, anywhere I had the opportunity. I saw the others notice me. Their jaws dropped when I did a backflip, they could not understand my unique flexibility; one time a group even began clapping when I held a handstand for longer than a moment. Being a small-town New Hampshire boy, people don’t know where that sort of talent comes from.

For my 21st birthday, my mother bought me tickets to a Cirque Du Soleil show. It was not my first cirque show, but this amazing scene that was called Varekai, lit a fire somewhere inside me that to this day has not extinguished. I knew that was my calling, it was destiny, a place where I could finally fit in with comfort, and know I was doing something for myself, for the world, and maybe something my father could be proud of looking down on me.

When I went home, I Googled circus, circus arts, circus programs, and that was all I needed to do. One of the first few listings was for the New England Center for Circus Arts.

Without any hesitation, I explained my situation. Some emails, some calls, and a few videos later, I was accepted into their professional training program. That was three years ago. I recently finished my extensive three-year training regimen and perfected the skills I already knew, and engaged in new activities and skill learning that brought me to a greater state of talent. Even during those years, I wasn’t sure where I would go, but I felt the greatest sense of happiness, that I was truly living for the right reason, and that my father was smiling from the heavens above.

My mother and sister, my immediate family, the ladies who are on this earth that I love more than anything, were amazed and proud of the journey. When I was sitting with my sister only one month after circus graduation and I got a phone call that I was hired for my first paid circus show, we were both shocked that it really worked. And more than a year after that phone call, I have found success in pursuing circus as my career path, working for a variety of companies and shows.

Now a professional acrobat and aerialist, I wonder, am I really here? Is this a dream, a fantasy; will I awake from it? It is a dream, but born into reality; I am actually living out my life dream. I miss my father every day from the bottom of my heart, and wish I could share these experiences with him, as I do with my mother and sister so gratefully. I try to speak with him as much as I can, telling him of my adventures, and expressing my everlasting love. I feel him smiling at this quirky, unique, and elaborate lifestyle change. I know he is there. Underneath that tragic day, something beautiful was eventually born, and I feel him with me in every skill, pose, and dramatic entertainment I create.

About Daniel Patrick

Daniel Patrick is a professional acrobat and aerialist from the hills of New England. He specializes in hand balancing and flexibility on the ground, and fabrics and rope in the air. Just like his lifestyle, he follows a contemporary style within his performance work, expressing creativity through his gravity defying tricks. A graduate of the New England Center for Circus Arts, he has worked for companies such as the Boston Circus Guild, the Santa Fe Opera, and Aerial Horizon as a teacher and performer of many exciting productions.

1 Comment

  1. Florence on October 1, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    …very interesting and amazing story of life! Would love to see your performance live sometime!

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