Disclaimer: Five years ago, I set off on a journey that I never anticipated would change my life in such an incredible way. The goal was to try 52 hobbies in 52 weeks. At the onset, I had intended to write a book compiling the experiences and sharing them. I wasn’t sure at the time if the book would be a quirky coffee-table accessory or if something else might evolve. As it turns out, I never published the book, but I did write most of it. Over time, I’ve gone back to it, time-and-time again. With the five year anniversary of the project, I’ve decided that it’s time to start sharing it: One chapter at a time.
This is Chapter 3
For the intro to the book, head HERE!
For Chapter 1 (Vulnerability) click HERE!
For Chapter 2 (Untitled- Pole Dancing) click HERE!
For the original Hobby post this chapter digs into, visit HERE!
Truth, Dare, and Dance
My parents often brag about how I said my first word at just 6 months old, but rarely do they talk about my first steps. That’s because I’m pretty much convinced that I crawled until I was three-years-old. I’m almost positive that they’ve kept this a secret from me my whole life. I believe this, because I’ve never been graceful. At the age of 4, I broke my arm, got a concussion from falling down the stairs, and sprained my ankle after jumping from a tree house, all within several months of one another. Then, at the age of 7, while playing during indoor recess, I crawled straight into a desk, cut open the skin above my eye and needed to be rushed to the hospital to get stitches. Years later, when I was a sophomore in high school I broke my left hand, and several weeks later, I broke my right one (or at least the fingers). Finally, in 2015, I broke my hand, sprained another ankle, and went onto break my foot in the final months of the year. Among these injuries, I suffered from countless others: stitches to the chin, sprained knees, sprained wrists, sprained hands, tendonitis, concussions, contusions, bumps, and scrapes. I often lost my balance, and was very clumsy. Needless to say, we went through a lot of bandaids, and a lot of bags of frozen peas substituted as ice bags, in my childhood home.
It should be no surprise then that dancing growing up was never my strong suit.
In fact, I can very vividly remember during a game of Truth or Dare, at an 8th grade birthday party, being humiliated as I was dared to show my “dance moves” on a chair. During the dare, someone laughed at me and said, “You can’t just hump the chair.” I tried again, but the laugher was contagious. Everyone caught on, except for me.
I left the sleepover the next morning telling myself over and over again that by the time the next school dance came around, “I would show them” and prove that I could “get jiggy with it.”
However, when my chance came to hit the dance floor again, the result wasn’t so hot. One of my good friends at the time kindly said that for me to dance would take some work—or more like a lot of work. She added, “Try and work it like this,” as she shook her hips gracefully across the school gym.
I had no idea what I was doing. All the kids were “grinding” and to me that was just what my teeth did at night.
It took me years to get comfortable with attempting to publicly dance, and even when I started feeling comfortable enough to dance, I still carried a great weight of self-consciousness on my shoulders.
This might explain why any time I had tried to attend a group dance class prior to pole dancing, I found myself defeated, and walking out before the class had been completed. And I can assure everyone that It wasn’t because I was out of shape, or simply tired. I was very obviously choreographically challenged.
As my dance classmates would ChaCha right, and Zumba left, I would stand in the back spinning in circles until my feet were tangled into a knot. The situation would subsequently stress me out. “Who is watching me?” “This is so embarrassing” “How can I sneak out without anyone noticing?” “Is that the bass of the song or is that the sound of my heart beating outside of my chest?” “Is that the roof leaking, or am I sweating that much?” “Wait, am I sweating cause I’m dancing so hard, or am I sweating because I’m terrified?” “Where did I put my bag…Did I leave it near the door? Is it close enough to grab it and run?”
And with that I’d find myself sprinting from a gym class to the locker room, vowing I would never return to a group dance class again.
Now with my new found confidence at Pole Dancing, I decided it was time to to try and tackle another dance class. Though, this time, instead of trying another Zumba class, I recruited a good friend of mine, and went ahead and signed up for a beginner hip-hop class.
Like pole dancing, I instantly felt intimidated as I walked into the dance school. Everyone there was wearing bright colored, professional looking hip-hop shoes; baggy sweats; and an easy relaxed tank. I had on my running shoes, a pair of field hockey shorts, and a white t-shirt. It wasn’t difficult to feel out of place.
Everyone was also chatting, as if they knew one another. As I looked at my friend, I questioned: “Is this the illuminati of dance?”
Then I whispered to the woman next to me who was tightening her laces: “This is the beginner class, right?”
“Yeah—but he doesn’t always treat it like a beginner class. It’s fast paced.”
Of course he didn’t.
All I wanted was to learn how to “shake it” without falling; but instead, of course, I would pick the “Be Beyonce’s next back up dancer” class.
Like a cartoon character, I verbally made a “gulp,” sound.
I turned back to my friend. She didn’t seem nervous at all. I was grateful I had brought her. I knew I’d feel more comfortable if I had someone else with me who hadn’t tried it before. And she was calm. She was ready to dance, and that energy was contagiousas we took our spots on the dance class floor. Not before long, we were shimmying to our left, shaking it to our right, spinning, and hip-hopping all over the room—or attempting to at least. I began to sweat as I lost my balance.
“You’ll get it,” one girl confidentially said to me. “Just take it slow.”
Frustrated, I continued to try and keep up. But the teacher was moving quickly. My friend and I had split up into two different spots in the room. She seemed to be getting it. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by the Justin Timberlakes and Keshas of beginner dance. They moved effortlessly, their legs stretching far beyond any point of flexibility that I might be able to.
And just as I started to get one eight count down, our teacher began moving on to the next one. I had to remind myself that this was my first time. I wasn’t supposed to be perfect. Patiently, I continued to try and find my rhythm. One of my main issues in the past about group dance classes had always been, “Well what if the others in the class judge me.”
But what I was learning as I struggled through 5,6,7,8 was that these people weren’t there to judge someone who couldn’t do a two-step. These people were there to better themselves, to get good at something they loved doing—or to try something that they’ve always wanted to try. They weren’t concerned if I was hip-hopping to the left when they were spinning to the right. As long as I didn’t get in their way, my skills weren’t a matter of their concern.
These people weren’t there for me. They were there for exactly who they should have been. And as we approached the end of the class, I realized that I too was there for the one person I was supposed to be there for: myself.
This epiphany was the perfect reminder as the class let out. This moment of clarity was the difference between me abandoning a class the way I had before, and me finishing the class with my eyes set ahead. It was the difference between me leaving the class and vowing I’d never go back and me saying “I’d like to try that again.”
The next day, my co-worker asked me how it went. I told her that it was fun—difficult—but fun. She asked me to show her what we learned in the class. I was nervous. Would she judge me the way my 8th grade classmates did? Would I run away, scared?
Instead of declining in shame, I took a deep breath, found the song online, hit play and then stepped it out.
Unlike my eighth grade classmates, she didn’t laugh. She was actually impressed. And I won’t lie; I was impressed too. The moves that I struggled to put together just one night earlier seemed to be flowing easily now. My muscles had retained the information. I got tap happy with the music, as I showed the dance again. I wanted to keep doing it—I wanted to keep showing it off. An overwhelming feeling of pride accumulated throughout my body.
Excited, I thought to myself, ‘This is going to be an awesome year.’ And then I yawned, “And an exhausting one.”