Many are unaware that I used to be a dancer which is interesting considering I was a dancer for ten years, but if this is news to you, surprise! (Yes it's true.) I did ballet, jazz, and tap for a little over a decade. I know, I don't seem like the dancer type but you'd be surprised. I was pretty good, in fact I used to be the teacher's assistant. I even considered dancing professionally until someone handed me a bass and had a quick change of plans. Nevertheless, I loved being a dancer - those are years I will cherish forever.
But it wasn't always easy...
I started dancing when I was two, at that age I hated it. Actually, I hated it until I started to put effort into it and learned I was good and enjoyed it.
There were three levels: level 1 was for the younger kids (beginner level), level 2 was the transitioning level for middle school aged dancers (intermediate), and level 3, the most advanced level (typically for high school age dancers).
I'm not sure what age I was when began to take interest in dance and started to enjoy it, I'm assuming around age six. Until then my mom dragged me to my lessons. Once I started to enjoy it and I was motivated to try harder, my teacher saw my potential and gave me roles in the front row. Eventually she made me the one to lead the rest of the dancers on stage, she asked them to follow me and often used me as the example. It was uncomfortable for me to be on the spot but I learned to adapt to it.
Two years later, my teacher thought I was ready to skip the last four years of level 1, as well as all of level 2, and go straight to level 3. My mom and I weren't sure so we sat in a level 3 class before we made a decision. The older girls already had almost their whole routine down for the upcoming show, so we decided to wait until the following year.
At age nine, I made the switch to level 3.
It's Difficult Being Different
I was the youngest, I looked different than the other girls, and I was incredibly shy.
Learning to accept this was the hardest part about switching, even once I adjusted to the difficulty of the dancing itself, I was still learning to accept my uniqueness. It was especially difficult at the beginning since it was all new to me. The car ride home was never a cheerful occasion, my poor mom had to hear me screaming and crying out of frustration because I was tired of feeling like I wasn't good enough. Dance became less about learning to dance and more about learning to stand-out. This was the first life lesson.
Just Keep Dancing
There's a rule when you're on stage to just keep dancing. If your bun starts to fall out, just keep dancing. If your hat flies off, just keep dancing. If you fall, get up, and just keep dancing.
Much like life.
Sometimes we have to ignore the constant problems and distractions in life and just keep dancing.
(Or just keep swimming whatever you prefer.)
Forget About Everyone Else
We all know what it's like to worry about what other people are thinking. If you've never had that issue you must be perfect. (Therefore you're either of the elves from Lord of the Rings or you're a member of System of a Down. If the latter please email me.) But for the rest of us, we have to struggle with this all of the time. Some less than others, but it became a big issue of mine when I was dancing. When you're on stage, everything has to be perfect, which is a standard I don't live up to.
Forget about the audience and do what you're supposed to do is what my teacher used to say.
If you're in the midst of doing something creative, something challenging or if you're trying to change the world, by living, or through a project - you have an audience. A crowd will gather for a dramatic scene on the streets much like they will gather for a someone living life uniquely. If you're one of those brave souls - you're going to have a crowd.
"I've told you this many times. You have people watching you. They're watching in hopes to see you succeed, but a small part of them also wants to see you fail." - My Mom
The Rest of the Story
I stopped dancing once I decided to take the music path. My parents could no longer pay for my lessons, I didn't see myself dancing professionally anyhow, so I stopped. (That is, I stopped taking lessons. I continued to dance at home.)
For a while I was choreographing dances as a hobby (to metal songs of course, again, you'd be surprised) and continued to dance for the fun and freedom of it. At fourteen I went back to taking lessons for a while but decided to spend more time with school. However, dancing is in my blood - my mom also danced. One day I might pick it back up, but for now, I'm taking the lessons I learned and applying them to life.