It was 1999. I needed something new. A creative outlet. A way to meet new people and improve my social skills. I had always been attracted to dancing but had never taken classes, unless you include my brief stint with ballet at age 11 with the strict, intimidating Russian woman who terrified me. I decided to try ballroom dancing at our local community college.
It was a gentle beginning. A nonthreatening potpourri of dance genres and styles. Kinda fun. While in the class, I learned about other dance opportunities in town. There was west coast swing on Mondays, salsa on Tuesdays, contra dancing on Saturdays, ecstatic dance on Wednesdays, and Argentine tango on Sundays. And so, I ventured out into the eclectic dance world of Eugene, Oregon.
(Note: If you have been reading my blog for a while, you have come across the adventures of Andrei and my Tango Therapy. But this is not that story.)
I first tried West Coast Swing (where I met Andrei) but I couldn’t quite get the hang of it. And the community of dancers was a bit too competitive and kind of clique-ish.
So, next, I experimented with salsa. I loved the beat of the music and had a certain knack for it. But the dance events didn’t even start until 10pm and everyone there looked to be about 14 years old. So I didn’t stick with it.
(Another note: I skipped over contra and ecstatic dancing. I admit to an unfair bias. My town is known for being what might affectionately be called hippie dippy. I appreciate the progressive leanings of that population for sure but not the garlic scent that can accompany some of the dancers. Apologies to my readers who are garlic lovers or who identify as hippies.)
Then, there was the Argentine tango.
I remember the first day. I slipped into the room, standing in the shadows, hiding, just to see what was up. It looked impossible. I watched the dancers moving gracefully around the floor. Striding. Legs flicking to the haunting music. Bodies glued together. How did they do that?
But something was telling me to give it a try. And yet. I do not like looking like a klutz. Or a beginner. Or stupid. Or uncool.
Not that I was ever cool.
So. I decided to risk klutziness and stupidity, in spite of myself. And it worked. In a short few months, I was obsessed. (It took much longer to get unklutzy and smart-ish.) I mean really. Here we are now in a pandemic where no one is likely dancing the Argentine tango and I am still writing about it. That obsessed. Over time, I even experienced moments of pure astonishing unity when I was so connected with my partner, we were one body, one heart, and 4 legs.
You may ask, then, what does this have to do with you. Right? Surely I am not asking you to wrap your arms around total strangers and breathe on them during a pandemic!
That is correct. Read on.
I want you to try something new. Something you have always wanted to do. I want you to risk looking like a klutz, a beginner, stupid, or uncool. I know it will be hard. You are used to learning quickly whatever you try. If you might fail or even make mistakes along the way, you avoid it. Am I right?
This is typical rainforest-minded behavior. If your identity is linked deeply to being smart and the best at whatever you try, because that is what got you attention, or why you thought you were loved, then having to struggle, to not know something, even to have to practice to build your skills, may feel intimidating, uncomfortable, and even terrifying.
But, I am here to tell you that the risks are worth it. They really are. If you have kids, you will be saving them from those same fears if you show them it is OK to make mistakes or even fail. If you care about the future of the planet, and I know you do, breaking through your limits can expand your reach and your impact. It can build your confidence and open new doors to unknown possibilities.
It might even bring you pure astonishing unklutzified unity.
To my bloggEEs: Tell us about any fears you might have of trying something new. Are you used to being the best or of knowing it before you learn it? Do you have anxiety around mistakes or failure? What might you be willing to try to expand your horizons?