When I was around 12 years old, I started learning to dance. Ironically, I'd been tapping and twirling for years, but the particular set of skills necessary for this endeavor were far beyond pirouettes or buffalo-hop-steps. When I was about twelve years old, I began going to what can best be described as my first co-ed, unsupervised parties, otherwise known as the platform for awkward tween moments. Here, I started learning to dance.
The dance floor, a place I had previously found bliss and comfort in my leotard, now became an arena for potential embarrassment and fear. Without the guidance of my dance teacher, I fell clueless to the "right ways" to bump and shake. I found myself in a world where how well I let loose determined my desirability -- who would sit next to me in the cafeteria or if I would have a boyfriend I could hold hands with and to whom I could dedicate a whole section of my AIM profile -- and I was frozen.
As I was thrown into my discomfort, I found myself anxiously attempting to imitate the bodies around me, time after time. Disconnected from the internal guide to movement I'd been built with, following the moves in my peripheral, all while trying hard not to look like I was trying hard helped me fit in perfectly among my insecure, middle school peers. It was excruciating.
The act of dance is a part of human nature. A child hears music and finds his/her physical expression carelessly. There is no right way to dance for a child. Yet, at twelve, that notion was very much negated.
For the next few years, I looked around to find myself. I could not understand how there were always those few individuals who so effortlessly floated through life, on and off the dance floor, exuding energy and laughter and drawing everyone in. It was as though the way they seemed not to care offered them a chance at every reason I chose to care. All of the traits I looked for in my frantic search for guidance seemed to be delivered on a silver platter to those who could execute that effortless look flawlessly.
My soul craved that laughter, attention and attractiveness. I tried harder. I tried so hard until I couldn't try anymore. Until I gave up trying. Until I accepted that I would never be "that girl", that I would not be the girl who could trade pointe shoes for stilettos, that I would not and could not be the girl who drew in the crowd, that that was not my path to desirability. I was not that girl.
And then, I became her. In my giving up, I let myself make fun of myself. I stopped looking around. I started to move the way I wanted, regardless of how silly or embarrassing it looked. I had nothing to lose, but my thoughts that I wouldn't gain anything either were entirely negated.
As I opened my eyes, I found myself surrounded and, through that, discovered who I was. The more I began to find myself when I stopped searching, the more I felt inclined to apply this to my everyday life, sans pulsing music and sweaty bodies. First, experimentally, and then confidently, I stopped following the rules of my fears and began to free myself of the underlying beliefs. As I pushed myself to embrace the awkward moments in my movement, the less awkward I felt. The more I embraced discomfort in my life, the less uncomfortable I found myself.
I started recognizing the places in my life where I had been trying to do things right and tuned into what felt hard. I stopped backing away. I stopped looking around and I started to trust myself. I let myself have the hard conversations when I felt bothered by my surroundings and the people within that. I started to trust myself. I let myself have the difficult conversations when I felt bothered my surroundings and the people within that. I started speaking my mind and pursuing my passions. I entertained the notion that there was no right path or, perhaps, no path at all. I began to see and then believe that there were just choices in the moment -- to watch or to dance, to hold my breath or to inhale, to exist or to live. I was never going to be that girl, but I could and would be me.