5 Things I Learned About Life From My First Dance Marathon

04/11/2016 03:28 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Life tends to piss us off.

Our cars breakdown, leading us to be late for work. We breakup with our partners, because we fall out of love. We hate the amounts of homework piling up on us, and wonder if the professor has something against us.

Every day, we curse our luck when, say, the coffee powder runs out, and it's a holiday so the shop is closed, so we can't get our daily dose of caffeine.

It is during times like these that we need something to put things in perspective. Something that will allow us to see just how bad (or good) we have it, and I got my something in the UI Dance Marathon 22.

The University of Iowa Dance Marathon is a student organization which raises funds to give year round support to child cancer patients and their families.

So far, they have raised $18, 965,080.87, with this year's collection being close to a record breaking $ 2.4 million.


For 24 hours from the night of February 5th, we stood and danced, without caffeine, in celebration of survivors and in memorial of those lost to the battle against cancer.

1. Your life is not nearly as bad as it could be:

Looking at all those Kids, and their families, hearing their stories made me realize just how wonderful of a life I have.

While I have always had a choice between things, these kids, who were younger than me, were never able to choose what they wanted to eat, to do, whether they wanted to play football, or be on the cheerleading squad. They did not choose their life.

The worst thing to ever happen to me, was get bad grades, or maybe be rejected by a college. If I was any older, it would be to not have a job, or have 'accidents' where I can't even remember the night before. But no matter how bad and hard life gets, I always have a life. I will know for certain that no matter what, I am here, and nothing can take that away from me.

2. Look for everything good that's happening to you

That night, I took a step back, and placed my life alongside the life of a teenager battling cancer.

I have a family, money, food to eat, clothes to wear, a place to live, vacations twice a year; everything I need. Children and teenagers with cancer often do not get to experience life the same way that we do.

For them, anything could be too much risk, with their immunity so low. They can't even take a break or vacation from chemo. And yet, they were able to see the joy in the fact that they were alive and kicking. Honestly, I had it easy. And nothing seems so bad when you see the good in it.

3. Always hold on to hope

The one thing that surprised me the most about all these children, and their families is how much stronger their will to survive is compared to you or me. I look at these beautiful children, their parents and siblings, smiling, with all the pain and suffering caused by the cancer and the battle against it, and I realize that the reason they were able to do it was by holding on to hope.

As long as we look at the future with hope, we will always have something to work for, to live for. It makes us who we are. If children who have no certainty in life can stay tethered to hope, so can I.

We must look forward to each day, wanting to go through our daily routines of school or work, because it is the one thing we will have: the certainty that tomorrow will be there, and the hope that it will be good.

4. But that doesn't mean that the only possible result is a good one

While I was overjoyed and quite inspired listening to the stories of all those children who have survived their battles, towards the end, the story of Austin 'Flash' Schroeder, who lost his, sobered me up.

It is important to see that although we may hope for the best, and a lot of the time we do get things our way, sometimes things go bad. When that happens, remember that it is how we come back that defines us.

The Schroeder family decided to let go of their son and move on. It's a very brave thing to do. Let go of the past. The future is what can be changed, so change it to look the way you want it.

5. You're never alone in life:

That night, as we held hands and sang 'Angels Among Us' by Alabama, I saw that even though this life is mine, I didn't have to walk it alone. There will always be people who are willing to help you. People who care enough to take the time for your wellbeing.

It's a lot easier when you know you can lean on someone, and fall asleep on their shoulder when you're tired. So don't push them out, you will need them.

A friend of mine once told me that in order to write on a chalkboard as big as the sky, we need a piece of chalk big enough. The biggest thing I have seen that day was that 2000 strangers, working together merely because they cared enough were able to raise such a huge amount of money.

Coming together as one, we were that piece of chalk. My life and the lives of many others changed that night. We became better people, stronger people. I'm only 18, and I know there's a long way to go, but now I can go down the path knowing that I can do anything I put my mind, heart and soul to.