I started dancing when I was three years old. My dad became really good at putting my hair in a ponytail and hang-drying my ballet pink tights over the years. I danced competitively, I danced in a pre-professional company. I danced on my high school pom team. I danced down the aisles of the grocery store... you get the point(e). All my friends knew me as the dancer. Dance became my identity.
About a year and a half ago, I stopped dancing every day. It was a choice I made for my mental health--to step away from something that gave me so much but also took away so much. For me, this was a life-defining moment because I had to learn who I was aside from dance. I had to figure out what made me, me--without leotards, ballet buns, and the phrase "I can't, I have dance," demanding my full attention.
If you've grown up a dancer and decide not to pursue it professionally, there comes a time in your life where you have to make an important discovery for yourself. Dance will always be there, it might be in the nostalgic songs on the radio that bring back dance combos, or in your daughter's desire to be a ballerina, or maybe your yearly tradition of going to see the Nutcracker. After all, dance was a huge part of your life.
I don't regret a second I spent in the studio or creating memories in the hallway between classes on our short lunch breaks. I'm thankful for the memories, I'm thankful for the lessons, I'm thankful for every individual who supported me in my journey. Here are 10 things I learned from dance that I will take with me for the rest of my life:
1. "One more time" hardly ever means one more time. In life and in the studio, you will face challenges and when you think you'll never have to face those challenges again, think again.
2. Trophies are just empty cups. You might think you want to collect all the trophies...until you become 22 years old and come home to a closet full of trophies that are taking up valuable space. You'll learn there are many more valuable rewards than a plastic pedestal.
3. Keep doing what you're doing, and no matter what, you'll get good at it. You don't start out as a pro--far from it. But if you keep doing what you're doing, eventually you'll get good at it. The same goes for negative thoughts--not something you want to be good at by the way.
4. You are your own individual. Everyone has something to bring to the dance floor. What do you bring?
5. Don't take everything so seriously. Yes, you want to improve, but also know that you are darn good at what you do. Remember to have fun. You have your whole life to practice seriousness, enjoy the little moments too.
6. Dance is a part of you, but it's not the whole you. Oooff. This is a tough lesson to learn for those die-hards. You are not just a dancer, explore what more is out there, chances are you'll love what else you can find.
7. Air out your dance shoes. No, like seriously. I won smelliest feet award two years in a row--not something I'm proud of!
8. Self-compassion is a bigger motivator than self-criticism. I wish I learned this about 10 years ago, but try it sometime. You may find that being too hard on yourself is holding you back from your potential.
9. Thank your parents. Every. Day. Unless you happen to be paying the "mortgage" that is your dance tuition, dance attire, and competition entry fees... then you can thank yourself. Until then, thank your parents!
10. Dance in the kitchen, dance in the grocery store aisles, dance in the streets. Just dance. It'll be okay.