Every once in awhile, I like to reflect on where I am versus where I was. I have changed and grown so much in the past few years, and I think it is important to pause and acknowledge that growth. It’s a good thing to practice, especially when you feel like you’re stuck in your current situation. Think of this as a more in-depth follow-up to When Taking Ballroom, Side Effects May Include…
So how has the Girl evolved?
Well, for one, I have only been the Girl with the Tree Tattoo for a little over a year! My back tattoo was completed between February and August 2014. The tattoo in itself was a long time coming; the idea of doing a tree of life symbol first came to me about 15 years prior to actually getting it! I credit ballroom dancing to giving me that final push. When one part of you is awakened by something, other parts often wake up too.
Ballroom dancing started out as a fun hobby and stress therapy for me. I met awesome people, made new friends, and danced as much as I could. It was an escape that would get me through the week while the rest of my life was unstable.
My feelings toward ballroom have certainly evolved over the almost three years I’ve been dancing. It’s not just “for fun” anymore. It has become a catalyst and a foundation for personal growth. And growth isn’t always fun. In order to grow, you have to move beyond your comfort zone into unknown territory. That can be scary and uncomfortable, even painful.
It doesn’t always serve as an escape anymore either. Ballroom has become such a significant part of my reality that it cannot also act as an escape from that reality.
Competitive ballroom has made me much more goal-oriented. If recent events have shown me anything, it’s that I feel more alive and in control when I have something I’m working toward. When I don’t have a goal, I feel adrift and it’s difficult to keep my mood positive. I don’t think I will ever be one of those people who can just “be.” Although, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy an occasional weekend afternoon lying on the couch, bingeing on Netflix.
I need to feel like I have a purpose in life and a place in this world. Most people define themselves by their career. I was never a career-driven individual. A job was just a way to get money to do what I really wanted. And I found out that what I really wanted was to dance. Dance was where I saw myself, not in a corner office. Who knows where I might have ended up if I had figured this out sooner and not let fear get in my way! I don’t know if I will ever make a career out of ballroom dancing at this stage, but bringing ballroom and my love of writing together has given me that sense of purpose.
I have grown to love team effort. As long as it’s a small team. When I was in school, I hated group projects. I felt like I was the one who ended up having to do all of the work. So I always preferred to work alone. But ballroom dancing requires a partner and if both partners don’t do the work, the dancing can’t happen. When you have someone willing to work as hard as you are, the collaboration is extremely rewarding. The introvert in me is still uncomfortable in larger groups, but a team of two suits me just fine. There is extra pressure and relief at the same time as you and your dance partner depend on each other to achieve your shared goal, whether it’s a big competition or finally being able to dance that one difficult step. Of course, the pro-am partnership is unbalanced by nature, but I have been lucky to find a pro that doesn’t treat this am like a lesser half. He expects me to put in as much effort as he does and he always goes all in. Even when his arm is in a cast!
This love of small team collaboration has extended to my other aspirations as well. I am finding that I am more productive when I meet up with a friend to work on projects, whether shared or separate. Just like with my ballroom goals, having another person present provides support, motivation, and accountability. And it’s always more uplifting when you have someone with whom to share your success.
Overall, I have become stronger, both physically and mentally, more confident, and more motivated because of my ballroom experiences. I understand myself more, and the journey is just beginning. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!