A dear friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time came to the studio tonight to watch me during my lesson. I met her through ballroom and for awhile, our ballroom journeys paralleled. We danced with the same teacher and even went to our first two competitions together. But things change and paths diverge, so I don’t see her as often anymore.
After my lesson, we talked for awhile and she asked how I was doing with my USDC and Ohio Star Ball dreams being cancelled (download my free eBook “How to Cope with Loss, Ballroom Style” if you want to know more). I told her I felt like I had missed my bronze graduation. Teacher and I were focused on silver now because it was time to move up. So it was like I graduated, but I never got to present my final thesis that I had worked so hard for. My friend told me that she understood what I meant, but it wasn’t the same for her. She didn’t feel the need for that outside recognition for accomplished goals. She didn’t even attend her own college graduation! She was more process-oriented. She focuses on the present since the future is always in flux. She loves learning to dance and growing through it, but isn’t interested in events like competitions where you essentially go to get external validation of your growth.
I, on the other hand, need a goal like a competition to work toward, even though the unexpected could happen and that goal could be taken away. I didn’t always want to compete though. When I first started, the dance lessons themselves were the end goal. They were physical and mental therapy for me. But soon, I wanted more. I wanted checkpoints, if you will, that would allow me to measure how far I’ve come. Because this journey of self-discovery is life long. I have no idea what my final destination will be, which I can accept. But having interim destinations help me feel that I am moving forward, that I’m not staying stagnant on my journey.
Each competition to date has meant something different for me. Each one has marked a different milestone on my journey. If you want, you can read my assessment of my first three competitions. My placements have little to do with it. The milestones are more about marking my personal growth, like measuring a child’s height on a wall. Each competition is its own unique experience. Even though the environment at each one is similar, I am different.
I think marking my progress using events like competitions is also useful in handling my demons. They don’t go away just because you won first place! In fact, some of them get louder. When the self-doubt is especially vocal and I feel like I suck at dancing and at life in general, I can think back to my first competition and can’t help but recognize that my dancing has improved. I wasn’t dancing silver at my first comp! I can think back to my experience at the California Open, which was my first competition where I did not feel 100% physically and struggled with extreme dissatisfaction with myself and my dancing. I won best of the best at that comp! Proof that even when I am struggling, I am still capable of success.
I am still learning and still discovering new versions of myself. Maybe one day, I will grow into a version of me that doesn’t need milestones to know she is still moving forward on her journey. But for now, I’ll keep making those pencil marks on the edge of the wall to see how much I’ve grown.
Don’t forget to check out other posts from the 31 Day Writing Challenge!