I spent a lot of time waiting while working as a runner at the Hollywood Dancesport Championships. It gave me a chance to watch people dance, including Teacher with two of his students. I already wrote about the challenges that can come with being a spectator, when I attended the studio’s Halloween team match. Spectating at this comp was the next level up.
Maybe it would have been easier if it was rhythm day. But the style was smooth. I had felt inklings of bittersweet emotions all morning, seeing so many ladies dressed to the nines, warming up on the dance floor, and getting last minute encouragement from their partners. But when Teacher went out with his first student, I was able to ignore the bitter and just enjoy the sweet. I’ve gotten to know the student pretty well and we’ve shared anxieties over our dancing, so I can relate to her. My desire to support her was greater than the demons’ jabs at me for not being out there myself. I was proud and happy for her as I watched her dance across the floor with Teacher.
The real challenge, which caught me a little by surprise, was when Teacher danced with his second student of the day. She was competing in the silver level and therefore had the same routines that I’ve been working on. I know that Teacher uses the same routines for his students dancing at the same levels, but I have still grown to think of them as “my routines.” Anyone else feel a little possessive over the routines you perform?
It was a little weird to watch them being danced by another student. My brain said “hey, wait a minute, I know that sequence, that’s my routine,” and my demons gleefully jumped up and started their chorus.
I know you’re not supposed to compare, but I quickly fell into the comparison trap watching Teacher and his other silver student. My demons said “oh look how much better she is” and “oh, that’s how you’re supposed to dance that move, what the hell have you been doing?” I started yelling at myself in my head to knock off the comparison. I was a good dancer too, just because someone else was good didn’t mean I was bad. I started watching other people to take away the fuel for my demons’ frenzy.
I saw Teacher again the next day at a social dance at the studio, and he asked what I thought about working at the comp. I told him I had many feelings, and I shared my reaction to seeing the silver routines. The funny thing was he was happy that I was there to see him dance the routines. He saw it as a great chance for me to see how our routines would flow on the competition floor. Of course, he thought I was ridiculous for focusing on fears that I wasn’t good enough. And he was right.
After reflecting on it for a few days, I recognize that there were a lot of fears playing into my demons’ hands at Hollywood. I so very badly want to feel like I belong. The easiest way to do that is to actively participate in the place or group that I want to belong to. But if I stop participating or I must participate less, will I no longer belong? It could be six months before I can even start saving money for another comp. And I always need at least a few months to save the money, especially when I’m not starting off with scholarship money from my last comp. Teacher’s students are competitive students. So there is a fear in me of not being part of the “team” anymore because I can’t afford to enter competitions.
Then there is the fear of the loss of momentum. Each comp in the last year boosted me toward the next one. The scholarship money I won at one competition would be the seed money for my next goal. I did receive a refund for my entry fees from USDC, but that money had to be redirected to Life’s latest challenge rather than another ballroom competition. So I have no seed money and no wiggle room in my budget to start saving. Yet.
“Yet” is what I keep telling myself. This hiatus from competition is only temporary. The fear I fight against is that there will be another Life challenge after this one, and another after that. Now that the comp funds have been redirected, I fear that something will always come up that will force me to continue redirecting them.
It may sound dramatic, that I’m attaching too much significance to a “hobby” and I need to get over myself. There is another fear at play though: the fear that it will all go away. After finding something that has made such a significant and positive impact on me, a part of me is waiting for it to be taken away. One positive change after another, new friends, new connections, new opportunities, increasingly frequent feelings of happiness? It can’t be real. I tend to expect the worst, so it’s hard to trust my own reality when things are going right. When I do start to trust that this is real, I really can have this thing that makes me happy, the fear keeps me in check.
So where does that leave me? Well, with a lot of fears certainly. But none of these are really new, they just have new triggers related to my ballroom journey.
I can thank ballroom for the personal growth it triggered, which has helped me to recognize some keys to coping with these fears. One is to not get ahead of myself. Just because momentum is currently driving money away from dance and toward other things does not mean it has to continue in that direction. I redirected it away from dance and I can redirect it back when the time is right. Until then, I have to remember that I can still take my private lessons so my dancing skills won’t atrophy and I’ll be more than ready when it is finally time to get back on the competition floor. For now, I need to focus on the present.
I know competitions are important to me as goals and milestones. I need to find other goals to focus on. One goal is the next eBook. I’m starting to work with freeballroomlessons.com, which is sponsoring the new Sunday social dances at my studio, so hopefully that will keep me busy as well. What I don’t want to do is start feeling stuck in some kind of dance purgatory because I’m not able to test out my progress at competition. It’s only temporary.
Teacher is keeping higher hopes than I am as far as when I’ll be back and competing. He’s showing no signs of kicking me off the team due to lack of funds, so I need to remember to take a realistic look at the evidence in front of me when the fear of “not belonging” gets active.
Being aware of what to focus on as well as what to avoid will help keep me balanced and also better equipped to deal with Life’s latest challenge that is eating up my dance funds.
It’s all part of the incredible journey, right?