Countdown to CalOpen – 19 Days: Reflections

Our story begins with a podcast that has nothing to do with ballroom dancing. But since it is the thing that put me on the path to writing this post, I am starting there. Lewis Howes was interviewing Lisa Nichols. You may have heard of them if you’ve gotten into personal development, life coaching or entrepreneurship. They’re both very successful and worth checking out if you’re interested in those things.

Anyway, I was listening to the podcast at work, and at one point, Ms. Nichols was talking about the different types of relationships you will experience in your lifetime. One of them was a purposeful relationship. Someone comes into your life for a specific purpose (whether you’re aware of it or not), and once the purpose is fulfilled, the relationship will become stagnant or break down completely.

There are plenty of directions you could go with this idea, but my mind was transported to my very first competition: the 2014 San Francisco Open.

The SF Open had already been on my mind because the upcoming California Open feels like my second “first” competition since I’m entering a new level. But the moment I recalled wasn’t on the dancefloor at SF Open or even on the same day as my dancing. It was the night that Teacher was competing with his pro partner, and I was having dinner alone in the hotel lobby lounge before the session began.

I had to talk myself into going to dinner. The student with whom I shared my hotel room had left the day before, so I was alone. It’s easy for me to just hide away from the world when I’m not expected anywhere, and it was very tempting to just order room service for dinner. But I made myself do the scarier thing and go out. Well, at least leave my hotel room and head downstairs to the lobby.

I ordered dinner and worked on some writing, so I didn’t feel completely pathetic just sitting there with a glass of wine, waiting for my food. I wasn’t alone for long. Shortly after my food arrived, a woman came by and asked if she could join me so she could enjoy the view. The hotel was right on the shore of one of the many bays/inlets around San Francisco and I had picked a table that was right by the window looking out over the water.

She was also there to watch the professional competition, and as we chatted, I learned that she too was on a journey of self-discovery.  Like me, she had gone through challenging, painful times in the past year and was relearning who she was.  Coming to watch the competition alone scared her, but she was pushing herself to do more things that scared her.  Sound familiar?

After a day of telling the demons in my head to shut up, I couldn’t help but smile in gratitude for the reminder that I wasn’t alone. We agreed that as hard as the road had been recently, it had made us stronger and put us in a better place.  The struggle was worth it.

We went together to watch Teacher and the other pros dance. She had to leave before the competition session was over, and our goodbye was friendly but quick. Later, I regretted not getting her number or email or at least her Facebook. But if I’m being honest, I probably would not have maintained contact with her for very long. We’d end up just being Facebook friends who would like the other’s posts once in awhile. As I write this, I can’t even recall her name.

Even though our “relationship” only lasted a few hours, I believe that woman and I met for a reason. Even if I don’t remember her name, I still remember her two years later. After I took a step outside my comfort zone, she appeared and let me know I wasn’t alone in my struggles and wasn’t the only one who battled inner demons.

It isn’t the only time someone or something showed up just when I needed them. Like I wrote in Let the Countdown Begin – 3 Weeks Until California Open, amazing things can happen if you just stay open to them. But it requires pushing beyond what’s comfortable. Things don’t always go right, of course. I know that truth all too well. But there is usually a purpose to the upheaval of plans.

I want to make sure I remember the rewards I’ve experienced from doing things that scare me. Although I’m not feeling too anxious about competing again (yet), I am still plagued by fears that I know hold me back when it comes to expressing my joy of dancing to my audience. It’s extremely frustrating.

I’d love for this competition to be an event where I not only dance at a new skill level, but up the level of my performance as well, by releasing at least a little of that fear and allowing myself to enjoy whatever reward comes of that action.

That thought takes me down another path, but we’ll leave that for another day.

Happy dancing!

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