Focus on Your Own Dance Journey

Reaching out to my dancers today who may be feeling like everyone except them is getting to resume their regularly scheduled dancing program, full of in-person lessons, social dances, showcases, and/or competitions. This post is for you.

My current dance status: I’ve been lucky to have had in-person lessons for a number of months now. They were intermittent through the second half of 2020 and became more regular after the new year. Currently, I’m taking two private lessons and one group class a week. My last competition was February 2020, and I don’t know when I’ll be competing again. Two of the competitions that I was hoping would be my pandemic-era return to the floor have already passed.

Compared to some, my dance journey is awesome right now. I’m getting to dance regularly. I’m getting to work with my teacher in person. Heck, my studio survived the pandemic shutdowns! Compared to others who have already managed to compete multiple times in 2021, my dance journey is…ok, better than nothing. At least I’m getting to dance, right?

Whether my dance journey seems awesome or just ok to you doesn’t matter. Because it’s my journey, not yours.

The comparison trap is a very real thing and will pull you down quick if you’re not paying attention. I would get caught constantly in the beginning of my dance journey because it felt like everyone had more means than I did and therefore danced and competed more, with a new dress every time. I scrimped and saved every penny to take one to two lessons per week while others were dancing five to six times a week with multiple teachers. I kept focusing on what I didn’t have and couldn’t afford to do, instead of what I was achieving with the dance time I did have.

These days, I still get down about the money issue from time to time, but I’m better about reminding myself to stay focused on what I am able to do with the money I have and that I get to choose how I prioritize said funds. A new bait in the comparison trap is my physical abilities compared to others. I get tired of the forward and backward progress with my various aches and pains, and frustrated when I see others doing what I wish I could do. Sometimes it’s a trick; it sounds silly to admit, but I’ve always been jealous of people who could extend their leg over their head. Other times, it’s just being able to go to a Zumba or La Blast class without having to hold back because of my knees. Again, I have to remind myself that I’m on a different journey, which happens to include dealing with injuries because my body refuses to take my abuse anymore.

As Life picks up speed again, it may feel like other dancers are jumping ahead of you. Social media can make it seem like you’re the only one not out there covered in rhinestones and a pound of makeup (you’re not the only one, I’m not there either). As everyone works their way through and out of the pandemic, you may wonder how they were even able to prepare for a competition so quickly. You’re just starting to get used to wearing heels again!

The reality is you’re not behind; you’re actually on an entirely different path. Even if I had the money and my life wasn’t a little extra crazy right now (moving out of my apartment in a month), I wouldn’t be ready to compete. We’re still playing with the Open Smooth choreography and frankly, I’m not physically or mentally ready to put on my competition dress with its stomach cut-outs and open back. So while I wish I had a competition coming up, at the same time, it doesn’t make sense at this particular point in my dance journey. I have plenty to do and enjoy without the added pressure of a comp!

Sometimes it feels like the ballroom world is moving on without those of us who weren’t able to jump right back into our competition dresses as soon as pandemic restrictions eased. It feels different because this year, it means more than just being able to compete. It’s a symbol of resuming some semblance of “normal.” Just like our dance journeys are different, our paths out of the pandemic are very different. Our entire reality was turned upside down and inside out, and it takes time to find your bearings after such a traumatic (and still ongoing) event. My normal is not your normal, and the time it takes for me to reach my normal is going to be different than the time it takes you to reach yours. All of that means it’s critical to avoid that comparison trap and stay focused on your own dance journey.

There’s a chance I may not compete at all in 2021. Not only is that thought a major personal bummer, it also affects The Girl with the Tree Tattoo blog because competitions are a great place for me to connect with my blog readers and meet new ones. Documenting the journey leading up to a dance event is one of the major themes of this blog. As you all know, it was incredibly difficult to stay connected last year during the peaks of the pandemic. I struggled to figure out what to write, but at least I knew we were all in the same boat, hatches battened down to wait out the storm. As cases drop and vaccines are administered, the boats are setting back out onto the ocean and going their separate ways. If I’m honest, I sometimes worry I’ll fade into the background and be forgotten if I’m not able to resume a more visible role in the ballroom world. After all, when the lights are shining, you can’t see beyond the borders of the dance floor.

The next chapter of my journey holds exciting possibilities though, and new adventures! It won’t be the same as before, and it won’t look the same as anyone else’s journey. But that doesn’t make it worse. I believe it will actually turn out to be much better!

It’s scary to let go of the familiar and move into the unknown, especially when no one else is going with you. It’s easy to glimpse a piece of someone else’s life on social media or their new dress at the studio and wish you had that. It may feel like they’re moving forward while you’re stuck. But they’re just moving in a different direction. If you glimpse back at your own path, you’ll see how far you’ve actually come and if you focus forward, you’ll see there is plenty of journey still ahead of you.

While we can’t journey together, we can still support each other as we navigate our unique paths. Even as I move into my scary and exciting new chapter, I intend to be here for you. I hope you’ll stick with me too, even if the tree tattoo doesn’t appear on the dance floor for awhile longer.


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