So I was in a bad head-space yesterday, and I wrote some pretty bummer things about myself. But today, I want to try to turn that narrative around and write about something for which I'm really grateful.
I've had a pretty tough year, especially in regards to interpersonal relationships and dating. It's had a major impact on my self-esteem and mental health. I feel a little chagrined about writing that post yesterday about my abandonment issues, because in retrospect, it comes across as very self-pitying. I won't deny that I've got some serious shit to work through, but instead of dwelling on the negative, I want to focus on the things in my life that are going well and giving me strength.
So I'm going to share an abridged version of a journal entry I wrote recently about one of the best parts of my life: dance.
I've been dancing for about seven years now. I started dancing kind of on a whim: I was bored one summer and decided to take a class at the local recreation centre and it was love at first shimmy. I haven't stopped since. Currently, I perform as a soloist and as part of a student dance company.
Dance is my sanctuary. It's been the one place for the past seven years of my life in which there is no stress, no self-hate, no feelings of rejection and hurt and inadequacy, no anxiety about the future. Dance has never gotten me down in the same way as dating, grad school, searching for a job, or other work. Despite all the ways it could amplify my insecurity, it never holds me up to the funhouse mirror of bad self-esteem the way other areas of my life have. Instead, I come away from dancing feeling like I believe in myself. I know that I am respected and valued in my dance community, but far more importantly, I know that I can do whatever I set my mind to, if I work hard enough.
Dance has taught me valuable lessons about hard work, perseverance, and self-respect. It has also shown me how to be my authentic self. I sometimes joke that "punk rock saved my life" back when I was a teenager. It didn't literally save my life, but it did give me a sense of belonging and home in the midst of a lot of painful social rejection from my peers. Going to shows, being in the scene, playing in a shitty DIY punk band - I felt like who I actually am for the first time in my life. I had tried so hard to conform but when I discovered punk, I suddenly discovered that I could be who I really am instead. I could tell everyone who didn't like me for who I was to go to hell and wear the shit out of my Doc Martens and leather jackets and band patches and spiky hair and not give a single fuck. It was the single most liberating moment of my young life, the first time I consciously allowed myself to be myself.
Dance is like that for me. It's a different aesthetic, but the impulse is really the same: finding a space to be yourself – and to be respected and accepted for it. To find that comfort of learning to live in your own skin and feel powerful. I am immensely, beyond words, grateful for having that space right now – and always. Even in the good times, when things are going smoothly for me, dance is a consistent reminder that I am strong and capable and I can accomplish things if I set my mind to it. It is a place where I can be silly and lighthearted, but also a place where I can explore the deeper parts of myself. I can escape with dance, put on my costume drag and be A Performer; or I can go deep inside myself and share my heart and soul. I can be strong and also vulnerable. I feel respected when I dance and I have learned through dance to trust myself and believe in my own power.
For these reasons, and more, I am immensely grateful for dance, and for all the wonderful people I dance with. And in difficult times, when I forget my own strength, I turn back to dance to remind me.
So, I want to know what you are grateful for. What makes your life richer, what gives you strength, what helps you believe in yourself?
Note: the dancer pictured is not me. She is Heather Stants, one of my favourite dancers and a huge inspiration to me.