Belonging isn’t a Place

“Once we belong thoroughly to ourselves and believe thoroughly in ourselves, true belonging is ours.” Brene Brown

You belong anywhere you go as long as you don’t betray yourself for what you stand for. You may have seen this in my emails or heard me say it in classes and it is an idea that I try to live by. I always dreamed of a place where I could go where I would finally feel that I belonged. But I’ve learned some things since then. Belonging isn’t a place. Belonging is getting yourself to a place where you become uncompromising in your values.   

When I first took over the dance school, I was enthusiastic, excited, and severely underqualified. I had no leadership experience and was impulsive and insecure. Even eight years after taking over the school, I’m still working on some of those things. But when I first took over I burnt a lot of bridges with the instructors and the volunteers. As I slowly improved, my vision for the school became clearer. Toronto Dance Salsa could be so much more than a dance school. It could be about helping people heal. Dancing is simply the vehicle for connection and healing. Part of that included me sharing my experiences, struggles and stories with others. The stories would make others feel less alone. Hopefully, they would inspire a few to take action in their own lives. 

There was a lot of resistance. Instructors and helpers and senior students complained. They were uncomfortable because that is not the type of dance school they had signed up for. I faced a lot of rejection and I’ll be honest, it stung. So I would compromise and adjust a little. But the place I loved so much became increasingly different from my vision. I felt like an outsider. 

At our socials, I would feel disconnected, like I shouldn’t be there. Cliques and pockets of different instructors and helpers started to form. I felt completely alone. But everyone belongs! I thought it must be me and I compromised some more. So I bent and kept trying to improve myself and help others. 

When the pandemic hit, a lot of the old instructors and helpers had already stepped back. They were not comfortable with the new school. I took this as an opportunity for a reset. I was going to rebuild the school with my values intact. No more compromises. 

And so I made some difficult decisions. Instructors would have to do huddles and stories if they want to teach at TDS. Volunteers had to be interested in helping others, not just caring about dance. I was terrified. But I was also excited. My life would no longer be about bending and breaking and compromising my values for others. 

So something incredible happened last Saturday at our social. I was sitting at the table and I saw my mentor dancing with his wife. He’s known me for 12 or 13 years. He is the one who coaches me and trains me and continues to believe in me. He cracked a joke about the old days of TDS. I don’t even remember the joke, but I started to tear up. I teared up because as I looked out at the studio where everyone was dancing, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and belonging within myself.

I think about what I am trying to do at TDS, everyone who is part of my school. How I work hard to make sure everyone feels like they belong. What if you move away from Toronto? There is no belonging anymore? No that’s not correct.

All those years at TDS and I felt just a few weeks a more truer sense of belonging because…

Belonging isn’t a place BUT getting YOURSELF to a place where you don’t betray yourself or what you stand for.

When you do that long enough, you attract the right kind of people, and the right vibes and you feel at peace and you #belong. 

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