I felt lonely my whole life since I was little, I felt like an outsider looking in and even though I had friends and people to hang out with, I never quite felt like I belong.
Especially when the pandemic hit and our school had to shut down, I felt so frustrated and powerless because all over the news, they said, social distancing is what we need to do. Instead of calling it physical distance, they called it social distancing. I just saw so many people in my life, just lock themselves away. I was just sad because our studio was always a place where people can come and not feel lonely.
That’s what I built. I built this dance school up from the idea that the world’s biggest problem is loneliness and it’s so basic too and it’s normal to feel that way. There’s nothing wrong with you or me if we feel lonely. But what I’ve learned over the years is, when I surround myself in the right environment, I don’t have to feel that.
Welcomed With Open Arms
I’ve had many moments where I’ve been surrounded by dozens and hundreds of people who love me and I wasn’t ‘alone’, and still felt lonely. What I learned was the first step to not feeling lonely, is being part of a group of people that welcome you with open arms.
So when I started teaching at the school I would always wait by the entrance as students would come in and I would hug them. I’d say “Hi, Happy Monday” (Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.). Because before they even walked in, I want them to feel that they were welcome.
We all want to feel like we belong in a tribe, welcomed by a tribe.
As students would arrive, from Level 1 (beginner) all the way to Level 6, people who didn’t feel like they could dance, didn’t feel like they could move or coordinate, would already be smiling. Something so basic but most people don’t put effort into, welcome and open energy.
Seek to Understand
I made sure to also understand all of them individually one by one because that’s what I wanted.
I felt lonely not because people didn’t agree with me, I felt lonely because people didn’t take the time to understand me, to see me.
It’s so common that as you isolate yourself, as I isolated myself, you feel like there’s no one in your life. I had to learn that. If I sit around nothing changes, I have to go and do something and be part of something where connection and belonging are built into it.
And so, when our school closed down, and I started to do virtual classes for free, and so many other things, I started to feel like, “oh, I’m not alone” and, “oh, I’m not lonely” because I’m going out and I’m creating a space for other people like me who feel lonely that we can all connect.
The last part of belonging for me that I needed most is validation. Not just “Hey Aleks, that’s a really good job” but recognized for the unique person that I am. I think deep down when we’re part of a tribe, we want to feel like the space that we take up has a use to the group.
It’s so unconscious but that need that we are needed, cared for in the group.
When I teach a Salsa or Bachata, or whatever else I’m teaching, I make sure to walk around and complement specifically each person in their unique way, recognize them, recognize their effort.
Say: “Hey David, I remember you were struggling with this last week, or earlier in class, man I am so proud of how you are growing” I mean wow right? I needed that so badly in my life.
I believe in my heart that for every student that shows up at my studio, that’s one less lonely person out in the world.
That’s my mission. I’d like to cure loneliness and so dance is a tool for that because when you start to dance and now you’re dancing in a positive environment where people accept you and they cheer you on, you feel like you’re part of this massive tribe where you’re growing and connecting and making you friends and feeling loved and loving others.
When you’re in that space, you don’t feel lonely because you know, you belong, in a that values YOU, a tribe that needs you.
I still have my moments when I feel lonely.
It’s not like I’ve suddenly cured it but compared to when I was 13 or 18 or even 3-4 years ago, I feel a lot less lonely As a continue to surround myself with positive people with people who accept me with open hands and arms and people who work to understand me and how I see the world and acknowledge me, It’s so basic…but that’s what we all really want.
I know that everyone is starving for it especially now during the pandemic. So If you’re reading this and you’ve read this up to this point, thank you so much and I want to say to you, if you’re living in Toronto then come join the studio because you won’t feel lonely there.
My mission is that every human being on this planet doesn’t feel lonely.
The way I’ll do that is through love and belonging
If you’re living in another city in another country, the good news is there are dance classes in every part of the world. Honestly, dance is a tool, just pick something that lights you up and has a community built-in. It could be rock climbing, taking pictures in nature with others…
Whatever you do surround yourself in an environment where people are cheering you on and making, you feel important, part of a culture where you matter where your efforts are taken into account, and they matter.
Where you will feel like you belong.
If you have any questions you would like me to answer here are some ways you can contact me: message me on Instagram (torontodancesalsa), on Twitter (#torontodancesalsa), on Facebook (Toronto Dance Salsa) or email me at [email protected].