You’re Not Alone Anymore
“We read to know we are not alone.” — C. S. Lewis
About two months ago, my mentor messaged me, “Hey, we’re going to change the videos on the TV in front of Toronto Dance Salsa. We are going to put up a video of you dancing.”
My response was immediate and emphatic; “No we are not.”
Bewildered, my mentor asked why. I was honest. “It makes me uncomfortable. It feels weird. I don’t deserve it and the studio is not about me.”
He has been my mentor for about eight years and he no longer coddles me. He gets to the point. So he responded. “You are being a baby. You #belong. Go post the videos.”
I reluctantly agreed and posted the videos. You may have seen some of the videos at the studio or on TikTok or Instagram. They are videos of me dancing and little snippets of these stories. But I’m embarrassed. Part of it is that I feel vulnerable. When I’m dancing and storytelling in class it feels great. In class, I am with my people but now it is out in the world for everyone to see. I still think people are going to laugh at me. People rejected my stories when I first became the director of Toronto Dance Salsa. And so I don’t feel like I belong up there.
I know it sounds crazy but the fear of rejection is real for all of us. So when I walk into the studio and people are looking at the TV screen, I hide my face – I will pull down my hat, pull up a scarf or just cover my face with my hand.
But I started to feel a bit better about the videos last Saturday. I was working in the studio and sitting at the table near the door. Which I rarely do. Usually, I work in the back room so I don’t get distracted. But I glanced up and this little nine-year-old boy has his face pressed against the window, staring at me. I tried to ignore him and keep working. But after a minute, I can feel that he is still there, so hesitantly I looked up and smiled.
He peeled his face away from the glass, walked over a step or two to look at the TV, frowned and then came back to look at me. He went back and forth a couple of times. And he frowned the whole time. I was completely flustered by this point. My work was abandoned and I become obsessed with why he was frowning. “Is the video awful? Did I do a bad job? Did I mess up the dancing? What is wrong?”
Finally, recognition dawned on his face. And he pointed at me through the glass and mouthed the words: “Is that you?” He was still frowning and his gestures were bold and aggressive. His intensity reminded me of Roberto De Niro. And I admit I was intimidated by a nine-year-old. I desperately wanted to say no, shake my head and deny any knowledge of the man on the TV screen.
But I nodded my head and said yes. The kid paused, gave me a thumbs up and said “Good job!”
That was not what I was expecting. In shock, I said “What?”
He started clapping and said; “Good job. I like it. Keep it going!”
I smiled, said thank you and then he ran away.
My thirteen-year-old self was incredibly happy. The boy whose friends had built new tribes and sat alone, eating lunch by himself, got a hug. He got a hug and it felt so nice.
It reminded me that we all have gone through times of loneliness. But I’m not going through it alone anymore. I have my tribe – you and the dance community. So if you don’t feel like you belong and you fear rejection, know that is your inner kid. That inner kid is hurt and crying. Hug him and remind him that you are no longer alone. At a minimum, at least know that at TDS you #belong.
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