You’re not the Problem
“If they are not believers, it doesn’t mean you are not magic.” Unknown
If you’re constantly feeling like option B with someone, that’s not your problem, that’s their problem. Even today after over a decade of dancing, I can’t help but want my partner to smile. And last year, I was reminded that I’m not in control of other people’s happiness.
It was my birthday and I went out dancing with two of my friends. It was incredible! The pandemic was lifting and I saw people I hadn’t seen in years. People who were students when I was in class. Some of my former students. It was beautiful.
I finished one dance and I saw another woman and as is customary, I tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to dance. As she turned around, she looked me up and down stony-faced. Then I saw her subtly look around for a better option than me. A little soul-crushing, but I stood firm. She finally looked up, completely unimpressed and said “Yeah, I guess. Sure.”
Not exactly an inspiring start. At first, I was frustrated, then angry, then excited. Because in my mind, I was thinking, this girl has no idea who I am or how much fun we’re gonna have. I’m gonna prove it to her. So we started to dance. I pulled out all the stops. I did every move that always makes someone smile after dancing with me. The weird moves, the goofy moves, the sexy moves, the cool moves. I tried them all. The moves I teach, moves I don’t teach, and moves I was creating on the spot. But no matter what I did, she remained stony-faced. And my confidence started to crumble.
About halfway through the song, as I’m dipping her – she yawned! And she started to look around for other partners – as I was dipping her! I honestly wanted to walk away. But I make it a rule to always finish a dance. That doesn’t mean that I can’t give her an exit. I just looked at her and said, “Hey, listen, if you’re tired, or maybe you want to dance with someone else – we can stop.”
She checked out the dancers nearby, then looked up at me with the same blank expression and said, “No. I think it’s fine. We can finish the dance.”
For some reason, her dispassionate answer hurt even more. I definitely felt like option B at that point. As we finished the dance, I still smiled and said thank you. But I needed a moment to recover. I sat down at a Salsa Club, which I rarely do. I was frustrated and thought maybe I was at fault. Have you ever felt like that where you do everything you can to make someone happy? But it is still not enough. And you blame yourself.
I was definitely spiralling down. But then I heard this scream of joy. “Oh my gosh! It’s Aleks!” It was like I was a celebrity. So, I got up from the chair and looked around. This tiny woman makes her way through the throng of people and squeals again, “Oh my gosh – you’re Aleks!” She is so excited that she is jumping up and down.
Immediately, I match her energy and start jumping up and down as well. “Yes, I’m Aleks. But I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are. Were you one of my students?”
She is still jumping as she replies, “No. I’m from India and I just moved to Toronto two weeks ago.”
I stopped jumping because I was utterly confused. “I don’t understand. How do you know me?”
“Before I moved, I looked on Instagram for Salsa in Toronto and I found your profile. Not only do I love the way you dance, but I love your energy and your stories. You have such positive energy. Would you do me the honour of dancing with me?”
Immediately, I teared up. As low as I felt, there was a person who thought I was enough. She pulled me onto the dance floor. We started dancing and we were laughing and goofing around. It was a great dance. At the end of the dance, I hugged her.
But after this wild swing of emotions between the two dances, I again needed to sit down and recover. The experience taught me a great lesson. No matter what I did with my first dance partner, I didn’t feel like I was enough. With my last dance partner, I didn’t have to do anything and I was enough. It reminded me that on a dance floor, even when it feels like a person is dancing with you, sometimes they only have one foot in. That’s how it is in life. If you find that you often feel like Option B, that’s not a you problem. That’s a them problem. So don’t compromise. You are enough and you #belong. You’re no B. In my eyes, you are an A.
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