My early childhood years were the opposite of overscheduled. My brother, cousins, and I were left to our own devices to play and entertain ourselves more often than not. Sometimes there was adult supervision…and sometimes there wasn’t. There was a brief stint at weekly piano lessons, but they didn’t last too long. But when I moved in with my dad and stepmom, things changed. My stepmom believed in the importance of developing and nurturing talents. She was also a stay-at-home mom who could organize and supervise such activities. Piano lessons were resumed and she enrolled me in ballet class and Saturday Chinese school. At one point there were also ice skating lessons.
Unlike piano, I really wanted to learn ballet, but starting as an 8th grader was awkward and challenging to say the least. The other kids in the class were all younger than me; the dancers my age were already taking more advanced classes. My body did not and never did fit the stereotype of what a ballerina’s body should look like. My stepmom would watch and wait for me, giving me tips after class on how to improve. I stuck with it for a little bit of time. Then one day my mom bought me a mug with a Sandra Boynton image on it much like the one pictured:
It was supposed to be cute. Unfortunately, a dancing hippo was exactly how graceful I felt in class. I gave up on ballet.
That could’ve been the end of dance for me, but over time I came to realize that I could enjoy dancing and it didn’t have to be ballet and I didn’t even have to be “good” at it! It also turns out that getting my body moving is not only a way for me to stay physically healthy, it’s a way to cope with the stress and anxiety that comes with adulthood. I may sometimes dance as gracefully as those hippos, but now I don’t let that stop me.