Most stories are built in chapters.
If we look back over the course of our lives, we will notice that one chapter of life was built as a stepping stone for the next. As I look back, I see the truth of this in my own life.
(This has ended up being very long so I will publish it over the course of a few days. If you so desire, please check back for the continuation. Now, let’s begin…)
Chapter one: Passion was Born
I was born in Columbia, Mississippi. From what I hear, I entered this world dancing.
At the age of two and a half, my parents registered me for dance classes at a neighborhood studio a block from our home. I do remember it…I remember there was a garage type building that was the studio with what I believe was a covered area that led to Miss Yvette’s house. Yes, I even remember her name. I recall taking my baby doll to dance classes and dancing with her. Or was that later? I’m not sure, but what I do remember is that I loved to dance. I’d twirl in my nightgowns in our family living room pretending I was dancing on stage.
I do not have memories of my first dance recital. However, the story goes that I did not want to go out on the stage. It must not have been like our living room at home. I was a very shy and timid child. My mother loves to share the story that once I was on the stage I stood there with my finger up my nose. Then she also loves to tell how when the dance number was over, I didn’t want to leave the stage. If I’m correct (if not I feel certain she will comment and correct me), she had to remove me from the stage.
That birthed a passion for dance. I loved to dance. I practically grew up in a dance studio as I had classes from elementary to high school multiple times a week for hours on end. And I loved it.
My heart’s desire and passion was to be a professional dancer.
Chapter Two: Neighbors Neighbors Neighbors
We had moved from Mississippi to my Mother’s home state of Texas during the middle of my first grade year. We moved into our newly built home in the summer between first and second grades. By the time I was in third grade I had made a wonderful friend my age along with several other younger children. I began choreographing dance routines and would teach them to my new friends. We would have rehearsals after school in my make shift dance studio (aka, the “parlor” of our home that my dad had laid plywood for my tap dance practices.) Yes, in third grade.
Once the routines were set, my girlfriend and I hung string in the garage and draped sheets over it to create curtains. We’d then put handwritten flyers with the date and time of our performance on our neighbors’ doors to invite them. We set up my little record player (remember those?) in the garage and performed for the few dedicated who would humor us with their attendance. We didn’t care the size of the crowd, our stage-faces would shine bright and we’d dance our little tooshies off. (One time we even charged a penny and yes, we did have people pay.)
Chapter three: Weight Challenges
I was never a skinny kid. I was one who even as a young child was considered a little chubby. I recall going on my first diet while still in elementary school around 5th grade. Too young! As I grew into adolescence, my weight would seesaw up and down. As I continued in dance, the activity helped to keep the weight in check. However, when my routine was lighter during summer breaks, the weight would creep back up.
chapter four: Dreams Squashed
In my early teen years, I began having problems with my back and left hip as a result of skating and bicycle injuries as a child. This led to many appointments with many different doctors, chiropractors, bone and joint specialists, etc. over the course of a couple of years. At one appointment where I was to get an injection into my hip-joint, the doctor took X-rays and came into the room and nonchalantly announced for some odd reason that I only had about an inch more to grow to be my full height.
“WHAT? NO!” I’m only 5 feet tall and professional dancers (especially in those days) had height requirements. I was nowhere near that height! “Tell me you are wrong!” I’m sure the color left my face. I began to cry. Not due to the pain of the six-inch needle going into my hip, but due to the doctor’s words slapping me in the face – and heart.
I left there hoping he was wrong. I continued with my passion. I’m telling you, I loved to dance! Although I was extremely shy and very timid, when on stage with spotlights shining on me I could not see the audience faces. It was just me with my dance companions on that stage or by myself when performing solo routines. With the bright lights blinding me I could “turn it on” and perform to my heart’s content. Dancing was my release of expression and allowed me to open myself up to the world without intimidation. Dancing was my passion!
chapter five: Something Broke
Going from a young teen to an older teen, my passion continued. However, now it had taken on a new aspect. It was no longer just about me. I absolutely adored teaching others. I began working at multiple recreation centers in different suburbs teaching from three-year-olds to adults. By this time I had come to realize my dream of being a professional dancer was not in my future. At the age of 19, I was choreographing, conducting, orchestrating and arranging costumes for full dance recitals for multiple classes.
While conducting the very first recital as a dance instructor, the recreation center’s Director informed me I would need to introduce the recital and speak to the parents and grandparents in attendance. I begged her to not make me do it, it brought me to tears. I’m the one who whenever called to the front of a class to give an answer would literally hear my knees knock, would lose my voice or worse, collapse from jelly-legs. I’d be sick on days that oral reports would be expected (I became quite good at making the thermometer get to just the right temperature when my Mother’s back was turned.)
But she insisted and I did it. And something broke! The fear that had plagued me to that point in my life was gone. I stood there in that Junior High School auditorium, no bright lights shining in my face–only the houselights–and spoke. And as I did, I began to feel at ease. I saw the faces of the same parents that I would easily speak to individually at lessons each week, and they were smiling back at me in a large group setting. I was free from that intimidation. Or at least it was the start.
chapter six: Transitioning into Adulthood
After my son was born while in my early 20’s, I experienced something for the very first time. Obesity…