Do More of What Makes You Awesome

In December I participated in the Stratejoy Holiday Council and loved it. One of the things I found extremely helpful about the workshop was it helped me break down my goals for the year into easy to manage pieces. I decided to set goals for two months at a time so that every 60 days I have a different theme and specific things that I’m working on. This has been my theme for March-April:

Why I chose this as a theme: I’ve realized that I’m the best version of myself when I make time to do the things I love: being creative, writing, dancing, pushing my body & getting in regular sweaty workouts, listening to my favourite music, engaging with the world and learning new things. I’ve learned that when I don’t make time for these things, I feel depressed and bogged down.

Have you ever had the feeling like you no longer recognize your own life? Where you think of the person you used to be when you were younger and think “Where did I go?”. Where you spend whole days feeling guilty and discouraged because it feels like you’re not living up to your potential? I’ve had many of these moments. Actually, I spent a huge chunk of my twenties feeling this way. These moments are sad and they’re hard, but they’re also sobering. I believe that if you can recognize something is wrong, you can change it.

When I was a child I had so many diverse interests and things I was totally nerdy about. I swam, ran track competitively, took pottery classes, competed in public speaking competitions, collected stamps, read voraciously, sketched, painted, sang in a choir, played the cello and spoke fluent French. I also danced ballet. I didn’t think so at the time but I was a classic overachiever. Although a lot of my other interests fell to the wayside (when was the last time I made pottery?!), ballet was the one that stuck. By the time I was in my pre-teens I was in the dance studio 4-5 times a week after school.

Although I loved ballet and had the right body type, I didn’t have the stomach for it: the long hours, the constant, never ending criticism, the impossible quest for perfection. Ballet is part art-form, part psychological warfare. It’s a lot to handle when you’re not a fully formed adult emotionally. At some point in my late teens, ballet  just stopped being fun. I wanted to feel like a normal teenager – go out on dates, join the drama club, have a life outside of dance – so, I cut back.

When I moved to Toronto as an 18 (soon to be 19) year old, I swapped the dance studios of my childhood for underground clubs, my pointe shoes for platforms, and piano solos for the bumping bass of house music. Compared to an hour and a half ballet class in pointe shoes, dancing all night in 5 inch heels seemed like a breeze. The upside is that I developed an abnormally high tolerance for foot pain. The downside is that I eventually reached a point in my mid 20’s, where I was working in an office job I hated, swilling vodka on the weekends and wondering “What have I become. Where did all my interests go?!”

Although I took dance classes sporadically while I lived in Toronto, I never made it a priority. Even though I missed ballet, I think I was afraid of feeling of how I used to feel when I took ballet classes as a teenager: picked on, criticized, imperfect, never good enough. Instead of facing my fears, I made excuses as to why I wasn’t taking ballet classes: work, stress, school, relationships, money etc. When I was in my late 20’s I suffered a really bad back injury. My excuse then became “I’ll go back to ballet when my back is better.” However, since being diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease and arthritis, I’ve realized that my back is never going to be fully “better” and it seems silly to not do something that I enjoy.

To really be in love with my life, I need to dance. Just like I need to write. As I was telling my Mom the other day, I’d really like to take a ballet class where nothing is on the line, where the only person I’m trying to impress is myself. So, that’s what I have decided to do! I got so excited about the prospect of dancing again, that I the other night I dug out my old pointe shoes and took them for a whirl around the kitchen…

Since I haven’t taken a ballet class in a really long time, I decided to ease back into it by taking Barre Method. The classes are a blend of yoga, pilates and ballet exercises. I love it! As I was explaining to my friend Kate, “It’s like X-treme Ballet.” We do typical ballet moves but with weights, balls and lots of reps, all set to fun music. And oh boy, do you feel it. Like actual ballet, it’s hard work but the hard is what makes it good. In case you were wondering, it also gives you glutes and abs that could crush cans.

{Photo via Barreworks, Toronto}

It feels really good to move my body in this way again. Just like when I visit Quebec or France and immerse myself in French, doing ballet exercises again makes me feel like my body is remembering a language it learned many years ago. I’m starting with Barre Method so that I’ll be ready to take an actual dance class in the summer. Who knows, after that I may even brush up on my French!

Sometimes I wonder if maybe we get it right the first time. If what we are passionate as children is a reflection of our true calling in life. I was a kid who loved dancing, telling stories and learning about the world – which, essentially describes who I am now. I don’t think our essential selves really change that much from when were children, it’s just that life piles on so much bullshit that sometimes they get buried under other people’s expectations of who we should be. I imagine if we all peeled back the layers, we’d find our beautiful, shiny, awesome cores. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do more of what makes you awesome: my new life mantra.

What makes you awesome? 

  • This post is really awesome! I I think you definitely have something there – getting back to what you loved doing when you were younger. I’m trying to make my lists and figure out how to get back to doing what I was passionate about, too.

    • skinny_dip

      Thanks Tazim! What you’re doing sounds awesome. Let me know what kinds of discoveries you make 🙂

  • This is so great, and so important! I had no idea you were a trained dancer. I am jealous. I never had the body or coordination for it, but I have always wished I could do dance for fitness.

    • skinny_dip

      Thanks Rease! You should look into doing a Barre Method class – anyone can do it & you get all the fitness benefits of ballet 🙂

  • Jen

    I love this post!

    • skinny_dip

      Thank you!!