I was driving home late from the studio after teaching a seriously hard Hip Hop Aerobic class and I started thinking about the fact that I am living my dream.
Have you ever had a childhood dream? That thing that you think about all the time. The something you always wanted to try but didn't. I did once when I was a chunky little 5 year old dancing for my family on Thanksgiving. We lived in the hood, and didn't have a ton of money so this was our form of entertainment, 6 children, singing and dancing (badly).
Since I was five years old, I envisioned myself as a dancer. It never occurred to me that I would not be a dancer until I took a ballet class with stuck up Ms. (never-mind-her-name) who told me I could never be a dancer with those hips. I was devastated! In that moment I decided that I was too fat to dance and stopped.
I went through the rest of my pre-teen years knowing something was missing. I tried everything from band to track and field. Nothing made me feel the way dance did. It was my happy moment and my hiding place from all the disturbing things I was forced to know growing up in the ghetto.
Just before I was to begin High School, my family moved (abruptly) to a small city called Vacaville in California. I was in complete culture shock. There were no other people who were culturally like my family. We were a large family of mixed kids with skin colors ranging from vanilla to cocoa, and "good hair". We were like a side show attraction at school because there were no other "mixed kids", or black kids for that matter. We were as African American as it got in Vacaville. I said all that to say, it was instant fame, and just the boost my self esteem needed in order to try out for the Cheerleading Squad.
So I did it, and to everyone's surprise, including mine, I made it. I was so excited until I saw the uniforms. I cried for days trying to figure out how I was going to get my hips into that little skirt. They obviously never had to fit any sista's in those things. Then I met Mrs. Spangler. She was the Cheer Coach, and she was very round, always happy, and everything (in her eyes) had a bright side. She reassured me that if I would trust her, and do everything she asks of me, I would be that best Cheerleader the City of Vacaville had ever seen. She believed in me, so I believed in her and she did just what she said she would do, and then some. As it turned out, I was the best Cheerleader in the Nation, which gave me the confidence to start the school’s first dance team. What life was missing was revived. I was a dancer again, and my shape was not an issue.
Leaping ahead, shortly after I graduated, I had a series of well paying, yet unfulfilling jobs. All I could think about everyday was getting off so I could teach at one of the many school programs I volunteered for. Then, I became a wife and mom, and my universe came to a halt, shifted gears, and began to revolve around my family. But dance never left me. She remained my best friend, even when my family moved to a new town, Sacramento, California.
Once we were planted, I began to make lots of friends in the dance community. I discover several amazing dance programs and got involved with them. I would teach whatever they would have me teach, but noticed that not many of them had culturally rich programming, and they missed an element I knew was key to helping any child learn to dance. Encouragement. There was a lot of 5-6-7-8, but very little personal interfacing with the children. It was at my daughters first dance recital that I realized what dance in this city needed.... Me!
Since, it has been the most amazing roller coaster ride. I discovered, through dance, that I am strong, I am a business woman, and I am joyfully a second mother to more than 700 children I didn't have to birth (whew!). I responded to the call to touch the lives of generations of future leaders. I was given the opportunity to deposit hope, encouragement, and build self esteem, all packaged in dance. What an honor to walk such a path in life!
My dream found me when I was a shy, slightly overweight, 5 year old girl who loved entertaining her impoverished family by dancing for them. Your dream will find you too, if it hasn't already. And when it does, never let anyone discourage you from living your dream. Some may try, not because of you, but because of them.
We are all designed to do something special. Something unique and wonderful, that lends to the greater good, and fills us to the brim with joy all at the same time.
My Dream was to be a dancer.... What's your Dream?