Personal Column: Living life like no one is watching


Kennedy Stidham, Editor-in-Chief

By Kennedy Stidham, Editor-in-Chief

When I was little, I lived to dance. I came home every day after school and immediately changed into my leotard and tutu. I spent countless hours in my room, which I reimagined to be a grand stage, leaping and whirling and twirling.

At that age, my family thought my obsession with dance was cute. They sat through all of my home performances and “ooh”-ed and “ah”-ed on cue. They were supportive of my dreams of becoming a ballerina and promised to enroll me in dance classes, where they assured me that I would shine.  

I recall the exact moment that I was exposed to the cold truth. I was auditioning for the summer camp talent show with my independently choreographed dance routine for “What Dreams are Made Of”, and at the finale, I felt a rush of adrenaline and pride.

I was feeling so confident, so you can imagine my devastation when the judge broke it to me that I just didn’t have “what it takes” to be a dancer, and that I should re-audition, but with a different talent, one that “better suited my strengths”. Her criticism cut me to the core. It was the first time I had ever been told that I was bad at dancing. It was the first time I had ever been told that I was bad at anything. And the pain of rejection and failure would linger for a while.

My mom, who was quite the dancing diva back in her day, tried to rectify the situation. Following the auditions, she exhausted herself working to improve my skills and routine. But it was just no use, and after five hours of lessons, she deemed me hopeless. “Maybe you should just recite a poem,” she sighed, trying to comfort me.

That summer, I did recite a poem. I also threw away my leotard and tutu and finally stopped bugging my parents about dancing lessons. I gave up on my dreams and worked towards something more practical: things I could actually be good at.

I spent the next ten years of my life avoiding the very thing that I loved. At parties, while my friends got their groove on, I stood still, admiring their freedom and finesse. As badly as I wanted to join them, I restrained myself because I was afraid of rejection, of humiliation, and in the strangest sense, of failure.

And this insecurity infected other aspects of my life. Any time I was criticized, I was discouraged. When my aunt said I looked a little chubby in jeans I loved to wear, I threw them away. When I decided that I wanted to study medicine, it took one person saying, “No, that’s not for you” for me to decide, that they were right; no it wasn’t. I doubted my own instincts, neglected my own desires, and abandoned my own dreams – all for irrelevant stamps of approval from everyone else.

And I guess, things have turned out okay because I have been successful enough. I am an award-winning journalist and am set to graduate as valedictorian in May. These successes have certainly been rewarding, and they have helped me build up self esteem. But if I’m being completely honest, all I really want to do is dance.

And so I will… because “life is about dancing like no-one is watching”. I have learned that to truly be happy, I must step off of the sidelines and back on to the dance floor.

I dance in public now, off rhythm and out of sync with everyone around me. I lose myself in the music and in the movement and mute my concerns over popular opinion. I am unapologetically me when I dance, and I strive to have the same attitude with life.