So recently I helped host an open session with a dancer by the name Chaz Cabonce. Chaz brought his open session crew over, DJed some old school beats, and we had a blast. Although it was pretty intimidating seeing these great dancers kill it on the dance floor, it was an enlightening one. Everyone was so creative, everyone was so open, and everyone was willing to share their knowledge, acting as both teacher and student.
However, I learned that inside of me, I still couldn’t let loose. Let loose what, I’m still not sure. I guess I felt like, compared to such creative and inspired people, I would look like a fool. What moves do I have to show? What could I offer to the table that’s new an interesting?
Ever since I was very young, I sucked at performing. I used to sing, and performed in packed restaurants for a small period in my life. But I hated performing in front of people so much, one day I threw such a huge tantrum my mother decided it was best for me to quit.
When I was young, I also learned how to play the cello and was pushed to compete. I hated it. Every time I waited for my turn, my hands would sweat like crazy, and butterflies would lurch around in my stomach. When I got on stage, everyone could tell that the stage was the place where I wanted to be at least. My self-conscience and my fear of being judged tortured me, and contorted my concentration. And when my hand slipped, and I flubbed a note, my face—and my body— would give everything away.
It wasn’t just singing and cello performances that made me nauseous. I cracked under pressure when playing close games in tennis. I had a great fear of public speaking. At one point in my life, I was so shy I couldn’t even talk to cashiers, waiters and waitresses, and even to people over the phone.
Fear of being judged? Failure to meet expectations? Lack of self confidence? A predisposed cognitive disposition? The environment I was raised in? Whatever the circumstances, I often felt alone and scared in a giant, complicated, and seemingly hostile world.
People will tell me, the feelings I felt were normal. Just get over it. Learn to deal with it. Conquer it. But everywhere I went, everyone wore masks and hid their own fears and anxiety. No where could I find refuge in true understanding or empathy. If I were to find a way to conquer my fears and solve my problems, it had to be by myself.
And so I took refuge in my own mind. I began to think longer and harder— about everything. I tried to engage in all facets of metacognition. When I made mistakes, had embarrassing moments, when I failed time and time again; I would always try to derive some sort of lesson, morale, and deeper understanding of what happened, and why it happened the way it did. Whenever I felt negative or pessimistic, I would dissect my emotions and try to understand the cause. When I was alone or felt isolated, I would dream up worlds in my head, create story lines, go on fantastical adventures, and try to experience a more interesting, inspiring life by virtue of my imagination.
My thinking eventually started to find its manifestations through my writing. I wrote in my journals ideas, poems, essays, story ideas; anything that was thinkable was writable. And throughout it all, I was trying to find something— perhaps myself.
Since then, I truly believe I’ve made progress. And although I may not be as amazing, as accomplished, as smart or talented as other people; although I may not be leading any races or making a huge impact on society right now—I understand myself better now. I will relentlessly pursue my hopes, dreams, and visions. And that’s a start.