When I entered kindergarten, I was extraordinarily shy. I was petrified of adults, and happy to sit quietly and observe. My real disposition for chattiness was only evident to my family and a few friends. During the first week of kindergarten reading circle I met my elementary school bestie, Alison. She was everything I was not--a peppy, confident ham. She embraced many of the qualities that were still dormant in me. I was fascinated by her enthusiasm and mesmerized by her lack of inhibitions.
I don’t believe in chance encounters. I believe the people we draw into our lives are a reflection of where we are in our journey. Often they mirror what we believe about ourselves, or something we need to cultivate, or perhaps they are filled with qualities that we celebrate in our own lives. What Alison gave to me, in our first few years as friends, was my first step in embracing my wild, uninhibited, true self.
I was eight years old when it happened. Alison and I were filled with the exhilaration that accompanies any childhood sleepover. Her parents were out for the evening. Like any good babysitter, ours had created a dance party in the living room. I watched carefully with trepidation while Alison, and her equally as peppy sister, danced with what appeared to be complete bliss. I was hesitant, and still a bit shy, but young enough to be influenced by the contagiousness of joy. With a gentle tone, the babysitter encouraged me onto the “dance floor” and declared that it was my turn to take the stage. And so I began to dance.
Wait, it gets better.
The song blaring from the speakers? "She’s a Maniac" from the 1983 movie Flashdance. And yes, I quite literally channeled my maniac. I was a scrawny little eight-year-old girl who let my freak flag fly for the first time. I became lost in the dance zone. For the next 30 minutes or so, "She’s a Maniac" played on repeat while I had the time of my life (Dirty Dancing pun intended). It was a perfect moment. I was lost in feeling free, uninhibited and alive.
It took me years to realize that childhood gives us a sense of self that we often lose as we grow older. When we are young we instinctively do the things that make us feel alive. And in these moments we radiate the best of who we are. My free-spirited, extroverted and fun-loving self was all over that living room dance floor.
In time, we develop the self-consciousness that comes from worry about other people’s perceptions of our actions and behaviors. At eight years old, I had little sense of how “stupid” I looked. I had no knowledge of how my dancing compared to others' skills. I was dancing because it felt amazing, it filled me up, it connected me to a part of myself that felt magical.
It becomes so easy to look up and find our lives built around car payments, mortgages, jobs and expectations. In the quest to be responsible and settled, we often forget how to be free. How to play. How to fill ourselves up with moments that energize us and make us feel alive. And the most unfortunate part of our adult disconnection is that those are the very moments which often connect us to the most authentic part of ourselves.
As an adult, when I was first searching for the uninhibited side of myself again, I looked back to my childhood. I remembered that day, dancing in the living room and feeling free. I committed myself to reconnecting with that eight-year-old scrawny maniac.
It was such a refreshing realization to discover that taking steps in my life towards feeling connected and alive again was as simple as starting to dance. It sounds so cliché, but it’s true. The specific activity doesn’t matter, the level of talent is irrelevant; what matters is honoring yourself enough to remember what fills you up, and taking just one step towards bringing an activity that allows you to get lost in bliss back into your life. At the core of that blissful moment is your true, uninhibited and free self. It is the best of who you are. And when you give yourself permission to reconnect with your maniac, you will find yourself having the time of your life…