For the past couple weeks, a memory from when I was about eight years-old continues to resurface. I was at summer camp and the day of the talent show had arrived. I had signed up to do a dance routine but, here's the kicker, I had intentionally chosen not to choreograph one. For a shy, perfectionist child this would appear wildly uncharacteristic and bordering on self-sabotage. When my camp counselor asked me if I wanted time to practice my dance during general swim, I stunned her by nonchalantly responding, " Nope. I'm going to let the music move me." I then proceeded to run into the pool.
When the time came for me to begin my dance, I took center stage and waited for "Soldier Boy" by The Shirelles to begin playing. As a child of the 80s, I was obsessed with Tiffany, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. So, I cannot explain why I chose "Soldier Boy" for my debut in my camp's talent show. What I do remember is the jolt of paralyzing fear that hit me when the music began playing and I realized I didn't have a plan. But then I did just what I had set out to do. I let the music move me in such spontaneous and whimsical ways. There were a lot of cartwheels, dive-rolls, leaps and spins. While I was mid-cartwheel the music was abruptly cut off and I took a bow when my feet touched the floor. I walked off stage tingling with joy from head-to-toe. I didn't even care that I was cut off because there was no beginning, middle or end to my dance piece. At the wise old age of eight I believed that something magical could happen if I gave myself over to an unplanned and unrehearsed moment. I had been in dance performances before, but they always went by in a blur because I was so focused on the choreography and making sure I was doing everything absolutely right. That intense concentration actually disconnected me from the music and distanced me from the moment.
I am pretty sure I know why this memory has returned. I have just left my job as a classroom teacher to launch my own business at the same time I am trying to find an agent to help me publish my book. I am tumbling through this void which I know is imbued with possibilities but at the same time there is no solid ground or set structure. It is thrilling and terrifying. It's the exact feeling I had when I went on stage without a routine in mind. And yet, my little self came away from that experience full of smiles and confidence. Here's to hoping that my adult self will too!
"Traveler, there is no road;
you make your own path as you walk."
( *Excerpt from "Traveler, Your Footprints" by Antonio Machado)