My dance career began at the young age of three. My poor mother didn’t know what she got herself into when she took her dramatic girl to her first dance class (I love her endlessly for this nevertheless. The support I’ve received from my parents is unreal). Through the years of glittered eyelids, slicked buns, eyelash glue, and practices, I gained the credibility to begin student teaching at my hometown studio at the age of 16. I started off slowly, one beginner ballet class a week. Then I moved my way up to teaching summer choreography intensives. Then to choreographing competitive solos and duets. Then to teaching a lyrical class at a new studio in my college town of Florence. Teaching small humans how to control their bodies in a way that is graceful can be a challenge, no doubt. But how rewarding it is to be able to pass down my adoration for dance to the younger generation. But this isn’t the point of this post. Throughout teaching dance, I’ve learned a valuable lesson in regards to humanity:
Just because something may seem minuscule to us doesn’t mean it isn’t detrimental and paramount to someone else. Vague, I know. But let me explain.
While doing warm-up stretches with my Lyrical 2 class, I always ask them how their day went. How school is going. The works. I normally get the usual “I’m so tired” or “I have so much homework”. I can’t help but think If you guys only knew how exhausted and bogged down with work I am right now. But I stop myself. No one likes a one-upper, so I turn off those thoughts and lend my ears to them. I commiserate with them and listen to their 4th grade problems. I encourage them and greet them from a place of understanding because I have been there before. I have been stressed to the max about learning twelve vocabulary words, multiplication and division, and who to vote for in the class election. We all have! Just because this is no longer a big deal to me doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a big deal to someone else. Why overpower them with my issues and rob them of their seemingly huge events? A little empathy can go a long way.
I’ve always hated the phrase “welcome to the real world” because who is to decide what the real world is supposed to look like? There’s no universal code for this. The real world can look one way to me, a 20 year old, and a completely different way to an eight year old. Honestly, my real world is different than the one I lived in just a year ago. My idea of this changes constantly with the ebb and flow of aging. But if we could all humor the notion for a moment that the real world is not something we magically are given exclusive insight to when we become a certain age. Because if this were to be true, what would we call the time we are living in before we enter this mundane realm of sighs and errands and to-do lists? If this were to be true, does that mean that the opposite of the real world is the fake world? These vivacious children that are teeming with potential are living and breathing and growing and laughing and experiencing life in the fake world? That wouldn’t make sense.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, is living in their own version of the real world. If someone’s version looks different than ours due to a difference in age or schedule, that does not give us the right to discredit theirs. We as humans are each living in a world with personalized emphasis. We don’t live in oblivion until we reach some unidentified age of maturity and we do not have to subscribe to some kind of folklore that tells us otherwise. This is something that applies to any age group. Young adults like me, senior citizens, all of us can understand that we are all experiencing life in a unique yet valuable way. What we are going through in this very moment is instrumental in the molding and shaping of who we are and who we will become. It matters. It is real.
And that’s what I gathered from some sleepy and stressed eight-year-old’s in my Lyrical 2 class.