I sat in my car holding my shoes on my lap and anxiously watching couples walk into the
Boys and Girls Club. It was another dark, rainy evening in Oregon. I had felt unusually adventurous a week ago when I signed up for the class, but I wasn’t feeling very brave as I sat in my car all by myself this evening. What if I wasn’t the only single person there? Maybe the only other single person was another woman or some strange man? What was I thinking when I signed up for this class? I have no co-ordination or rhythm and I hate embarrassing myself. I never do things by myself… I always have a friend nearby for my courage.
With a big sigh of resignation I reach deep within myself and open the door and step out into the rain, clinging to my shoes as if they were my substitute friend there for security. As I walk into the entry of the club the instructor greets me and has me sign some papers and asks if I am ready. I weakly admit I was really nervous and way out of my comfort zone. He reassured me that we would have a good time.
I went to the gym and sat down. I watched out of the corner of my eye the other people already there and those still arriving. I checked out what kind of shoes they were wearing. (I felt self-conscience about the slipper like shoes I had brought) It sure seemed like most everyone had a partner. There were a few single people. I pulled out my phone and pretended to be busy texting to keep from feeling so by myself.
The instructor joined us with his wife. They welcomed all of us to the class and went through all the formalities and introductions and then asked us all if this was our first time taking a swing dance class. I was relieved, when I looked around, to see most everyone’s hand raise or head nod in confirmation. Maybe I won’t be the only clueless person after all. I was still worried about being there by myself.
The instructor then gave us instructions on how to divide up. Couples on one side of the gym and singles on the other side. He highly encouraged those couples who were comfortable enough to split up and join the singles side. He explained that by mixing up you would be able to learn better and not both be struggling with the same issues. I was pleasantly surprised to see about half the couples join the singles side. The way it would work, he explained, is that every ten minutes we would rotate partners.
We all nervously paired up and shyly introduced ourselves. My partner was just as nervous about this whole process as I was. Our instructor explained the first dance step and demonstrated beautifully with his wife how it looked and added a few other moves to show us what we would be doing soon. My partner and I awkwardly joined hands and struggled a bit, like a new-born colt, through our first dance step. I took my shoes off and tossed them onto the bleachers, my socks slid across the floor with ease. We laughed nervously and tried it a few more times. It was time to change partners already. I was just getting comfortable with my first partner. We gave each other a quick smile and thank you and moved on to meet our new partner. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as the first time.
The night progressed on with rotating through about 6 different partners and a variety of new dance steps with enough time to repeat the rotation a few times. By the end of the evening I had danced with an awkward, 20-year-old farm boy in cowboy boots, a gentleman my age who was shorter than me, wearing house slippers. My favorite partner of the night was an 80-year-old gentleman, in black, shiny dress shoes, who still kayaks the McKenzie River when he isn't taking dancing lessons or off on some other new experience. (I sure hope I am like him when I grow up.)
I was disappointed to have the evening end and already couldn’t wait until next week’s lesson. I picked up my shoes from the bleachers, (I had decided not to wear them after all) and said my good-byes and walked back out into the dark, rainy Oregon night. I took a deep breath and let out a sigh of satisfaction and relief knowing that something much more than a dance class had just happened this evening. I tossed the shoes into my car and drove home.
Funny thing, I found those shoes last summer buried in my closet never having been worn and yet they brought a smile of remembrance of the day I stepped out of my comfort zone and started living. I quickly tossed them in a bag for goodwill and rushed off to my math class. This college stuff wasn't so scary after all.