Moving Like I Used To

Besides writing a bunch of nonsense in my journal from a young age, there are two things I did without fail.

Dancing and swimming.

I first learned how to dance by watching Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul music videos when I was seven.

I mimicked every move they made and forced my poor dad to video tape solo performances I would choreograph in my bedroom.

Dressing as shitty as possible was the cool thing in ballet class.
Dressing as shitty as possible was the cool thing in ballet class.

Until finally, even though we totally couldn’t afford it, my dad asked me if I wanted to learn how to dance for real.

I was a complete disaster in class, out of control with no technique unlike the other girls who started dancing when they were five.

But, starting dance class was one of the happiest moments of my life. My enthusiasm was unstoppable.

I worked hard with my “bad feet” and “bad turnout” and used my non-dancer’s body to my advantage, often dancing with the boys because I could jump as high as they could.

I performed in every imaginable place—in parking lots, on football fields, in parks, in classrooms, on stages, on the Queen Mary, a Lakers game, some hotels, gyms, classrooms…I know I’m forgetting plenty.

I wore leotards that always rode up my butt and I was probably the buffest ballerina to ever wear a tutu.

The reason why I hate Nutcracker music.
The reason why I hate Nutcracker music.

Dancing was something I did while working through all of the bullshit of growing up.

I danced forever and taught for a decade until two years ago, when I got so burnt out that I stopped.

I got really into Yoga, got certified and taught quite a bit. It was an incredible experience, but along the way, I felt like something was missing.

I missed moving my hips to a gorgeous rhythm. I missed moving my feet faster than I ever thought possible. I missed moving my arms through the air like they were my special wings.

No, I didn’t get back into my pink tights and pointe shoes. About a month ago I started taking Zumba again.

What I love about Zumba is simply this…you just shut up and dance.

There isn’t a post-mortem after every combination, you’re allowed to laugh at yourself for messing up, and you get to shake your ass non-stop.

I don’t feel the negative effects I knew intimately in the dancing world, like perfectionism or an unhealthy body image.

I didn’t want that. I just wanted to effing move.

Since I starting dancing again, I’ve been overjoyed. I returned to a part of me that I tried to ignore, but I couldn’t.

I know, this dive is worthy of an Olympic medal.
I know, this dive is worthy of an Olympic medal.

I was one of the few Southern California kids who struggled with swimming.

Near-drowning moments and claustrophobia made me fear swimming. Hey, when you’re under water, you can’t breathe.

Kids made fun of me for being a bad swimmer and wearing my floaties well past the acceptable age.

More than anything, I was determined to swim, because I loved the feeling of moving through water.

Swimming was like dancing to me. It was tough and beautiful.

And, just like dancing, I threw every part of myself into swimming. I got over my fears and swam like an ambitious fish.

Then, I got busy with being an adult. Then, I moved to places where swimming was hard to come by.

Portland proved to be challenging as well, except for the gym by my work, which (cue angel singing) has a salt water lap pool. So, I bought a bathing suit, a goofy swim cap, and goggles.

I went swimming on my lunch break yesterday. I got water up my nose and felt like I’d been hit by a car after ten consecutive laps. But for the rest of the day I was serene.

Now I have it down. I’m moving like I used to.

Rockin' the velour and Dorothy Hamill haircut. So stylish.
Rockin’ the velour and Dorothy Hamill haircut. So stylish.

What about you guys? Are there activities/passions you used to do as a kid that you’ve revisited as an adult?

50 thoughts on “Moving Like I Used To

  1. Two things: playing the violin, something I did until I was a sophomore in high school. I missed it, so I started playing again–without a teacher, so far. AND, i learned how to swim freestyle properly. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize that you have to breathe out in order to get more air into your lungs, something my teacher didn’t know he needed to tell me. Quite the revelation to figure this out as an adult.

    Good for you for taking up a healthy form of dance. It seems like such an exuberant form of expression that doesn’t depend on body type.

    1. Wow, awesome! I’ve never actually tried to play an instrument, because it’s the last thing I think I can do. I’m in awe of people who can pull it off. Good for you, Jilanne!

      Haha, on the exhaling during swimming! I watched some YouTube videos before I went and I learned so much. Breathing makes a huge difference.

  2. That’s great – thanks for inspiring me to start moving again! I don’t move much because of writing but writing and dancing and swimming sounds like the perfect combination. I haven’t danced in so long that I’m sure I’d look like a clown but at least I’d be entertaining myself along the way.

  3. Riding, I got me a pony 🙂 Ya know riding a horse bareback for hours is WAY easier when you’re eleven. But I don’t mind the aches and pains. Great post Britt, If you get a chance check out my friend Nicola Keegan’s book, Swimming. I think you’d enjoy it. peaceout

  4. Are we soul sisters or something? I too, danced for a bit in my childhood, left it because it got too draining, then got back into it in high school and college. Have been missing it ever since and just need some kind of push to go take a class again or something. I was on a swim team in middle school but after two tough years, quit because I felt so slow compared to everyone else. Again, I’ve been contemplating on starting it up again recreationally but found so many reasons not to. This might be the exact push I need to just go for it. 🙂

    1. Haha! We just might be soul sisters. That’s crazy!

      You should get back into both dancing and swimming if you’ve been thinking about it. I’d say to take it slow and just try doing each once per week. Then, you can see if you still love it like you used to. (I bet you will.)

  5. You sound extremely happy. I could feel the joy through your words. My moments like this come through playing my flute. I was reminded of that during my daughters band concert this week. I couldn’t wait to get home and get my flute out.

    1. Awesome, honey! That’s so neat that you busted your flute out as soon as you got home.

      Kids are really great reminders, because besides school and homework, they are free from responsibility. They keep us playing. : )

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