Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Dancing your way to being yourself

By Lauren Vincent

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There is one thing in college I am immensely proud of learning. It is not a political theory or a practical marketing skill. It is a dance move. And it is called the shimmy.

I discovered sometime back in high school that I couldn’t master this one stupid move. For those of you who don’t know, the shimmy involves shaking one’s shoulders back and forth, in, I suppose, a suggestive manner, but very quickly and in a rhythmic way. It doesn’t seem like an important thing to be able to do, but it bothered me. My friends could all do it and explained it to me like I was an idiot: “Just shake your shoulders.” Sure, if I could shake my shoulders without looking like I had a horrible pinched nerve, I would certainly do it. But I could not.

In addition to the shimmy, there were a number of things I believed I couldn’t do. For example, just dancing in general made me feel like an awkward gorilla. This was why I quit going to dance classes my freshman year- not really a big loss in the grand scheme of things. But I seemed to have the same feeling that I was terrible at every aspect of my life. I was on the track team, but I was horribly slow. I was in every play my school put on, but always in the ensemble. I had a good GPA, but was just short of making National Honor Society. That’s not to say that I was constantly hating on myself, but I did put next to no faith in myself. I thought of myself as completely and unchangeably average, even below average sometimes, and it tortured me.

I don’t necessarily regret those days. I was a high schooler. It is not a normal adolescent that is totally confident and has reached the peak of their existence.

That is where college comes in, I suppose. But even when it came to college, I was a little bit behind on that front, at least for one-fourth of it. My freshman year was a blur of anxiety and low self-esteem. And not the humorous, self-deprecating way that high school had been. I was a mess. I spent the better part of the year in my room, toiling away on the Internet and making next to no effort to integrate myself into the college lifestyle because I assumed it had already rejected me.

Somehow I eventually grew tired of this little pity party I was throwing myself, perhaps because everyone else had long stopped attending. So I decided to rejoin society and pretend I was normal and not a hermit. Surprisingly, it was not as hard as I had been making it out to be in my own head, and I actually started to see why people liked college so much.

In stark contrast to my freshman year, the years that followed were for the most part entirely enjoyable and mostly anxiety free, with the exception of part of my junior spring semester. I made some of the best friends I could have ever expected. Somehow, I became that “normal” person I was trying to become, and even became someone that I believe my former self would actually think was cool.

I didn’t even pause to reflect on this transformation until long after it had happened, sometime this year. That’s when I discovered that without thinking about it, I could do the shimmy. And honestly, I don’t think I’m as bad of a dancer as I used to be. I may be horribly wrong, but that’s the thing – it doesn’t matter to me anymore. And that’s why I have the ability to do things that I once was overwhelmed by, because I no longer have my own voice in my head telling me that I suck at it and that everyone is making fun of me.

Don’t get me wrong. My entire post-freshman college career has not been smooth sailing on a stress-free ocean. But somehow, I’ve been able to keep afloat while my life turns into a tsunami by pretending I’m a better swimmer than I am. Disclaimer: never literally do this. You will drown.

The sudden death of my dad this past summer made it difficult to do anything, let alone pretend to be a happy member of a college community. I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I managed to make it through. So when I think about who I used to think I was – a weak and untalented person who didn’t want to face the world – I realize that I am nothing of the sort. And when I see myself through my dad’s eyes, this realization comes full circle.

Lauren Vincent was an Assistant Op/Ed Editor and columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]

 

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