I used to dance across the kitchen on my dad’s feet. He would hold my hands and turn the radio volume up. And then when I was finished dancing, he would take my mother’s arms and lead her in all the dances they used to do in college. Swinging left, then right, and finally a dramatic dip. They had the biggest smiles on their faces. At the time, I was embarrassed. I thought it was so awkward and uncomfortable. It was even worse if they danced in public. But now, I realize I was wrong.
My generation has lost our ability to dance.
I mean, truly dance, not just jumping up and down with one hand in the air or moving your hips slightly offbeat. No boy ever extends his hand to a girl to ask them to slow dance anymore (unless you count those awkward middle school days). No one ever turns on an old-school tune that everyone knows has a specific dance style or move to go with it.
I’ve had a conversation with various people in my age-group about this and most people agree that it would be nice if our generation wasn’t so worried about our pride and put ourselves out there for a dance.
I visited my twin sister at the University of Oxford in England this past week. One night at her college, Hertford, held an event benefiting the homeless called Ceilidh. The Ceilidh is a traditional Celtic dance that involves a lot of spinning around with a partner and moving up and down the room.
At first, a Scottish student at her college called out the movements slowly so that we could all learn the dance. Gradually, we sped it up and added music to our uncoordinated, chaotic attempt at the ceilidh. While none of us were really any good at it, everyone had an amazing time that night.
It is surprising to me that we have not already incorporated the dancing tradition into our culture. In recent years, fashion, music, photography, and in general our outlook on life has become increasingly similar to those of the 70s and 80s. We wear platform shoes and flared jeans. We listen to record players instead of iPods because their vintage quality makes them appear “cool.” We celebrate a care-free, flower-child mindset and strive to live less uptight lives than those who came before us.
Our generation has accomplished a lot in our small amount of time on earth. That is not something to minimize. We are hardworking and ambitious. We set high bars and have big dreams we hope to achieve someday. However, I think personally we could learn how to celebrate life a little better. Yes, one day we will have to settle down, get a job, pay the bills, and have children of our own. But that day is not today. We have years of university left and time after that to just being young.
My a cappella group was asked to perform at a university function right before graduation. The keynote speaker got up to talk to the graduates about taking it all in and never forgetting what their university experience gave them. He was a math person and started to put a number to our days. He mentioned that by the time we are 80 years old we will have lived almost 30,000 days. Statistically, that means that between 5,000 - 7,000 of those days were horrible days, days we wish never happened, like the day we lost a loved one or experienced a lot of pain.
On the other hand around 7,000 of those days were the best days of our lives: graduations, birthdays, road trips, sunset hikes, and reunions with friends. That leaves about 15,000 mediocre days. These 15,000 days are those that feel insignificant to us and have no real impact on our lives. His message was that we need to celebrate our 15,000 mediocre days just as much as our 7,000 amazing ones. Pretty soon, that number will increase and we will have given ourselves many more memories to add to the best days of our lives.
Now it may sound cheesy but I believe one of the ways to celebrate life is to dance.
Dancing allows us to let go and forget about what other people might think of us.
I’m not trying to degrade my generation for creating their own culture but I do wish we weren’t so quick to forget the past. There is a reason the phrase “old-school love” came about because the way we choose to act as teenagers and young adults is drastically different from our parents and their parents. No generation is perfect but I believe it is the responsibility of every new one to build and improve on the work made by the people before them. We don't have to start from scratch but rather use what we've been given to leave society better than we found it.
People in my age-group have done an amazing job at making sure our voices are heard in the political world and we have used social media to get involved in issues we really care about. But in all of this work we are doing to make a difference, I think we are putting pressure on ourselves to do everything now. While the impact we have made is phenomenal, there is more that we can do. However, I believe we can be politically-active while simultaneously being young, dumb, and care-free. As Luke Bryan said in "Most People Are Good," “wisdom in your youth would be a lot less fun.”
Maybe I’m an old soul but is it really too much to ask? Or at least to think about? To put aside our pride and our insecurity and really dance.