Last year, I arrived at Colorado School of Mines with a resolute pact to myself: I was going to try every new thing I could find at least once in the first two weeks. One week in, I almost broke that pact, because in front of the student recreation center was a board boasting ballroom dance lessons. I hated dancing. More accurately, I hated the idea of embarrassing myself in front of a myriad of talented, graceful dancers. I was the one who had the reputation of never dancing in high school, or middle school, or elementary school; I was "the one who stood in the corner during school dances and jumped up and down a couple times", I was the one who quite frankly had a few things I was good at and stuck to them as closely as possible.
Here I am, a year later, patting my early-freshman-year-self on the back and thanking my lucky stars that I went to that first swing dance class. Actually, I went to the second, which meant that I was that much more behind, if you take my two left feet into consideration, and was even more thoroughly and fully embarrassed. I honestly don't know why I stuck with it after that first lesson: I left with my cheeks burning and my brain jumbled and confused with triple steps and frame and a whole bunch of jargon that I had never been exposed to. But I had met some nice people, and keen to make new friends, I went back again and again and eventually, eventually, learned how to swing dance.
Swing dancing forced me far out of my comfort zone. I was fairly shy, more so on the dance floor, but the flexibility of swing dancing, the stylistic touches, and the wonderful people that I've danced with have taught me that anybody and everybody can dance. It's an exciting and rejuvenating medium to meet new people. It's a whirlwind of fresh air after hours of classes and studying. It's a huge personal confidence boost and an incredibly humbling experience all at the same time. I learned that swing dancing is not just for the "good" dancers out there, not just for the shiny dance floors with invigorating live music. I've danced in grocery store aisles, a whisk in one hand and sneakers squeaking on tiled floors, on jarringly uneven cobblestone under strings of Christmas lights, on the carpet in my dorm room, when I was determined to catch up to the others and not embarrass myself again.
My first year at Colorado School of Mines taught me that dancing is for everyone, even for people like me with two left feet. And swing dancing taught me to be unapologetic for my mistakes (but to learn from them, of course), to approach strangers ten times as talented as me and ask them for a dance, to work hard and just have fun. Swing dancing taught me to twirl and spin and hear the music and simply enjoy myself in the disorienting and unfamiliar world of dance.