My alarm clock goes off at approximately 4:30 a.m. I groggily roll out of bed, far before the sun will even begin to tinge the sky with hints of orange and purple, I begin to get ready for the day. I brush my teeth, wash my face, and comb my hair. Thus ends my normal morning routine. Next, I apply an unusual amount of makeup to my eyes, slather on bright red lipstick, and attach a ridiculously curly wig to my head. I glue poodle socks covered in rhinestones to my legs, bobby pins a crown (again, covered in rhinestones) to my head, and coat my entire body with a layer of hairspray. Today is far from a normal day. Today is St. Patrick's Day.
And I am an Irish dancer.
I begin the day dancing live on a local television network (thus, waking up at 4:30 am), and then I race through the Starbucks drive-through to get an extremely needed caffeine fix before heading to the parade downtown. Before the parade begins, my Irish dance class practices all our dances for the day on the side of the road. We then half walk, half jig our way through the parade route, throwing out shamrock necklaces and Tootsie Rolls to kids eagerly lining the streets. After finishing the parade, the whole dance school changes course and walks to our first performance venue located downtown.
After dancing in the library or science center or whichever location it was that year, we would hop on a golf cart (still in our glittery dresses and curly wigs), and scream as we literally raced downtown to our next show at a huge hotel party. After taking our final bows, we would then hop back in the golf cart and repeat the process until the exhausting yet exhilarating day finally ended sometime in the evening after around an average of seven different performances. My dance class would finish the day by hunting down the nearest McDonald's and sharing shamrock shakes together before collapsing into our beds at night. The night of St. Patrick's Day was the soundest sleep I got all year.
I repeated this process for 11 years of my life, from 2nd grade through the end of high school. I cannot say what exactly drew me to Irish dancing, but I remember falling in love with the upbeat music, the fast-paced steps, and the sparkly dresses. I would watch older dancers and marvel at how their feet could move in such complicated and quick ways without getting tangled together. Somehow, over the course of the years, I turned into the older dancers. I competed in competitions (called a "feis") all around the country. I performed at countless venues, from schools and churches to weddings and huge events in front of hundreds of people. I practiced until my feet were permanently covered in blisters, and I ended up needing ankle surgery on both of my ankles. However, I loved every single minute of Irish dancing. I loved the people in my class that I had the opportunity to grow up with and form forever friendships with, I loved the Irish music and culture I was exposed to, and I loved St. Patrick's Day.
I miss Irish dancing immensely in college. Every time I feel nostalgic, I turn on Irish music and can still perform the steps in my head to this day. I will always be able to decipher the difference between a reel or a jig, and the smells of hairspray and sock glue will never leave me. Irish dancing inspired such a love of Irish culture in me, I plan to study abroad there next year. And while I am there, St. Patrick's Day will just so happen to occur.
I cannot count on many things in life, but I can always count on St. Patrick's Day being my favorite holiday. And I can only imagine what it will be like next year.