Taking Your Own Advice

Several months ago, I was asked to speak at a WOW talks event about being a swing dancer. This event is an evening where speakers each have 9 minutes to share their personal story about doing what they love, as a way to inspire others to pursue their passions as well.

WOW Talks

Incidentally, I happened to stumble upon the video of my talk the same day I published a post about taking a break from dancing after feeling that I’ve lost the passion that I used to have for it. It’s interesting how something can go from hot to cold in the space between May and August.

I sat back to watch the video with a bit of cynicism and braced myself for major cringing (is there anyone that enjoys watching themselves on video?). The talk was based on the idea from this blog’s very first post – When a 5-Year-Old Chooses Your Dance Shoes.

Surprisingly, May Maya managed to win me over. Even just watching Eran and I dancing at the end was enough to remind me why Lindy hop makes me smile. I went out dancing that same night. That reminder along with having figured out the cause of my dance slump helped me take a step back towards the dance floor.

Hebrew speakers are welcome to watch the video, though there are some sound issues. For everyone else, I’ve translated it to English below.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on the subject in the comments!

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I’d like to tell you about a certain problem I have – I can’t seem to stay put at a job and do my best if I don’t feel a connection to the work itself. In this kind of situation my mind starts to wander, I can’t stay focused and the quality of my work suffers. Unfortunately I also happen to have a conscience, so when this happens I start to feel terribly, grippingly guilty. After some time like this I can’t take it anymore and finally quit.

Every time I was between jobs I got really preoccupied with the question of what I did want to do, or “what do I want to do when I grow up?”. With each of the jobs that I had, it was very clear to me that they were not what I should be doing with my life. But how the hell was I supposed to find that elusive thing that I was meant to do?

I’ll admit that I never thought much ahead whenever I left a job. All I knew was that I needed to try something else. The unease I felt pushed me to stop what was causing it and forced me to try new things that I never would have otherwise. It wasn’t just trying different jobs, it could be anything. For instance, about two and a half years ago, I took up swing dancing. You could say that this decision put my life on a new path. I quickly got addicted and began dedicating most of my free time to it. I even traveled abroad to go to festivals to continue learning. I’ve never had hobby that I put so much time and effort into before, and so I understood that it was much more than that to me.

This discovery, that there was something that could make me this happy so easily only enhanced my difficulty to do things that didn’t give me that sensation. The problem was that wanting to work in something that I enjoyed made me feel guilty (again). I mean, work is something you do to earn money and survive, it’s not supposed to be fun. What right do I have to get paid for doing something I actually like? There’s a part of me that is ashamed to say that I don’t want to work somewhere just because I don’t like it. It sounds like a whiny spoiled child.

But then I read something somewhere that caught my attention: “Would the child you were at age 5 like who you are today?”. I thought about it and got to the conclusion that little Maya and I probably would have gotten along well. I think she might even have thought that I was pretty cool. I tried to remember what my hopes and expectations were about my life as an adult, thinking that there wouldn’t really be any common lines. I remembered that I wanted to grow up to be a ballerina and maybe a writer. I also wanted to help others and do good.

I was happy to find out that even though I’m not a ballerina, I am indeed a dancer. That made me think that maybe there was something to what kids say when answering the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. When I was 5, I knew what made me happy and in a logical and simple manner, I wanted to keep doing those things when I grew up.

I think we can get good answers to a lot of questions we have about our lives if we try to think like our 5 year old selves. Everything is a whole lot simpler with kids. At this stage, we have full permission to dream big. We are told that we can be anything we want to be, and the only limitations are those of our imagination.

Kids are much more attuned to their intuition and less affected by what society expects from them. They don’t have to live up to any expectations, no one is dependent on them and they don’t have patterns in their mind about what life should be like. Children don’t get hung up on the past or worry too much about the future. What matters is what’s going on now. They also tend to be honest about how they feel about others and don’t have polite pretenses.

Another point is that kids aren’t really scared about trying new things. If we think about it, practically everything is new for them at some point, so even if something is scary, they get through it and find out that it’s not that bad after all.

wow talks slide

I must have internalized the conclusions I learned from little Maya, because since then I’ve taken the things I love a step further. These days I keep working on swing dancing and I even get paid to teach others and perform (don’t tell anyone, but I’d do it for free). I write a blog about swing – Pink Dance Shoes, and will soon be starting a master’s degree program for dance movement therapy.

These things were not consciously decided as an effect of what I wanted to be when I grew up, but rather by adopting the way of thinking that we naturally have when we’re younger. I’ll admit it’s not always easy. Take the idea of trying new things even if they scare us, for example. Just this week I’ve done 3 pretty stressful things – I participated in a solo dance competition in front of judges and a large audience where I had to improvise to music on my own, I moved in with my boyfriend after we’ve only known each other for 3 months, and… this talk. So far I’ve survived 2 out of 3, let’s see how tonight ends…

So now I’d like to show you what this thing I love so much is, the reason I’m here. Eran will help me – we teach together at Holy Lindy Land, school of vintage dances.

(Click to see dancing! Sorry about the sound quality)

So my question to you is – if you haven’t figured it out already – What did you want to be when you grew up?

Thank you!

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