I’m sure I was a difficult young teenager. In fact, I know I was. I was depressed in middle school–lethargic, actively unexcited, and probably fairly mean sometimes. It’s always difficult to analyze your actions from someone else’s point of view, but I’m sure my mom had trouble at times understanding what was going on in my head. I was too focused on how to fit in with people I didn’t like and I hated myself for it. So I ate and I didn’t move too much if at all possible. How would someone foster my interests anyway? I was really good at hiding that I may had any to begin with. I continued to do well in school, but that was really the extent of any effort I gave towards anything for those three glorious years from twelve to fourteen.
So then summer would hit and my mom had to find something for me to do. My mom is someone who is always doing something. She doesn’t understand not doing anything. Vacations were consistently high-stress events with regimented activities and museum outings for the family. My favorite part of vacations, incidentally, often was the car ride when we weren’t expected to do anything except maybe not bother our parents too much. Car games, snacking, sleeping, singing to Buddy Holly–that’s a vacation.
Summer vacation was no exception to the rule of doing something. What’s a great way to ensure your kid is active over summer? Summer camp, of course! The great thing about summer camp is that there are so many different kinds! Fat camp, soccer camp, basketball camp (basically any sport), Jewish camp, Christian camp (really throw in a camp for every religious denomination too), and I don’t know… maybe pottery camp? So what kind did my mother decide to put her nerdy, slightly overweight, socially awkward, pimpled thirteen-year-old girl in? Dance camp!
It was PERFECT! After all, my sisters were in dance. One was in the dance company with plans since she could walk to become a professional dancer (which, incidentally, she totally is now). Surely the size fourteen, 160ish-pound mess of a hormonal teenager would want to try some ballet. Never mind the fact that I had never shown interest in dance. The closest I had been to dance was gymnastics, which had been several years previous–a long-since faded passion.
In short, I’m not graceful enough for ballet, energetic enough for tap, and barely flexible enough to walk let alone do jazz leaps. I didn’t make friends with the sixty-pound ten-year-olds who would proudly pull their feet behind their ears while looking directly at my seemingly mammoth-sized body as if to say, “WHAT CAN YOU DO?” I also didn’t care for all the mirrors ev-er-y-where.
Dance camp did wonders for a yearly plummet in my already low self-esteem. I think I held a grudge against my mom for this for a long time. How could my mom think it was a good idea? Why did she have to force me into a place I had absolutely no chance of feeling comfortable? The truth was, though, that I didn’t really feel comfortable anywhere and since I never communicated anything that interested me during this period in my life, it might have been a little unfair to assume my mom could read my thoughts and find the perfect solution. But just a little.
In the end it taught me a lot about myself. And even though I wouldn’t begin to feel comfortable in my body for a good ten more years, I at least knew I didn’t want to be a dancer. I eventually learned that that was okay and that my mom loved me no matter what. I learned that it is important to communicate interests and passions, even if they are somewhat fleeting ones (“Oh hey, I think I’m really into paleontology right now, mom!”). A good parent will foster those passions over things you don’t want to do, you just have to let them know you have them. Besides, people without interests are by definition uninteresting. People like interesting, passionate, and active people and you will like yourself more when you take time to find those qualities in yourself as well. In high school, I participated in team sports like soccer, which I actually enjoyed. Nowadays I run and practice yoga. I wasn’t a dancer, but I found my own ways to exercise and be active that were enjoyable and challenging at the same time. I stay active intellectually as well as physically and I follow what I find interesting, not what others say I should do. If I learned anything it was that it’s not worth it to feel out of place and uncomfortable in something that you don’t even like.
Also, I still know what a tendu and a pas de bourrée are. So fuck off.
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