Years ago I had an epic fail: I was divorced, flat broke and homeless.
So I thought it might be a good time to learn how to hip hop dance.
Nobody wants to hit bottom, however, if this happens to you I highly recommend it. A new year is a perfect time for an epic fail.
Having nothing makes you fearless. So it seemed only logical to me that I should learn how to hip hop dance, next to perhaps taking singing lessons. For if there are two injustices in my life—it is that I cannot dance or sing.
At the time I was living in Ohio, which is such a long story I wrote a book about it. My ex-husband had just packed up another man’s wife and moved them far away from me. We had let go of our rented apartment, our jobs and even our cars. For the first time, I was alone and free.
As Pema Chodron says, the beginning is a good place to start. So my new beginning meant I would have to move back home to New York City, tail between my legs, and find a job and an apartment.
And then I thought, as long as I’m having a giant Mulligan in my life, what is the one thing I might really like to try?
The answer was: I’d like to be a dancer.
My being a dancer is sort of like a five foot person wanting to play in the N.B.A. As dreams go, it was a big one. But I had nothing after my epic fail, not even pride, which means I had nothing to lose.
There were plenty of options to become a dancing fool so I enrolled at a school on the west side. I started with the Fox Trot and the Waltz, but then I enrolled in Hip Hop.
At first, it was horrible. I was Lucille Ball going in the wrong direction. If the class was going up, I was going down. Left meant right. Forward meant backward. My Roger Rabbit should have been euthanized.
But then I realized, of course I was going to be horrible at this. I can’t dance! I have no rhythm; I have the attention span of a flea. I can’t even memorize the routines.
And that’s when I became an okay dancer. In yoga, we know that if we let go of expectations we might have a better chance at doing the pose.
In dance it was the same. Once I had no expectations, it enabled me to dance (sort of). The school had a recital one evening and I invited my dad to watch. Afterwards he said, “You are better now than when you were little.” Progress!
My pinnacle moment came when there was a hip hop singer looking for dancers for his new video. The school invited all interested students to try out. I wanted to do it.
Is that insane? I was a 30-year-old klutz trying to be in a hip hop video. But here is the thing: no matter what happened, it couldn’t be as bad as being flat broke and homeless.
So I went. Marky Mark (Yes, that Marky Mark Wahlberg) sat on a chair. We were shown a routine to do on a diagonal across the room. All the girls jumped and twirled across the floor. When it was my turn, I pasted on my face the biggest smile you ever saw and leapt my way to the other side.
But it didn’t matter. I was elated. This was the most fun I’d had post-divorce. I didn’t just leap across a room; I soared across a great divide of BEF (Before Epic Fail) to AEF (After Epic Fail). And I knew that if I could cross that room then I could conquer anything in my path.
An epic fail will set you free. I highly recommend it.
Whatever this New Year brings to you, do not be afraid to fail.
For my next act, I think I’m going to try singing lessons; after all, I could not possibly be worse at it than I am now.
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