Sometimes on the metro I start to dance to myself.
Whatever song playing is transmitted into shaking of hips, tapping of feet and nodding of the head. I close my eyes and pretend it’s just me on that train.
It’s one of the few moments in which I don’t care what people think about me. Maybe my me dance party for once brightens someone’s day. Maybe it’s an opportunity for judgment. But it doesn’t matter because it is for me, not for them.
This came from Lesotho. There is a great gift in always standing out because it allows you to lower your shields and just be you. I got used to people laughing at the way I dress, at the way I spoke, at the funny things I did. Sure, sometimes the snickering got the best of me, that’s only natural, but most times I just shrugged my shoulders and continued on with my bizarre behavior.
Some volunteers make conscious decisions to fit in or stand out, but my actions were for survival. My villagers thought I ran too much, but those kilometers delivered sanity. My host mother hated my ratty jeans, but they were home. And school children giggled when they heard me sing to my iPod and start dancing, but those moments of pure joy were the only thing that would get me to the next day. At no other moment in my life did my need to be me outweigh the thoughts of others. I was who I am, and I was OK with that, for once.
This lesson hasn’t been easily transferred to life in the U.S. I have no idea who or what I am in this world. Things were so easy and simple in Lesotho, but here they are decisions and expectations and seemingly so many opportunities to fail and few to succeed. In my desperation of searching I use validation from others and external things, and, as you would expect, seeking meaning outside of myself has left me empty and lifeless.
Then I am standing on the curb and that song comes on. I sway my shoulders, weave my head and smile. It’s not intentional, but a piece of me breaking through. I am here, I tell myself, I’ve always been and it’s OK to listen to only this voice.
The person I was in Lesotho is not gone but here inside wanting to break free and it’s up to me to break down the walls I let others build to let it out. And I guess dance parties of one is the best way to start.