The DJ on stage spun another country tune and the dance floor began to fill with patrons eager to put their dancing boots and their energy to good use.
My friend turned to me and asked me if I wanted to join in on this dance. I obliged, figuring I couldn’t embarrass myself any more than I already had that evening.
The whole night had been a bit awkward, really. It was my first time attending a “Wild West Wednesday,” a weekly event in which Dubuquers descend upon the county fairgrounds for an evening of couples dancing and line dancing to “your favorite country hits” (as the Dubuque County Fairgrounds website puts it). And it was probably the most country place I had ever been. The men were wearing plaid shirts and cowboy hats, men AND women were sporting big belt buckles and western boots, and beer seemed to be flowing from the bar almost at the same rate as the water was.
And there I was, a girl with a penchant for dirty blues and old rock and roll, whose closest loves to country music were Johnny Cash and The Avett Brothers, and who owns ONE plaid shirt, attending this Wild West Wednesday in a purple top from the Banana Republic and fashion boots from DSW.
I am not a country girl, y’all. Not. A. Country. Girl.
And my fumblings and missteps on the dance floor no-doubt gave away that I wasn’t a line dance girl, either. Sure, I learned the Electric Slide when I was a high school sophomore, but that doesn’t prepare you for the dances that accompany “Cotton-Eye Joe” and “Drink In My Hand.” Still, as out-of-place as I may have felt, I found that I quite enjoyed dancing once I got the hang of it.
Back to this particular dance, though. I don’t remember every step that went into it, but there was one part that I just couldn’t get right the first few times. It involved twirling to the right, but because I wanted to keep my eye on my friend who was guiding me through the dance, I kept twirling to the left. I couldn’t risk losing my bearings and I thought that not following her every move would cause me to do that.
But at one point in the song I finally got it through my head that I had to twirl to the right. And I did. And I felt really good about myself, maybe the way an Olympic gymnast does when she sticks the landing after dismounting the balance beam.
Although managing to not look like a fool in front of seasoned line dancers is nowhere near the level of accomplishment as impressing Olympic judges, my small victory taught me a lesson that applies to life away from the dance floor just as much as it does to Wild West Wednesdays at the Dubuque County Fairgrounds:
Sometimes, you just gotta learn to trust yourself, even if it involves taking a risk and you’re afraid of goofing up when you do or of looking like an even bigger fool.
Because I don’t know if anybody really has this whole life thing figured out as well as they think they do, so I don’t know why we’re so afraid of messing up.
Keeping our eyes on what others are doing all the time might make us feel comfortable. And we like comfort. Safety. Predictability. But sometimes that blinds us to the opportunities that await us if we would just learn to turn our gaze to where our hearts are telling us to go.
But once we push past that fear and embrace the opportunity that lies within uncertainty, we realize that freedom makes for more triumphant victories than predictability does, even if we might stumble as we’re learning to walk on our own.
Or, in my case, when I’m learning to dance on my own, even if I’m doing so in place where I might feel I don’t belong, where standing on the sidelines might have been more comfortable than attempting to dance in the first place.
It makes success that much sweeter.