The dance is over, the applause subsided, but the joy and feeling will stay with you forever.
All eyes were on me as the conversation from the other moms quieted down. Someone had just asked, "Are you going to join us?"
"Yeah, you should dance with us," another encouraged.
I was waiting for my daughter's dance class to finish while the other moms got ready for their adult dance class.
"Nah," I shook my head and smiled politely. "I don't think so."
But the truth was—I wanted to. I'd watched these moms from the sidelines through the years, dancing and laughing together and getting exercise, and it looked like fun. The thing is, I didn't have a dancer's body. I didn't even know if I could dance.
"Why don't you try?" my husband said to me one night, as I stared at my body in the mirror. I think he was reading my mind. "You'll never know if you don't try," he said.
So I signed up for ballet, for the first time in my life.
At my first class, I wondered if I could even get myself off the ground. I was the biggest woman in the room. And to make matters worse, the walls were covered in mirrors. Seeing myself in those mirrors reinforced how ridiculous and horrible I looked. What did the others think of me?
The instructor started us with stretches and then moved on to basic ballet positions: first, second, third. My feet followed. So far, so good. Then came some simple steps and soon my feet were moving with the music. Maybe not exactly how they should have been moving, but they were moving.
"Great job tonight, everyone," the instructor said as she clapped her hands. "See you all next week."
I had officially survived that first night, and no one had made comments about my size. So I kept going each week. The instructor moved on to harder steps. Ballet wasn't easy; my muscles were sore and my legs didn't know what they were doing. I still didn't know if it was for me, but I persevered.
After a while, I forgot about the mirrors. The steps continued to get more difficult, but I practiced at home with my daughters and we had fun together.
One night at class we were twirling, stepping this way and that, and my legs were getting a great workout. I was keeping up and my feet were doing what they were supposed to do. Later, I realized something surprising. My legs weren't sore anymore.
I saw a difference in the way I carried myself, too. I was stronger. And my muscles weren't the only part of me that had been strengthened. "I don't care how ridiculous others think I look dancing," I told my husband with my new confidence. "I did it! I may not be the most graceful dancer, but I've learned ballet!"
Not long after that, I was shoe shopping and found a pair of tap shoes for three dollars. I hadn't signed up for tap because I didn't think my body could bounce in that way, but when I saw the shoes in my size, I grabbed them from the shelf.
At my next ballet class, I walked in with tap shoes. "Guess what?" I said to the instructor, "next year I'm taking tap, too!"
She looked at me. "Nope. You're doing tap this year."
My jaw dropped.
"The recital is in four weeks," she said. "You're a quick learner. You've got this."
And I did. On recital night, I took the stage, threw myself into the air, and danced!
Cover image via Boas73 I Shutterstock
This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident: 101 Stories about Loving Yourself and Your Body © 2016 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.