The Habit of Showing Up
Once a day, once a week or once a month, stand up, put on your shoes and open the door, sometimes the best thing you can do is just show up.
When I was a kid, I'd take up many different activities: singing, swimming, learning Japanese (Haru ga Kita aka Spring has come is for some weird reason the only thing I remember now), acting in a theatre group, doing martial arts (and falling over my head from trying to kick to high), organising live performances while playing guitar on a tennis racket (and of course forcing my family to sit through the whole thing).. I don't remember any pressure of having to be good at it or of having to justify why I decided to do any of them, just the joy of trying something new, continuing and seeing where it would take me.
That was exactly how dancing came my way. I never thought it could become my passion, my work and my livelihood and honestly I think in some ways the reason for it was because I kept showing up. I could say that I worked my ass off, that I trained every day for hours on end, sweating and in pain, sacrificing everything else but that wouldn't be the honest truth (except the sweating part). I had fun in the classes I took but I didn't really feel that it was my thing, the music was foreign, all my friends were in the theatre group and in a dance community I didn't know anyone, it was scary to go to a social dance and get all the courage to invite someone to dance, especially if that person was a better dancer than me. But nonetheless, I kept on taking classes and eventually showing up to socials more often, from there my joy and love for the dance and the community started to grow. All the free time (and money) I had, I was spending to travel to festivals abroad (24 hours car ride to Slovenia and back just for the weekend) or in the studio, sometimes practicing, sometimes just hanging out with other dancers. But again, I kept on showing up: in the parties, in the classes or practices, I was there if someone wanted to create something together or just go out for a drink, I didn't think further than that, I enjoyed dancing and hanging out with people and it pushed me forward.
Do not depend on the hope of results... You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the result but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself /Thomas Merton/
After a few years, when I was asked to teach some dance classes I thought that I'd jump through the roof with happiness. However, with the first classes I taught I soon became aware that it's freakin' hard to teach, that I had no idea what was this dance I grew to love so much or how to explain it to others. It was frustrating but I had a really supportive partner and a friend (thank you, Arnas!) that was there for me, so again I just kept showing up, every week, every month, teaching and learning at the same time until I actually started feeling more comfortable, more at ease with being in the middle of the classroom, sharing things that I believed were important and helping others to feel a little bit more at ease both in dance and in life. I didn't have an idea of where I wanted to go with it, I didn't quit my job or my studies for it, the only thing I knew at that time is that it brought me joy, it brought me this excitement, it was something new everyday and that was a big enough incentive to keep doing it.
When possible, spend time doing those things you feel most passionate about and least neurotic about (...). And when all else fails, have a sense of humor and smile. One of my mentors assured me that if I can't actually smile, it can be helpful to just start by slightly turning up the corners of my mouth /Laura van Dernoot Lipsky/
Whatever you do you get better at
When talking about showing up, embracing what you don't know and yet persisting, people use this saying "Fake it till you make it". I was never a fan of it, for me it contains this sense of inauthentic being, trying to pretend and not being able to embrace the situation fully. I do believe that while imitating confidence, competence or a certain mindset, you can come to make it your reality, however more often than not, it's important to accept things you don't know or you're not and be alright with it, to be able to ask for help, to be vulnerable instead of invincible. Instead of thinking how to fake it till I make it, I remind myself that whatever I do (and keep doing), I will become better at. For better or for worse that this, if I choose to scroll through my social media feed for hours every day or eat pizza for breakfast (sounds kind of amazing though..) I will become better at it, but I will also get better at acting, singing or playing piano if I keep doing it on a regular basis. Or writing this blog, for that matter.
It's all about small steps. If you start a new activity, hobby or a new job, persist, even if you go through a period of "I am sh*t" or "This is sh*t" (usually one is followed by the other).
Recently my friend told me her experience moving to Berlin for a year. While living there she tried a lot of different activities, clubs, meetups, socials etc. and yet she couldn't feel that she was able to connect with people around her, make new friends. She would go social dancing to different bars but she felt that it was a bit lonely too as she didn't know anyone, then one day she decided to commit, to come to a certain bar regularly, every week. After a few times she realised that others started to recognise her, invite her to dance, she started feeling more connected and actually making new friends. I'm sure it sounds familiar, if we think of our friends, most of us ended up being friends because we kept on showing up in each others lives (sometimes on purpose and sometimes by circumstance).
Something not everything
My point is not to suggest you have to pile tasks on your existing (and probable never-ending) to do list, that you have to take dozens of new activities (unless it's something you want to do), I'm saying you should concentrate on doing something but not everything (and usually less is more, right?). Choose things, activities, places and people that make your heart beat faster, that inspire you, don't try to explain to others why you want to do it, there doesn't have to be a more rational reason than I'm excited about it.
And do something. Every day.