So I believe it is time to write a post that has been in my head for almost a year but was too painful to put into words.
As some of you know, I had to stop dancing about a year ago, due to generalized intense joint pain.
For those of you new to my blog, I used to train, compete and perform with, teach, deejay and do social media for Swing Dynamite, a Swing Dance school in Ottawa. In fact, Ottawa’s only dedicated Swing Dance school.
Anyway, it was as if all my joints had suddenly decided to give up on me.
My ankles, my knees, my hips, my elbows, my wrists, my knuckles, my shoulders… even joints I didn’t know I had* hurt.
Not that I was any stranger to pain, mind you. Pain can even be considered my longest lasting friend, considering it started when I was 11 and I met my oldest friends when I was 12 back in 7th grade.
Every time I danced, I was in pain. Every time. But I also got a lot of joy out of it. The joy exceeded the pain by far so I danced.
However, it got to be that the pain over-weighted the joy so I had to stop.
First I had to stop training with a team. That was bad enough. But when the time came to even stop social dancing and teaching altogether, it was a harder blow than I could take at the time.
Furthermore, the emotional pain was such, that I even stopped deejaying, which for a while had given me some comfort and a way to not have to completely remove myself from the dance scene.
I got to a point where I even had to unfriend most of my dance friends on Facebook because seeing their dance pictures on my feed was too much for me. It was a hard decision because I think fondly of all of them but it had to be done.
What most of you may not know is that I had experienced that sort of blow already. Of feeling my life had direction, purpose. Then I lost it. I was crushed.
There was hope again, there was direction.
Swing Dancing gave me a reason to keep going. I was given another chance to grow, to learn, to meet wonderful people and to teach.
That’s where the background ends.
Now to the juicy core of the story.
Despite all my struggles with mental illness and physical pain (plus some random bullshit scene politics every now and then, which let’s face it, happens everywhere in the world) I was very happy at Swing Dynamite.
They say all you have to do is make your passion your job and you’ll be happy for the rest of your life. I can attest to the truth of it.
The reasons are many.
There was lots and lot of dancing and there was lots and lots of music both if which are quite good for the soul.
Plus there was Byron, who believed in me and gave me a chance to do something with my life at a time when I thought there was nothing left for me to do.
As I became more and more vocal in the Mental Health circles, I often voiced the fact that my work environment was so understanding of mental illness. I was able to openly talk about my struggles with it without being afraid of losing my job, be take sick days because of it, and never feel stigmatized for it.
That is something not a lot of people can say.
Not only that.
At the times when my mental illness got in the way of my performance at work which inevitable led to issues within the school, prolonged medical leaves or even losses, I was never let go but instead was met with understanding, compassion and friendship.
I am sure that at any other company, the story would have been quite different.
And there was a bonus. Swing Dynamite fully supported me and my involvement with the Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) but allowing me to display MIAW campaign material (Posters, brochures, bookmarks and silicone bracelets) at the studio.
Swinging mentally Healthy workplace aside – and don’t get me wrong even if that were the only good thing, it would still be pretty rocking awesome – Swing Dynamite gave me so much more.
I got to travel and meet amazing, interesting people that otherwise would have never cross paths with me.
I got to push myself and get reasonably good at swing dancing. Considering the amount of pain involved, that is damn awesome, if I may say so myself.
I got to learn so many new things and arguably become an expert in social media. I love learning.
I got to play music for the great bunch swing dancers are. Seeing the smiles on their faces when their favourite song came up was always priceless.
I got to geek and nerd out many a time with Byron. From philosophy to astronomy to medicine to coding to martial arts to science to linguistics to evolution and more. Good times.
I got to touch many lives by sharing my love and passion for dancing with them. Teaching FTW!
I got to nurture my competitive side, by way of performing and competing with several of the school’s teams.
I got millions of great social dances at so many venues all over North America.
Plus I got to fly!
Yep. Good times, Swing Dynamite. Good times.
Because of all that, I am very grateful for all my years at Swing Dynamite. But as you can imagine, in spite of considering myself lucky for having the fortune of being part of such a thing, and despite my desire to write about the important and pivotal role the school, Byron had in my life, I had to allow for my heart to heal.
But the time has come when I can listen to swing music without it hurting too much and to talk about why I basically disappeared overnight from the swing world.
Thank you so much Byron for being such a great boss and friend. It was a pleasure and an honour to work for you, dance, teach and share the turntables with you.
Not very many people would have stood by my side through the bad times like you did. You’re a man of stature.
Now it is time to re-invent myself once more.
* I kid. I do know my joints. My anatomy professor would be so disappointed at me if didn’t.
** Yes, yes. I am quoting myself