I always wanted to find a real hobby.
All my friends had one, yet I remained without. Sure, I dabbled in coupon-cutting and TV channel-surfing, but these didn’t feel like true hobbies to me.
So I survived sans hobby until four years ago, when an idea came to me on my birthday.
What about dancing as my hobby?
After all, I did sometimes dance in front of my mirror (much to the chagrin of the apartment dwellers below me). And heck, I’d even taken a tap class in kindergarten. Oh, and in college I frequented the club scene, swaying amongst sweaty strangers to thumping techno tunes…(My parents still think I was studying late-nights in the library).
But all these things didn’t quite yet convince me that dancing was considered my hobby.
However, my hunt for a hobby came to an end in 2010, when I decided to give myself my own birthday present: a 1-hour salsa class at a dance school in Manhattan’s Midtown.
This neighborhood is a haven for New York City “hoofers” and many dance studios are housed inside former factories with floor-to-ceiling windows. Sometimes, if you stand at street level and look up, you can catch a glimpse of graceful ballerinas, bending at the barre or of African dancers, leaping to the beat of a drum.
So after work, on that fateful birthday, I nervously dressed in my usual gym attire (T-shirt, spandex pants and sneakers) and strode up nonchalantly to the dance school desk attendant, as if I were Fred Astaire’s granddaughter or something.
Barely looking up, the attendant gestured me in the direction of the salsa studio. In a desperate attempt to look cool, I strutted down the hall while observing the scene around me.
It was something right out of that movie, “Fame”…You know, sinewy girls and muscular guys, with head shots in hand, waiting for a Broadway dance audition. Further on down the hall, wiry women were dressed in leotards and tights, warming up for what looked like a casting call for the next “Radio City Rockettes”.
All of a sudden, my gym clothes and Nike sneakers screamed, “Lia, you have no place being here! You’re not a dancer like they are! Let’s go back to the treadmill where we belong!”
I was unsure that dancing was in fact the best hobby for me. Couldn’t I have chosen something less intimidating, like stamp-collecting, for example?
But I reminded myself of my birthday decision and of my pursuit for a true hobby. So I adjusted my spandex pants, took a deep breath, and proceeded proudly into Studio 4B.
Inside, there were many chatty men and women, changing out of their “street shoes” into their “salsa shoes”.
Rule #1 of Salsa: Rubber sneakers don’t allow you to spin on a wooden dance floor.
I had already fumbled before taking the first step.
In the corner of the studio, our dance instructor was collecting the $10 class fee. She was the epitome of what you’d expect a salsa instructor to be: gorgeous, fiery, and oozing sex appeal. Her curves had curves. Even her teeth were sexy.
I thought to myself, “I can’t do this…I don’t look like her. I won’t be able to dance salsa the way she does”.
But as our “Sofia Vergara meets Salma Hayek” instructor turned on the music and began to teach, my inhibitions and insecurities suddenly flew out one of those floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Latin rhythms were so intoxicating that my feet felt as if they had been made to dance, rather than to walk.
I knew that this was exactly where I should be. Hooray! I was finally the owner of a new hobby.
And so week after week, I nurtured my hobby like a newborn: patiently taking care of its needs, feeding its hunger, and soothing its fears during the frightening times.
I’m happy to report that my hobby is currently doing just fine and has grown up, big and strong.
Dancing isn’t a part of my job, my family life, or my relationships. It’s a hobby and it’s just for me. Dance is a form of language, without words, that allows me to express myself in the most natural of ways.
And after dozens of dancing days, my salsa shoes are full of scuffs, rips, and holes. Sure, I could buy a new pair.
But these are a constant reminder that hard work, dedication, and belief in myself guided me to find my true hobby.
…and that practice makes (almost) perfect.