“She better get him now or that’s it.” Those were my words to a woman sitting next to me as her friend was dancing with my Salsa teacher last night. I know him. The music was getting ready to break. I saw it in his eyes. He was feeling it. She was basically asking him to bring it and she didn’t know him enough to know that he could. He went there…a little bit but not like he could have. He’s the teacher.
I met Carlos Colon (and there is an accent over that second “O”, I just don’t know how to find it on my computer :)) at a time when I needed to be free from being the teacher. When I got to this club, I had never danced salsa, really, a day in my life. I teach Zumba (and I have been corrected many times and so I am assuring everyone and confessing that it is not the same) and dance and have natural rhythm but I didn’t know anything about following. I don’t follow. I lead. The joke I always made was “I am Diana Ross. I go solo.” The truth of the matter is the couple of times I had tried to learn, I had been laughed at for not understanding the concept so I gave up. Carlos was the “hometown hero” and he was all I heard about when I got to this club. He walked in with his fancy white shoes and white hat and white shirt. When one of my students said, “That’s Carlos.” I thought, “Really? I never would have guessed.” What I never would have guessed was her dragging me across the room to meet him and him asking me to dance. Now the most popular person in the room would know I couldn’t dance salsa and I would be embarrassed in front of my students who thought I knew everything.
Other than a kick to the knee and a few steps on his toes, he made it out alive. 🙂 And he was very nice about the process. I watched him the rest of the night and had the guts to stop him before I left and ask him if he taught anywhere. It just so happened that he was getting ready to start teaching group lessons in two weeks. And so it began. I started learning not just to dance salsa but about life.
It is very difficult to be a person who is always in charge, who always knows what is going on to become the person who knows nothing and can only do what they are told. Salsa made me feel good but out of control. I am laughing and smiling on most of the pictures you’ll see of me from the salsa scene but, in my car, I would cry because I would feel bad that I didn’t “get it”. I was tired of missing turns and not understanding combos and I couldn’t afford private lessons. I did have nights where salsa made me feel free and happy but most nights it would release pent up emotions about other issues and I’d have emotional breakdowns. It was therapy. There are nights that I wanted to dance and I wasn’t asked. There were nights that I didn’t want to dance and they didn’t let me sit down. There are nights that I just listened to the music. There are nights that I beat myself up for not being more advanced and remembering the criticisms I had heard. There are nights that I congratulated myself for looking so good. And there are nights that all I could hear were the words Carlos said to me the first time I sent him a rambling e-mail about needing to private lessons because I had been criticized by someone I respected and I didn’t want to look bad because everyone knew I was a dance teacher : “We hear and feel the music differently.” It wasn’t anything profound. What he was basically saying was it was o.k. for me to be who I am in what I was doing and that I was going to get where I was going. I did need help. 7 months later, I still take absolute beginner classes because I find something new every time. I had to realize that I don’t know everything but I do know some things and that criticism is just another person’s opinion and that, when I was ready, my teacher appeared.
Same thing for changing your life any other way. You have the skills to change your life RIGHT NOW. It’s not that you can’t do it but sometimes, someone who knows more than you in a particular area can set you in the right direction. Criticism will come. Wanting to quit will come. But when you are ready, when the time is right in your life for you to make that change and you need someone to help you get to that next level, they will appear. Relax. And maybe do some salsa in the meantime.