When I was itty bitty, I wanted nothing more than to become a ballerina. I had never even seen a real ballet, but somehow I had managed to get it engrained into my miniscule mind that there was nothing more glamourous, more beautiful, more elegant than dancing on a stage wearing a pink tutu and pointy, lacey shoes. When my parents put me in dance class as a remedy to the annoyance of my constant requests and maddening spins and leaps across the living room, I couldn’t have been happier. However, after a couple years, it became clear that not only did I not have the body of a ballerina; I also didn’t have the dedication or skill. I let go of my childish dream and took a random class here and there in other forms of dance, but ultimately, my former desires gave way to more realistic career ambitions. Despite my abandonment of this activity, from the time I can remember, I’ve always come alive when I am dancing. Moving my body to the beat of music brings out a happiness in me that sometimes surpasses even the other things I love most.

In an attempt to re-engage in this form of pleasure and through the help and encouragement of both an old friend and a new friend, I have recently begun to dance again. On Monday nights, I make my way over to a local dance studio for salsa lessons. During the most recent class, the instructor grabbed hold of me to demonstrate a portion of the routine. As the music played, I worked my hardest to make sure I was correctly hitting each and every step. That’s when the instructor said, “Woah, I guess she moves whether you tell her to or not!” My face blushed in embarrassment as it often does during salsa class since my enthusiasm usually far surpasses my confidence or ability, but I pushed forward and didn’t give what he had said much of a second thought. That is until I was partnered with another male in the class who stopped me at one point and said, “I guess he was right. You do move whether you are told to or not.”

For those of you who don’t know, salsa is a dance that relies on partnering skills just as much as it relies on technique. A woman may be an incredible dancer, but if she doesn’t know how to follow, it is all for naught. The man’s priority is to take charge and lead and it is the woman’s job to make sure she is in the perfect position that makes the man’s job of leading as easy as possible.

Now, let me go ahead and pause before you get the idea that this post is about gender roles and that somehow I am asserting that it is always man’s job to lead and always woman’s role to follow… While I find gender conversations enthralling, today isn’t the day for that discourse. Today is the day I come to terms with the fact that I have spent about ninety percent of the 28 years of my life honing my leadership skills and given little if any thought on how to let go and follow. Vulnerability is hard for me. Acknowledging I need to release and surrender is even more difficult. Willingly relinquishing every ounce of power and control is torture.

Whether teaching groups of elementary or college students, being the voice of reason in times of crisis, or offering guidance and wisdom in the midst of confusion, it’s not hard for me to be the loudest voice in the room. It comes naturally. I’ve even learned how to be really good at vulnerability in the context of leadership. Share just enough to be relatable, but not so much that you are no longer seen as a mentor. This skill set has served me well and I am grateful for it, but it has also had its downfalls. I’ve been too direct with friends when I could have taken a meeker approach. I’ve faltered in my faith when I’ve done things my own way instead of relying on the strength and wisdom of the One I serve. I’ve missed opportunities to learn from those who had quieter voices than I had, but equally brilliant things to say.

I’ve said it time and time again, life goes through seasons. I had a very LONG season of leadership, but that season seems to be screeching to a very abrupt halt. I’m no longer in the front of the classroom developing leaders in my job; I am the new one that doesn’t know anything and is constantly asking questions in order to gain clarity. Even when I know the right answer, those around me assume I don’t and seek out those with more experience. I don’t know my way around the city and instead of having tried many of the coolest restaurants and experienced many of the exciting things there are to do, I am completely oblivious regarding how to get from one place to the next or offering up suggestions for fun things to do. Even my personal relationships are demanding a different level of vulnerability I’m not used to or comfortable with. It appears salsa class may be useful for more than just bringing me pleasure. There’s a larger lesson there. I will continue to grow in my technique. I’m a good leader for a reason. I can’t hide my light and I need to be willing to step into the “take charge” roles I may be called to in the future. But… It looks like I have no choice but to strengthen my partnering skills as well. Letting others lead and guide me, being willing to let go even when I’m “confident” I could do things better if I were just permitted to do it myself, allowing myself to be just downright bad at something so that I experience firsthand that it’s ok to let other people take care of me for a change… It’s not what I would have chosen, but it seems to be just what I need. So with resignation, I join this dance, hoping that in due time, my fellow dancers will be taken by how beautifully I manage to follow.