Scene 1, 2010:
Everyone is laughing, everyone is crying. Nobody was drunk.
Twenty guys are standing in a circle that’s not really a circle.
Songs with unmistakeable zing and pep are blaring from a borrowed speaker. Everyone is dancing.
It’s the last day of college, and I’m standing in the friend circle, only a few of whom I knew well. My usual group of friends were spending this time rather quietly, and I had come over to this party to just be around people.
Then I realize my worst nightmare is about to come to life. One by one, each member of the circle is pushed into the middle of the circle to dance, while everyone else cheers on.
I secretly hope nobody does anything extravagant, but each one looks cooler than the next. It’s like their entire life till now was preparation for this exact moment.
When my turn comes, I try and make my puppy introvert face and say no. But that answer is unacceptable on a dance floor, even one in a hostel dorm.
I burn red hot for the excruciatingly painful 8 seconds, but it is too dark for anyone to notice.
Scene 2, 2012:
Everyone is drunk.
The ceiling is thirty feet high, because it’s not a hostel dorm anymore, but a 5 star hotel.
Nobody is standing in a circle. It is a corporate event.
I am dancing with a friend of a friend, who isn’t from work. She’s cute, and I kinda like her.
It is a battle of wills. Here’s this fun girl, who loves to dance, but on the other hand, there’s dancing itself. There I am, torn between a girl and a hard place.
We tire quickly when we do things we don’t enjoy. I am waiting desperately for her to tire before me, and whisper to me, “Let’s get some fresh air, and talk about the meaning of life.” But pigs never fly, even when you are drunk. And so I am further torn: whether to embarrass myself by dancing without moves, or by stopping because of fatigue.
Eventually, I stop and walk away. I like her, but not that much.
There isn’t any activity in the world I find more uncomfortable than dancing socially. Of course, we all have our own peeves – but nobody ever gets pushed into public speaking. Nobody is dragged onto the stage to walk the ramp. Nobody shoves a guitar into your hands and makes you sit on a stool in the middle of a circle to perform. Unless you happen to be actually good at those things.
But dancing socially is something people equate to life. Nobody has any idea what they’re doing, but because everyone else seems to be doing it, they join in. Whatever the majority does, becomes labeled as normal. Just as with life.
“Why aren’t you dancing?”
“I don’t know how to.”
And so they drag me yet again, expecting me to glow with the same joy they feel. But I don’t. We are just not all wired the same.
Take singing, for instance. It is both liberating and joyful for me – whether for a group of people, for myself, or in the school choir, or collaborating with some stranger in Hong Kong on the Smule App. It feels effortless, and partly because I’m moderately good at it. I understand its nuances.
But that doesn’t mean I will have each guest sing me a song at my wedding like courtiers for an ancient King.
There is definite merit to the idea of stepping outside our comfort zones. But if you don’t find meaning or joy in it, is it really worth it?