It was a sunny Monday morning, a perfect day, not a cloud in sight. I stared out at Lake Ontario from my high-rise Bay Street office. The water dazzled as its waves reflected the sun’s bright rays. My vision of serenity was slowly overcome with anguish, as I replayed the last hour over and over in my head.
“I am sorry, but we have to let you go.”
My mind raced. How was I going to pay my bills? What about my student loan? I didn’t plan for this. How could this happen to me?
I knew the reason for their decision. The team leader I reported to wouldn’t allow breaks, spoke in a condescending tone and explicitly stated that I needed to follow every order without question, or else I would be fired. One day, I decided I’d had enough and stood up to the workplace bullying.
I was proud of myself, but also anxious about the future. As a 22-year-old recent graduate, I found myself in a very unfamiliar place, with many looming uncertainties. I was not new to struggle, as my mother raised me as a single parent after we arrived in Canada as political refugees, but this was my first taste of ‘adulting’.
Along with attending school full-time, I had been steadily employed since the age of 14, to support myself financially. I was regimented in my schedule: go to school, go to work, finish chores, eat, sleep, repeat. I even had a financial roadmap to purchase a home, travel the world and pay off my student loan. So much of my self-worth was tied to overachieving and external accomplishments that I felt completely lost after being fired.
It hadn’t occurred to me that this event was going to be pivotal for my personal growth.
Leading up to that fateful Monday morning, I had been struggling for a couple of years—none of my jobs brought me long-term fulfillment, my mental health was deteriorating and I simply didn’t like myself.
I never took the trips I was saving up for because I was always busy working. I never volunteered for a cause I truly cared about. I never took a dance class, despite loving dance and practicing countless Bollywood and Beyoncé choreographies growing up. And, for a very long time, I hadn’t spent time leisurely reading and journaling.
I had put so much pressure on myself about having everything figured out that I didn’t leave any room for mistakes, risks or adventures. The high expectations I placed on myself trickled down to the expectations I had of others, impeding my ability to connect with others on a genuine level. I desired a healthy sense of self and became committed to discovering myself.
I started journaling about my feelings and fears. I drafted another roadmap, this time about healing from trauma and all the painful memories I repressed deep down in the crevasses of my mind. I discovered that my need for control was my attempt to restore order after a chaotic upbringing.
I had a volatile family life that was compounded by violence. I was always anxious and felt blocked, energetically. At first, I attributed that to my hectic day-to-day schedule, but as I reflected deeper, I realized it was the doubts and hurts I had bottled up inside that kept me from experiencing peace of mind and contentment.
Life can only be experienced as deeply as you experience yourself. That was the biggest lesson I learned.
I retired routine and listened to the rhythm of my body and soul as they moved with the ebb and flow of life. It was a divine dance.
With a newfound understanding of myself, I explored new ideas, spaces and people. I began volunteering as a crisis counsellor to survivors of gender-based violence, I took up hiking during the weekends, I started cooking and eating well-balanced nutritious meals, and I joined dance classes.
That was one of the best summers of my life. For four months, I retired routine and listened to the rhythm of my body and soul as they moved with the ebb and flow of life. It was a divine dance.
Hardships and struggles are inevitable—they are life’s most profound teachers, and almost everyone we know and love, including ourselves, have been their students. We interact with life as much as it interacts with us, and to speak its language, we must be willing to learn, to move, to change, to grow and to let go.
It’s OK to let go of control and perceived ideas of who you need to be. You will discover your most authentic self once you allow yourself to just be in the moment. This is the part of yourself that doesn’t require external validation and thrives only on self-love.
Dance is a metaphor for life. When you first encounter adversity, you may feel all over the place and out of control, and that’s OK. Be still and listen to it. Trace the tempo and get to know the beat. You are the dancer, the learner, the mover, the changer, the grower and the let-goer.
Remember that no matter how often the music changes or how difficult the steps become, it’s your two feet doing the dancing. No matter the challenges you face, you are in control of your thoughts and your choices. The divine dance awaits you.