Sixth grade, I was given the gift of the best teacher that I had in my life. He was an artist. His works are displayed in reputable museums. I really don’t remember much about academia in the brief semester that he taught that year. But the revolutionary approach he had changed my life.

Mr. B gave us the freedom to play. I did not have to color within the lines. I did not have to fit in the conventional box. Everything I did was fantastic in his eyes. Uniqueness was encouraged. Creativity was applauded. Experimentation was praised. This attitude not only boosted my confidence, but cultivated the seeds of self-esteem and created identity.

Sadly, without boosts of that freedom, much of those end products got obscured in the day to day attempts to fit the societal mores. And that is where the lesson from lindy comes in.

In my personal journey , lindy hop has revived that opportunity for the freedom to play. Freedom to experiment , to express myself in a somewhat non-conventional way has replanted the seeds of self-esteem. We all go through growth periods and then hit a plateau and get stuck or even drift backwards. For me, those occur when I try to dance like someone else. No matter how we try, we are all different and we all will dance differently. Discovering that is why this is lesson is so important. It has been the opportunities to play that have pulled me through those rough spots and been the impetus for new growth. It is being able to experiment without judgment that makes one discover new steps, new stylings, the uniqueness of who you are as a dancer and as a person.

I have the privilege of dancing with many unique leads. I find a special delight in dancing with those that give me the freedom to play. By their own original styles, they let me know it is okay to experiment a little too. They allow me to discover a new part of myself. How gratifying it is to, while dancing, receive a compliment for something new you have tried. That support is thrilling. Hopefully I am doing the same for them. It is so important to enjoy and encourage that growth in others.

This lesson can be taken into our daily lives as well. We need to not allow each other to be stuck in the standardized rut. Encourage the uniqueness in our friends, family, and coworkers in whatever they are pursuing. Encourage the uniqueness in yourself. Return to your twelve year old self and allow yourself the freedom to play. You may discover something amazing!