front and center

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“yes, you in the back.” was never uttered to me in high school. i wasn’t the student hiding out in the last row of class, praying that the teacher would overlook her overt lack of interest in the subject matter at hand.

no, that wasn’t me at all. in fact, i’m sure there were probably a classmate or eight that would have labeled me a total brown noser. and i mean, while i’d like to think that it was less an act of getting in the teach’s good graces (my spot in the front of the class) and more just a flat out affinity for learning (obviously your proximity to the teacher directly correlates to the absorption rate of the information itself), i can’t say that there weren’t select occasions when i knew prime seating may also warrant a prime opinion (and in turn, a prime grade) of yours truly.

but this isn’t about how i was everyone’s favorite study buddy in grades nine through twelve (humble brag? probably).

on my very first pure barre class, i immediately positioned myself in the back of the studio. unlike how confident i had always been in the classroom, this particular form of instruction found me as vulnerable as ever. this time, i wouldn’t have all of the answers, in fact, at times, it felt as though they were speaking a different [body] language entirely. the exercises, the buzz words (“tuck,” “pulse,” “back dance”), the choreography in general. it was all so complicated. i was a mess. literally, a sweaty mess by those 60 minutes’ end. i had hoped my placement in the back of the class would have all but made me invisible. that somehow i could mask my overt inexperience by simply shying away from the display of the full-length mirrors. i ducked behind the other spandex-clad ladies, blocked out my own silhouette in the mirror by their slender figures and effortless skill and prayed that one day, one day, my own technique would warrant me a spot in the front.

there are certainly areas of my life that i have always been a front-row student -academics was always my arena to shine and i’d be lying if i said that i wasn’t a natural at a few artistic endeavors as well. but there are many MORE arenas that not even a seat in the furthest row back could soothe my feelings of inadequacy.

but see, it is precisely in those areas that there can be tangible growth. sure, it doesn’t come without dedication and hard work, but while those accolades achieved utilizing those second-nature skills are certainly nice, i can’t help but think that the successes attained in the areas where once inadequacy stood are all the sweeter.

a few weeks ago, i walked into pure barre class only to find that my usual spot at the back of the room was occupied by a new student (ah, circle of life). at first i was thrown for a loop. “but that’s my spot. obviously she just doesn’t know the lay of the land. i always stand there. have since day one.” suddenly, my whole routine was thrown off. where was i to stand now? i couldn’t possibly stand in the front.

i mean, was i ready for that leap?

but with little other options at my disposal, i begrudgingly moved my free weights, band, and ball to an open space front and center. welp, here goes nothing. and it was in the front of class, a place once reserved only for those comfortable in the lime light, ones confident enough in the choreography to warrant the watchful eye of those in the back, that i executed the moves at certainly a much higher skill level than that fateful first day for the entirety of that hour-long class.

and i’m not implying that i was perfect in form and function. hardly. while my skill has improved dramatically over the past 15 months, i am still very much human -my muscles shake and quiver and burn like anyone else, especially if i’ve allowed one too many days pass between classes. but there has been growth. so much growth in my flexibility and simply my overall ability to execute the moves with a comfortable ease. and finally, there has been a renewed confidence. a taller-standing version of myself.

a version who now willingly takes her spot at the front of class. but a version who also always remembers to encourage the girl in the back of the room that things will get easier. that anything great takes hard work and dedication (isn’t that the truth with all things in life?). and that i can speak from experience because one time not too long ago, i too was in her shoes (rather, grippy socks), shying away from the light at the back of the room.

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