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Guest Speaker Reflection: What I Wish I knew as a High School Dancer...

Updated: Nov 18, 2019



Whew, it has been one whirlwind of a week! I taught 4 fitness classes, wrote 2 midterms, did all the things for extra-curriculars, volunteered at the Queen’s Fall Preview Day, did school work, did part-time job work, did many, many meetings, fulfilled orders for my Shopify store… life of a university student, am I right?


Anyways, the most exciting part of my week (by far) was running a workshop at my high school!


My First Guest Speaking Experience


I had the incredible honour of leading a workshop about fitness for ~200 dancers in the Mayfield Regional Arts Dance Program. I did four sessions (one for each grade) where we did a mini-fitness class and then I talked about my story with competitive dance, applying to university, and finding ways to incorporate dance into my life after “retiring” from dance. Needless to say, it was a crazy day!


I am just now processing how special this experience was for me. I graduated from this program, and I can honestly say it taught me more than any math or science class ever did. I learned to think creatively, improvise, problem solve, collaborate, work in teams, perform, and most importantly, present myself with confidence and poise.


Giving Back


This program impacted my life in more ways than I can explain. Not only did I feel like I belonged and that I was part of a community, but it also taught me invaluable soft skills that I use every day in the Commerce program.


Anyways, back to the workshop… This was my first time being invited to be a guest speaker and I just want to package up the entire day in one beautiful memory! The dancers were so energetic, attentive, and kind – and holy moly, they ROCKED the workout. (Seriously Gaels, you need to work on your moves for those party tracks!)


What I Wish I Knew


It was truly a full-circle moment for me. I could see a little bit of myself in each of the dancers, and I wanted to tell them everything I wish I knew when I was a dancer in high school. Here are some of the biggest ones…


1. You don’t need to have your life figured out

I was so worried that I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school, and I let it stress me out constantly. Instead of trying to rule options out, look for ways to open new doors. Exploit as many opportunities as you can. Eventually, you will figure out what speaks to you, and have a better sense of the direction you want to head in. If you’re still not sure, there is nothing wrong with taking a gap year. Some of the most involved and amazing people I now know are those that took a gap year to figure out what they really wanted.


Heck, I still don’t know what I want to be! But, I no longer worry about it. I have faith that it will come to me when the time is right, which leads to the next point…


2. Stress Less!

Everything will work out the way it should. School, relationships, work, dance…. Everything! One of my favourite proverbs about this is,

“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do,

but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Instead, focus on what you can control in the moment, right now. Everything else? That’s a later problem!


3. You don’t need to be a professional dancer to love dance and to keep dancing.

I like to think of dance as my first love and my first heartbreak (me, dramatic? Never!) When I quit competitive dance, it felt like I was losing part of my identity. I wished I could’ve continued, but I knew I couldn’t do that AND school at the level and intensity I wanted to. Deciding to stop was heartbreaking, and I still miss it to this day.


However, I didn’t know that stopping would open so many doors to other things I love. If I hadn’t quit when I did, I don’t know if I would’ve found my love for group fitness, and I don’t know if I would be teaching today. Teaching and choreographing is at the core of who I am, and I love that I can continue it


4. Follow Your Heart & Trust Your Gut

Making decisions that were different from my peers - whether that was quitting competitive dance, applying for Major Admission scholarships, or gunning for early-acceptance - was scary! It’s not easy being yourself.


I wish someone had told me that it's okay to be different, in fact, it is a good thing. You have to make decisions that feel right to YOU, because you are the one that has to live with the outcomes. More importantly, when you make decisions for YOU, then you can live with true confidence.


5. Live Life Full Out

By this, I mean make the most of every day. Try your best at everything, raise your hand, and take the chance. When you look back on high school (or any period, for that matter), the things that you’ll treasure most are often the ones that seem “small” at the time. So, enjoy the little things, be yourself, and remember to have fun! You'll only be in high school once!



Lastly, to the girl who didn't believe in herself yet, there is a whole other world waiting on the other side of your self-doubts and insecurities. It will take time, but you will start to uncover who she is. I can't wait for you to meet her, and for her to show you that you were capable of achieving more than your wildest dreams all along. Keep fighting to not only find her, but also to become her. When you let your light shine fully, the whole room gets brighter.


Xoxo,

Jess

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