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I Don't Miss The Dancer

A warning: This rant is fairly personal, so if you're not keen on sorting through some of my emotional baggage, please feel free to stop reading.

This one all started earlier today. John T was playing some Latin music while he was working, which is cool - he's got a good taste in relax-while-you-work music, including some nifty jazz by guys like St. Germain. It makes a nice change from my Steely Dan-dominated playlist. Suddenly, a track grabs my attention - my dance teacher used it, back when I was doing Latin dance classes in the city of a Wednesday night. I kept working, with half an ear on the music as I kept on doing database stuff, and sure enough, the very next track was also one I knew from dancing. I asked John whether he'd taken any lessons; he hadn't.

Now, you cats who knew me before I hooked up with Vickie know I was a fairly busy person. I'd joined the Pymble Players, an amateur theatre group, and acted in two plays and assistant-stage-managed another. I did a year of TAFE during the evening, and was taking Latin dance lessons since late 1998.

All that pretty much ground to a halt when I got Vickie to move down here. I'd stopped doing theatre whilst TAFE was on during the evenings in 2000, and I had planned to hold off going back to TAFE to complete my IT diploma until this year, doing another play or two in that time lurked in the back of my mind. I was also turning up semi-regularly to the ClubSmed Friday-night RPG sessions. After Vickie and I moved in together, I joined the 2001 term of dancing lessons, but stopped going after a few weeks. An observer might be forgiven for thinking that I'd given up my "life".

I will admit, there was a while where I was thinking the exact same thing. In my own eyes, I wasn't the most social of people during high school and a few years after, and from 1999 to early 2001, I was getting out, doing things, meeting people. Now, all of a sudden, I was spending my nights "in". What the heck was I thinking? I wanted to dance, I wanted to get up on stage again, I felt like not going back to TAFE was flushing my possibility for further education, a better career and more pay down the can, but how could I do that without spending time - in the case of amateur theatre, a significant amount of time, like three nights a week for three months, or if I was going to do TAFE, a whole year - away from Vickie? How was that fair to her, after she'd made an investment of a lot of money and a heck of a lot of emotion and soul-searching to be with me?

Needless to say, I've long since stopped running those circles in my head. But today, listening to those familiar tunes coming from John's speakers, I realised something - I didn't really miss it. I didn't feel compelled to start dancing again, fun as it was, good exercise as it was. I thought about the other things I'd given up: Acting? TAFE? Sources of some fun memories and good learning experiences both, but I didn't feel any nagging, gnawing, get-your-life-back need to get into them again.

Occasionally during the rest of the day, on the way home, and this evening as I write this, I took a page from Heinlein's Starship Troopers and took my soul out and gave it a look to try and find out why I no longer particularly gave a shit. Please indulge me in a little autobiography as I try and figure it out.

I never really enjoyed my life at home or at school from 1989 onward. I didn't seem to get on with most of my high school year; I had (and as Vickie will attest, still have) a pretty thin skin when it comes to teasing, and the ragging I got for my name, my accent (still obviously English, especially at the start of high school) and almost any reason at all, including a "Jackaroo"-brand backpack I had at one time (draw your own conclusions), meant I pretty much stuck with a small group of friends, including Jake and Cameron - in fact, Jake and Cameron are the only friends I still have from my high school days. I thought of myself then, and still do think of myself to some extent, as the quiet one, the one who doesn't say much in social situations because frankly, he's got no idea what to say without sounding like an idiot, geek or nerd.

I wasn't a spectacular success academically, either. I didn't do assignments (not in terms of nightly homework, but the larger, three-to-six-months-to-complete projects) on time, and the final effort, handed in late, was usually lackluster. They were these huge, looming things that I tried to forget, simply because I didn't know how to start something that big. Of course, Mum and Dad, especially Dad, were rather miffed, to say the least. Failing out of Macquarie University after the first year didn't help; by the end of 1996, I considered myself a useless, skinny, unfit waste-of-space who blew over $2,000 of his parents' money in Uni fees (not to mention what they spent on fees and books at North Sydney Boys High School for a mediocre TER of 66.25), cruised through life on a nice-boy personality and didn't make any effort to live up to a potential I knew I had - well, I had to, hadn't I? Everyone kept telling me I wasn't living up to it. I didn't even have the guts to kill myself, and suicide was something I was thinking about daily in my education years, especially in high school.

On top of that, I had a hobby - roleplaying games - that was not only oddball, but that I spent more time reading the books of than I did actually playing or GMing, so I was socially inept and failing at being socially inept. Mum and Dad, I think, despaired that I was never particularly social, that I never had much interest in sport; Dad recommended in his various life-talks that I get myself an interest in such things as rugby, soapies and the like, so that I could socialise with people of my own age group. It never happened, of course. You can probably deduce that acting and dancing were my way of showing myself and everyone else that I wasn't entirely a write-off, that I could learn how to do social things and actually be likeable and popular. And maybe - just maybe - I could find a girl and fall in love, or at least get laid on something resembling a regular basis.

[As a side note, I gave up the dancing lessons because I nearly managed to fuck up our relationship within a couple of months of it starting. One of the class-goers had invited me to a party at her place, and although I'd told her I'd like to bring my Lady a couple of times, she seemed (in my opinion, anyway) to miss the "I'm taken" inference, saying "of course you can bring your friend along". I accepted out of my need to be social, but also because it was the first time a single, interesting and seemingly interested woman had ever invited me, dorky me, to a party. Talk about your ego-boost. Thankfully, Vickie brought me to my senses, and we didn't go. The idea of going back to the dancing lessons after that was a little too uncomfortable.]

But here I am, a couple of years down the track, and I really don't care about any of that any more.

I think it helps that I'm living out of home, not having to see my parents every day and thinking how much of a disappointment I must be to them in just living my life the way I wanted. I have a group of friends whom I see regularly, most of whom I've either met after high school or just recently. I feel comfortable in my life, my friendships and my love. My relationship with Mum and Dad is still rather strained; we get along very civilly when I go and see them (Vickie's usually working evenings whenever there's a family occasion), but although they can accept Vickie as a person, they think she's wrong for me. My job could be better in some respects, but my team-mates and my manager are all good, friendly people, and I have a future and am actually making a contribution. I've slowed down, got some meat on my bones (some say a little too much these days) and stopped panicking. I live clean aside from the odd beer now and then. I don't need to show Mum and Dad what a good little socialite I'm being. If Mum, Dad, any of my other blood relations or acquaintances have a problem with my life or the fact that I love Vickie Bowman - let me state that again for the record: I love Vickie Bowman - that's their problem, not mine. I've caused myself enough angst, I'm not taking theirs.

So, I suppose I simply don't need dancing, or theatre, or any other form of frantic clutching for attention to tell me I'm a worthwhile person any more. I've got the sort of friends I always wished I had, a beautiful woman with whom I share a mutually nurturing and beneficial relationship, and enough self-confidence to actually deal with whatever life throws my way. Instead of looking at all those un-used RPG books on the shelves and ho-humming over campaigns not played, I'm running one (and stressing about what I'm going to throw at the players next session) and playing in two. Life is fucking great, thank you very much for asking, I wish you could have a slice of it.

I don't know whether it's a self-deception to refer to myself in the past as another person, because it's still me, but I don't need to be that other person any more. I don't need his fears, his insecurities, his doubts or his desparate need for any positive attention; some of them may still linger on in me, but I'm working on getting them out of the way (and making room for some all-new fears, insecurities and doubts).

I may miss the dancing, occasionally - but I sure as heck don't miss the dancer.

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