I have been going swing dancing at Century Ballroom every week since the start of the year. Swing is a partner dance that has leaders and followers. Before every song, it is customary for the leader, typically a guy, to ask a follower, usually a girl, to dance, and when the song ends, the leader finds another follower to dance with for the next song. For someone with social anxiety, this can be pretty intimidating. Walking up to someone after every dance to ask them is socially taxing let alone having to perform while dancing. Keeping time with your feet and performing interesting moves instead of the same basic steps, all while thinking about whether the followers are enjoying themselves, is exhausting. But man is it fun.

The past couple of New Year’s Eve, I have gone swing dancing with my girlfriend at a cute Americana venue outside of DC, Glenn Echo. Live music and chaotic dancing from a room full of people is a fantastic energy to be a part of. Taking the lessons before the dances was very helpful for getting the basic steps, loosening up, and building confidence. Both times before going, I had felt incredibly nervous the days before the dance. The feeling was telling me to stay home and stay away from the stress of having to perform in a social dance setting. Feelings like this are the ones that allow you to reinvent yourself. Grow beyond what you are capable of today and enact lasting change. In my mind, I see a feeling like this and “turn into it.” The result is endlessly rewarding. The moments of dancing with my girlfriend in a crowd of people and nailing a set of moves are like being in a scene from a movie.

I still feel stressed before attending these dances, but the feeling has diminished. There are followers I vibe with and some with whom I don’t as much, but that is ok. I see partner dancing as a tangible metaphor for life where we constantly seek connection with others; sometimes, it works out, and occasionally it doesn’t. I can build a more profound intuition around relationships and relax even when something feels off.

There are so many opportunities to dance worldwide; if you haven’t tried it already, give it a go. If it is your first time, it will probably suck. You will be off beat, step on some feet, things will feel off. Go to the lesson beforehand, take it slow, trust the process, trust yourself. Almost everyone there will want to help you learn because they have been in your shoes before.