After failing at my Chess Challenge in week 6, I took up swing dancing for a week.

If I had thought hard about this challenge in advance, I would have considered anything that involved dancing as punishment, not just for me, but for everyone involved! Perhaps it could be penance for failing at chess the previous week, I might have thought. But I didn’t think, because living in flux is teaching me to process less and do more.

Here’s how it happened, and also why it shouldn’t have:

We were driving back to our hostel in Portland one night (where we’ve been staying as part of our travels across the USA) and my wife spotted a dance studio (the excellent and highly recommendable Viscount Dance Studios) which offered beginner swing dancing lessons, so we just signed up there and then. The next night I found myself standing on a polished wooden floor in a room full of mirrors preparing for all sense of rhythm to be replaced with anxious sweat and self-loathing. Why? Because I have history with dance. To start with, it’s one of the few things I’ve tried, like languages, that I’ve completely failed at, repeatedly. Secondly, failing at dancing doesn’t fit my profile: I trained to degree level in physical theatre, love singing and playing music in public and am generally at home performing in front of people. But moving expressively? No. To really, really compound matters, my wife loves us to dance together and my mother runs a dance school.

In short, I HAVE to be good at dancing, I’ve just been running away from it my whole life.

How did it go?
After a week which took in two swing dance lessons, one dance night in a swing club and regular shuffling around our bedroom along to music from my iPhone, I can honestly say that I have mastered a few of the basics and, more importantly, it didn’t feel anywhere near as bad as I thought it would. Yes, I’m still a bad dancer, but now I’ve started learning, willingly, I don’t want to stop! And if I end up as a good, bad or average dancer, I no longer care, I’m an enthusiast!

Lessons learned: conquer comfort zones close to home
I have seriously stepped outside my comfort zone since the Flux project began. You will know this if you’ve followed my journey so far. But to be truthful, it’d be easy to perpetually play on leaving my work, home and friends behind to start My Year In Flux, claiming for the remainder of the year that these grand acts alone have pushed me permanently outside my comfort zone. But that’s not how humans work, we’re creatures of habit, and I’m getting used to the choices I’ve made. So even though I’ve removed many comfortable planks from my life and begun backpacking across the Americas, I must continue to probe beyond comfort boundaries, and that might not always mean travelling 2000 miles or torching my career. Sometimes the smaller acts, the comfort zones which lie closer to home, are the ones that need conquering.