Collaboration | Doing Life with Others

I filled an entire journal in the month before turning 24-years-old. (It was dramatic, I promise.) I graduated from college exactly two years earlier, started a career, set it aside for graduate school, and then dropped out of school. I was turning 24 and in the same situation as two years before. Only, it is socially acceptable to be a jobless graduate at 22, but being a jobless grad school dropout at 24 seems concerning.

In that month, I made a list of all the adult-ish things I thought I should be doing by this age. Things like Wax car each weekend and Stick to a regular bedtime, which I promptly disregarded the same evening by eating strawberries, wearing a flower crown, and reading until sunrise.

But by my birthday, I chunked the list—people have developed regular bedtimes for centuries without any sort of self-improvement plan—except for one point. I wanted to learn to swing dance.

That’s how I ended up in rehearsal room several nights each week that humid summer. The plan was to learn Lindy Hop, a flapper style swing dance to jazz and big band music. But the lessons I learned there would twirl right off the dance floor and into my daily life.

The first thing I learned was that practicing with another human is sweaty and sticky business. Engaging in life with another person is messy.

One evening in particular, we struggled to complete a move in the correct beat count because I kept swiveling my body in a wide arc rather than stepping directly ahead. It took twice the count, looked half as good, and threw us off beat each time.

You should know that I can’t think and count at the same time. During ping-pong matches, my opponents always keep the score because I can’t play the game and simultaneously remember the score.

Now as my partner was counting the steps, I was completely distracted by the sweat beginning to drip down my forehead and through my eyebrows. I was dangerously close to sweating on a perfectly nice human who had done nothing to deserve it. Maybe I didn’t want him to know that I, too, am a human, capable of sweating in humid summer conditions, or maybe I didn’t want to share my sweat. But for whatever reason, I felt gross, and I wanted to keep that grossness to myself.

My gracious partner realized what was going on. “It seems,” he ventured, “that you are swinging your hips all the way out…” And suddenly, I felt so uncomfortable and exposed. The other human was about to figure out that I sweat.

Then I was annoyed that I felt uncomfortable.

Finally, I blurted, “I don’t know. I mean…we’re just two sweaty people trying to dance.”

When you can’t avoid it, you might as well call it. After a minute or so, he stopped laughing and picked himself off the floor, and he didn’t abandon me in my puddle of sweat, disgusted with my humanness. Instead, he took my sweaty hand in his sweaty hand and we picked up where we left off, practicing the step and counting beats.

We learned the step. I learned that it’s more fun to be sweaty people dancing together than a lone, clean performer.

Collaboration | Intro


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