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Get Real. Find Joy.

By Betsy Myers

When she was four years old, my daughter, Madison, often saw her friends leaving their after-school program to go to soccer, ballet, piano, and other activities. One day, when I picked her up from preschool, she said, “Mommy, please don’t overschedule me. I just want to play after school and relax on weekends!”

I said, “Okay, tell you what: I’ll suggest some activities now and then, and when you’re ready to do something outside of school, you can choose.”

A few years later, when she was six, we went together to her best friend Rachael’s dance recital. The program featured ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop for girls from three to twenty years old. It was a three-hour production — and Madison sat on the edge of her seat the whole time, completely enthralled in every minute of it.

“Mommy,” she said after the recital was over, “This is what I want to do! Can we sign up right now?” So we did — she signed up for a class that combined ballet, tap, and jazz for her age group.

Some time later, we went shopping for a leotard and shoes in preparation for her dance class. After Madison picked out a few different styles, we made our way to the fitting room, where she tried on each one to see which felt most comfortable. Finally, she made her choice: sleeveless and black with a matching skirt.

As she stood in front of the mirror, assessing her new outfit, her face lit up. “Mommy,” she exclaimed, “I am freaking out with joy! I was born to dance!”

That was three years ago. Madison has since danced in several recitals herself, and she is totally engaged in her dance class. In fact, it has become her favorite part of the week. She prepares her dance bag the night before each class session to make sure she doesn’t forget anything the next morning. After her first spring recital, when the dance studio shut down for summer recess, Madison said, “How am I going to live this summer without dance class? Dance is my life!”

Ask her what she wants to be when she grows up and she replies without hesitation, “A dancer!” If you’re looking for Madison, chances are good you’ll find her in some part of the house practicing her dancing.

Madison’s love of dancing reminds me that it is those times in our lives when we are freaking out with joy that give us the greatest clues about who we are and where we genuinely belong.

There is a unique, almost magnetic quality I’ve often noticed in people who wholeheartedly love what they do, and over the years I’ve come to recognize that quality as authenticity. When Madison’s dancing, she is not only genuinely happy, she is also being fully Madison.

2011 MA Conference for Women keynote Betsy Myers is the author of Take the Lead (available on Amazon).