Thursday, August 25, 2011

Soul In My Shoes

Lately I have become fascinated with reality talent competitions. I'm not usually a big fan of reality television, so it's made me reflect on the reason why I am so drawn to them. Okay, I admit that shows like So You Think You Can Dance appeal to me because dance is one of the great loves of my life, but since the season ended I have moved on to other competitions. The last time I got one of these television fascinations it was for home shows, and a few months later we moved into our new home. So, what am I researching now?

Although I am inherently a competitive person (just ask my husband who says that the first time he played a board game with me he was not prepared for how serious I was about winning), something keeps me from going after what I want. I walk all the way up to the starting line, but I don't run when everyone else does. It's my Achilles heel. And I wonder what am I carrying around that makes me so hesitant to try.

"16 Hands & Feet"
from community art experience led by artist Michel Groisman 
I spend a lot of time in comparisons--measuring whether or not I have anything unique to offer--that I lose my focus, I lose my vision, I lose the things that got me to that moment in the first place. It's like I'm waiting for someone to find out I'm a fraud. So I hide in the background where it is much easier to save face when it doesn't work out with the excuse that I need another class, another skill, another person to get me there. But what if being me is enough? 

I think watching these reality shows is a study in what it takes to get past that starting line. And what it takes to stay in the competition. What I see celebrated on these programs is contestants revealing themselves to the world, even if they reveal things that might otherwise be perceived as limitations. Over and over the judges encourage the contestants to show who they are, go below the surface, be authentic. Any contestants who try to glaze over who they are and blend in with the crowd are gone from the competition sooner rather than later. Why is this? I think we are hungry for authenticity. The world is so full of commodities that we are drawn to the real thing, the individual creation, anything that has a stamp of soul.

Maybe that's the key to getting over that starting line--remembering that the best competitors run their own race. I think I knew this at twelve when I stepped on to the Waldorf Astoria stage to compete in my first national dance competition. I was probably not the best dancer in the competition, but it didn't stop me from entering. I put on my ballet slippers and won third place.

Time to remember what it felt like to put my soul in my shoes.

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