The other day, I was sitting on the shuttle that takes me from my car to LAX and back. (I work for American Airlines now.) The shuttles we ride have seats like on subways, where we awkwardly face each other and we look around as to not be looking directly at each other. Commonly, we are all on our phones scrolling through Facebook.
This particular day, my phone had run out of battery. It had been a very long day and I'm sure I was more tired than my phone, but I didn't have the option of shutting down. I love riding the shuttle because we drive down the runway right next to planes taking off. I like to pretend I'm the villain in an action movie, who just can't quite catch up to the good guy escaping into the sky. I smile often when this happens. I'm sure the people around me wonder why I'm smiling.
Anyway, because my phone had died, I started thinking about this crazy life I lead and how I have done so many weird things. One of the first things that came to mind was when I toured with this ridiculously cheesy Christian singing group. Oh, it was bad. We would actually say "The bigger the hair the closer to God." Horrible. But one thing was true, it was one of the first times I danced outside of my small town. I got to tour internationally; singing and dancing.
I was fresh out of high school and sent to Colorado for training. I will never forget sitting there in the Denver airport on my one allowed suitcase and hugging my pillow just praying someone would find me. In Colorado about 350 people came together to learn music and choreography and then we were split into ten different groups and sent all over the world. Every group had a dance soloist. I was the dance soloist for my group.
At the end of the tours, we all came back together for one huge concert; 350 singers, audience of a couple thousand. Trying to get all the choirs to work together was difficult, but the worst was trying to get the dance soloists to match. We had all slightly changed our dances to fit us best and through out the tour they had become very different. Thus, when we all danced together, we looked like a hot mess.
The choreographer came up and said that he was just going to pick one girl and that girl was... me.
I almost died of fright. I felt so very small. This little tiny girl, from this tiny town, in front of a choir of 350. I just knew I would just be swallowed up by the size of the stage in this huge venue.
Back in the shuttle, 18 years later, I starred into space wondering why that choreographer ever chose me. I definitely had the least experience. I definitely was from the smallest town on earth. And then for no reason at all, I remembered...
About a year before that scary moment, I had auditioned for him to do this job. I had forced myself through a hip hop routine that didn't look great on me, but I was determined to try. It was time for the final round. It was me and four amazing girls, what was I doing here? The music turns on, I adjust my hair and pull at my shirt. Do I look ok?
I count myself in... 5,6,7 and everyone starts. Well, the truth is the girl who had the most confidence starts on 8 and everyone follows her.
I knew we were supposed to start on 1. I was starting on 1. The entire routine, I was exactly 1 count behind everyone. It was really hard; to stay focused, to stay on beat, to not let the movement of the girls make me rush, and to not let the stares of the people watching scare me. I could see that everyone thought I was wrong. The choreographer had his eyes plastered on me. He had to know I was right, right?
The routine got done. There was a small polite awkward applause and the confident girl walks by me, "What were you doing?" To be honest, I had no idea. Maybe I should have danced with everyone, but as the choreographer left the room, he walked by me and without even stopping, he nodded and said "Well done."
And that is when I got the solo. An entire year earlier, I had held my ground. I refused to conform. I proved that I was more than a small town dancer.
As I rode in the shuttle, I sat back into my seat. An 18 year old mystery had been solved. What a crazy realization. As I watched the beautiful sunset, I smiled remembering how I danced that night with all of my heart. Filling that huge stage with the joy I feel when I dance.
And then a thought came to me. Would I have thought about any of this if I had been scrolling on my Facebook? Probably not and I most definitely would have missed that sunset. So, every time I ride the shuttle, I leave my phone in my pocket and let my mind wander. I don't often get answers to 18 year old mysteries but it is fun to just have a half an hour a day to sit and ponder.