My mother enrolled me in tap and ballet class when I was five years old. Every week, she’d drive me down the road to Dawn’s Dance Studio and I assume I would practice pointing my toes or a shuffle step combination. I remember barely anything of the experience but thankfully, my father, with his 7,000-pound video recording equipment, filmed the entire finale recital.
Right on stage, dressed as a little lion, I did nothing but sing the songs at the top of my lungs. There is devastatingly embarrassing footage of me and my lack of dance skills. “Karrie, the girls were all jumping and you didn’t even leave the ground,” my mother told me. She never re-enrolled me, and I was probably pretty ok with that being the end of my dancing—and singing—career. From that point forward, my sweet moves were saved for Sunday afternoons when we’d move the furniture in my grandparent’s house and crank up the polka music.
At some point in my adult-ish life (because growing up is so overrated), I heard someone say, “If you can talk you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance.” I believe it’s an African proverb, but those words seemed to jump continents and ring loudly in my heart. I spent plenty of time singing to myself in the car or the shower, but maybe there was more out there. Where I used to grab the hymnal in church and pretend to mouth the words, I started singing louder and louder because hey, why not? I realized that making music with my voice also made me happy. So what if I wasn’t a professional singer? I was a professional happiness maker.
The part about walking and dancing? Surely that couldn’t be true. But then I began dancing for fitness, and moving and grooving for an hour was a lot more fun than a treadmill. Before long I became a dancing fool. Me, the girl who wouldn’t move her feet during her only dance recital, started dancing all of the time. Clean the kitchen? Dance. Fold laundry? Dance. My vacuum and lawn mower marks are always a little rhythmically punctuated.
Dancing, I learned, made me happy. Really happy. Even though I am far from a professional and educated dancer, I find that it doesn’t matter in the slightest. It turns out that that whole thing about “dancing like nobody’s watching” is totally true. Anyone who is watching is probably jealous they aren’t dancing anyway because I bet deep down we all wish we could whip out a sweet Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers routine.
I could talk, so I sang. I could walk, so I danced. If I did those things, I smiled. And if I smiled, I might make someone else smile, even though they are probably laughing at me.
And what a world this would be if we all smiled a little more.
Originally written 5.8.16