The Updraft of a Swing Event

Dec 22, 2017

Mood: Spotless Mind by Jhene Aiko

I’ve had an incredible time at every West Coast Swing weekend event I’ve been to. Although I’ve only been to a handful of them as a relatively new dancer, I come away from them with such an incredible level of excitement and motivation.

However, I’ve noticed that at almost every single one, I have some kind of frustration and stress dwelling inside of me. The majority of the time it’s because of some social anxiety or a lack in confidence about my ability.

At the last event I went to, Swing City Chicago 2017, I think I asked the least amount of people to dance at social events than ANY of the events I’ve been to, to date. It stressed me out so much and as I reflect back on it two months later, it’s really frustrating.

Because I go to those events with the intent to learn, to meet new people, to practice, to discover.

But I can’t do any of that by sitting in my chair. And it’s one thing to sit out because I’m exhausted, or because I want to watch other people dance. Most of the time I sit out because I’m afraid. I let fear get the best of me.

I would rather spend hours and hours dancing.

But I end up spending hours and hours sitting — and not just sitting, but agonizing in my head about how I want to get up and ask someone to dance, and then don’t.

It’s not fun to go through, but I remain optimistic that it’s just a temporary thing.

In my mind I understand that getting up to dance or ask someone to dance is not a big deal. It’s HOW I learn, how I improve, how I discover, how I meet new people. It’s just part of the process. It fits well within my “philosophy” of jumping into the unknown, being in the midst of people more experienced.

But there’s that “gap” between what I know and what I do.

Despite that frustration I’ve faced at events, I do not regret attending those events one bit.

Not only do I learn a lot through workshops, get great experiences in my competitions, and enjoy the dances I DO get up for … but I am catching a pattern from attending WCS events.

I slip into an “updraft.”

Imagine a campfire and a feather or some piece of debris floating through the air. Once it floats above the campfire, the heat catches that feather and pushes it up into the sky.

That kind of “updraft” is what I emotionally feel after an event. Every event.

And during my SCC 2017 experience, there were a few stand-out moments for me that encapsulate that feeling, although the true “updraft” goes beyond the event itself.


The first was meeting one of my All-Star idols, someone I had seen a lot of videos of on YouTube. But on top of that, shortly before the event she shared a post online talking about “how she wasn’t always a dancer” and that she didn’t always make finals.

And reading that was such a huge relief for me.

She’s an incredible dancer, I love her style, and she seems to have a very fun and kind personality from what I’ve been able to notice from the outside looking in.

But as someone who wasn’t born a dancer either, reading those kinds of posts gave me hope and encouragement for my progress and long term goals in West Coast Swing.

So when I got to see her in an intensive workshop taught by Myles & Tessa, it was like a star-struck moment for me. It’s what I love about the West Coast Swing community. The “pros” of the scene are so accessible and so involved in the community at large. They don’t just mesh “only with the pros.”

After the intensive, and after a moment of hesitation, I went over and bought the Deck of Drills (which is awesome). I hesitated for a moment, but managed to push through the shyness and fear and said hello — and told her that her post really inspired me, thanking her for sharing her experience with WCS.

It wasn’t anything spectacular on my part, but that little momentary exchange was a huge highlight of my weekend at SCC. I could have flaked out, but I didn’t. But now because of that, I feel like it was a good first step in making a new connection in the Westie world – especially as we seek to bring in new faces for our swing club.

The Afterglow

The second experience was actually after SCC. I rode up to and back from the event with a friend and we decided to drive into Chicago for an afterparty that was happening that same night.

I’m not sure what changed between the event and that afterparty dance, but my comfort with my dancing improved dramatically and I wasn’t as stressed or anxious. It was a black and white difference for how I felt. I’m guessing I probably just didn’t put unnecessary pressure on myself. The less I thought about how “repetitive” my dancing was … the better my dancing seemed to flow in general. Better connections to my partners and the music.

Connections With a Westie

And the ride home was also quite uplifting, getting to talk about all sorts of things from the event, dance, life, and more. I very rarely get that kind of 1-on-1 opportunity to do more than small-talk.

Up to this point I’ve had such an incredibly hard time conversing with people. It’s only in these 1-on-1 interactions do I really have the most comfort being myself, being open, and talking about things that I actually care about. That’s not to say that I don’t value or enjoy my time with people in larger groups – but it’s less likely that “I” show up in the conversation.

I’m quite grateful for that chance to spend more than a few hours through the course of the weekend getting to chat with her. It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to have had everything figured out by now, that we’re all on some kind of journey, and to know that even though I don’t have everything figured out – that it doesn’t diminish my value.

Solitary Inspiration

And after getting to crash at a halfway point, the drive home was still quite uplifting: I was still in the updraft.

Once I was on the main road back home, the West Coast Swing music was back on and it immediately took me back to swing-event vibes. That swungover feeling you get with a good connection to someone.

And during the final stretch of my drive, I finished off with a podcast/interview between Tony Robbins and Siri Lindley on “making the decision to do the impossible” and loving yourself.

I had started to stress over long-distance travel, but that drive home went so quick. I took a minor detour on the way home, which conveniently navigated around an unexpected slow-down due to traffic.

Height of the Updraft

The exit took me past my childhood neighborhood; I drove past it, but decided to stop by the cemetery nearly across the street.

It was only the second time I had ever visited that cemetery completely on my own. I went to go say hello to family that resided there, but my focus was solely on my sister.

Spotless Mind was playing through the open doors in my car.


And a pretty profound moment hit me, a feeling that I can’t quite describe.

It was this intense … realization of just how little actually “mattered” in my life.

I don’t mean that in a dark, pessimistic way, but rather in a very bright and optimistic manner.

While in my emotional state in the cemetery, I reflected back on the weekend and the past decades of my life. It became really apparent to me just how much I was focusing on things that didn’t matter, things I couldn’t control, and thoughts and actions that didn’t actually help me at all.

While I was at this event, while I was at any WCS event, most of the things I was “stressed” about didn’t even cross my mind.

For 3 days, my worries and woes didn’t even exist.

In fact, I have felt like a completely different person when I attend those events. That opportunity to “let go” of everything I’m worried about, all the obligations, all the stresses … allows me to experience a different side of me.

Whether or not it looked that way on the surface, it was almost as though I was able to “float” through the event, lighter than before, going from place to place with more confidence, more poise.

More … self-awareness.

And through that moment of reflection in the cemetery, it was easier to see who “I” was without all the self-imposed baggage. It was easier to recognize what I actually believed, what I actually felt, what I actually wanted to do, what actually brought me the excitement in my life.

Most of my stress has been self-imposed. Everything I hated about myself, I kept unintentionally reliving.

And theoretically… I could just stop doing all of that. The VAST majority of everything I was “stressed AF” about … I could just not do anymore. I could just not think of it. I could just not give it attention anymore.

What a novel thought.

Through the updraft, the reflection … it became so very apparent what was actually bringing me to life.

I could think of all the things that excited me, the big changes I wanted to make, the positive habits I wanted to incorporate, the projects I wanted to start, the things I wanted to do for people around me.

And how could I not?

I had just experienced another huge dose of “magic” from Swing City Chicago. I’m riding this updraft and all I want to do is…

Do, experience, create, give, share.

Where I’m at, I’m extremely fortunate. And I take it for granted all the time. There’s very little “bad” actually happening in my life.

And most of the time it’s just fabricated in my own mind. All the things I “should” be doing or have done by now at my age.

But none of that is true. The only thing that’s true is who I am and where I am. That’s it.

I have supportive family and friends. I have things that I enjoy. And now I have something that I’m incredibly passionate about. Things could be way worse, but I live and behave as if things are as bad as my mind imagines.

So … why not live a little differently?


This was a post I wrote shortly after coming home from Swing City Chicago 2017. It felt like an incredibly perfect time to post it as I begin the Glimmering Butterfly Project.

That magic, that “updraft” feeling … that’s the heart talking.

Trying to tell me what’s important in my life. A beacon for me to follow.