It was the last dance of the evening.
I knew that. But, I did not know it would be the only one.
A STORY ABOUT CHANGE. INSPIRED BY A SWEET MEMORY & EQUINOX, September 2023.
Johann is not in my gang. He is quiet, kind of nerdy, and has a sweet presence. He hangs out with boys like him, and that gang of boys doesn’t really mix with girls. He is from Northern Europe and has skin that looks like silk and blonde hair that shines.
My gang is more like me. Gregarious, cheeky, and seeking fun. My gang is a motley crew of guys and gals and we are considered the popular ones. We are mostly from the USA, Australia, and the UK.
I am figuring out teenage reality in a faraway country and my school has 72 nationalities. We are all far away from home and our gang creates the security we need in all the teen anxiety about where we belong.
Johann is my secret. I steal glances at him. I find that I seek him out when I enter a room. I feel like I want to be closer to him. We are often in the same places, but never in the same circles. At 15 you don’t mix gangs. You just don’t.
I see him looking for me too. Perhaps I am Johann’s secret.
It is the semi-formal dance at the end of the school semester. I, with my class of 15-year-olds, are all dressed up like we are adults. We are playing dress-ups at the dance and pretending that it is normal to wear fancy dresses and shoes that shine.
Johann looks so good. I had no idea he could look better, yet he absolutely does. His grey dress pants fit nicely and he looks so grown up with his tie snug at his neck.
All dance long I steal a look in his direction. I see him stealing too.
The last dance of the night is announced. Johann crosses the room and walks my way. He is looking mostly at the ground as he approaches. He arrives and looks up. We are no longer stealing glances, we are locked in.
“Would you like to dance with me?” he asks in a quiet voice.
Our sway on the dance floor is slightly awkward. Neither of us knows how to dance arm in arm but that is what everyone is doing so we do that. And, it is what I want. I want to be this close. As the song progresses we ease into our sway. I relax into being close. My secret is swaying with me. My wish has come true.
The song ends and we draw apart automatically.
“See you after the break.”
“Okay, have a good holiday.”
I float away and begin to dream. Next semester I plan to be close to him. I want that feeling. I know now that I will risk the mixing of gangs. I assure myself that when school opens again after the holiday break we will steal more than glances. I intend on stealing kisses.
The new semester begins and I am not there. Over the holidays my father’s work changes and my parents decide it is best to move all of us kids between the school break rather than wait and disrupt our schooling in the middle of a semester. This is the change I did not see coming. Within weeks we shifted back home to Australia and my overseas life, school, and friends were deleted from my everyday. And so is Johann. I never saw him again.
More than 30 years have passed and I still think about the stolen awkward glances with Johann. Not often, but when I do it feels so fresh. I can still see his cute face. I wonder what he looks like now as a grown man. I wonder if he ever thinks about me.
Mostly, I wonder what would have happened if I had returned to school.
I will never know.
That’s the thing with change. Once the change has clicked over, all other paths of possibility vanish. And that is how it is supposed to be.
Change happens and we land somewhere new. Rather than wonder, we can activate the wonder of where we have landed.
This was not easy for me more than 30 years ago. I thought about the ‘what ifs’ a LOT. And, it took me away from where I had landed. It took me almost a year to completely land in my new school and to find my new gang. I felt ripped off. The change that had changed everything in my life was not the change I wanted. So I turned up petulance and I delayed my landing.
Truth be told I have done this more than once. When the change is unexpected it can take a few beats to allow the landing. I must say I am getting better at sticking the landing on the changes I don’t see coming.
There are some universal truths that support me in accepting change.
“What is for me will not pass me” is one of them. I guess Johann and I were not destined!
Another Go-To for me is “I am exactly where I am meant to be, the magic is happening here and now” This one was on repeat for a while when I first moved to my island home in Tobago.
And, one truth that I must admit I have found hard to swallow at times is, “The universe has my back” This truth I have challenged more than once and every time I am met with the support I seek.
What is your reaction to unexpected change? Mine was petulance (and sometimes still is.)
Whether we want it or not, change will continue. And even when it doesn’t feel like it, it is shifting you in the direction of your next love, lesson, or adventure.
I would love to learn how to change as easily as the seasons do. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? To allow and be accepting of all changes. Wonderful yes, and not really human! When we get uncomfortable we learn so much, I think that is where a lot of magic is hidden.
I will share with you one of my favorite quotes as my parting love note on change. This I wish for you and me.
“There is certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position and be bruised in a new place.”
Washington Irving 1783 – 1859