I will do it.
I made myself send in the competition registration form without hemming and hawing. But let's be real: I had heard that no one else was competing and thought I was safe.
I told myself: I love Se Coyle's accordion music so much. Every year, having to sit through a day's worth of danceable accordion music makes me crazy. This year I will let myself dance.
I told myself: I don't need to overthink it. I'll just let myself do what I love. Because It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. And I can overthink it when I get to Ireland.
And then someone else registered.
I'm not going to do it.
I called everyone I knew trying to find justification for staying in, or reasons for dropping out.
The reasons for dropping out were clear and loud. You will feel terrible if you lose. You will be embarrassed if you lose. YOU don't want to COMPETE! You don't have to! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?
I didn't really have an answer, I just kept searching for something that made sense.
And then I realized:
If I drop out, I am a raging hypocrite.
I tell the kids to do the fleadh.
That it's no big deal.
That they should just be themselves, and share their best work, or just their work at all.
That we work hard, and they should be proud of that work.
They should use it as a way to get better.
That it doesn't matter who wins.
That we do it to share our dancing outside of our little DC bubble.
That the adjudicator is just 1 person, choosing a winner "on the day" and YOU ultimately decide your worth, not them.
That we do it for OURSELVES, to grown, to share, to get better.
That it is a safe space, because we have each other.
I really do believe that.
For them at least.
Do different rules apply to me?
Last year, I sat in the dance competition next to Lucy. She competed, with a fever of 102, in the under 12 set and solo sean-nos competitions. They called, "Over 18 solos", and she looked at me.
"When are you dancing?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm not," I replied.
"What? Why?" she asked. "That doesn't make any sense." And it really didn't.
I truly believe it is important FOR EVERYONE to dance. My life's work until this point has been about encouraging people to do that. To let your body express itself. To own it, and to own the fact that you love doing it.
To resist the urge to ask for permission. Ever.
To me, one of life's greatest tragedies is when people wait for permission to be themselves. And now here I am: a sean-nos dancer, asking everyone I know if I should dance at a sean-nos dance competition that I registered for myself.
Gimme a break.
BUT... is it enough to simply want to dance? Or do I have to abide by different rules because I am a leader?
To dance might feel good to me right now. But as a leader, do I have more of an obligation to the event as a whole? Do I have to give this more thought, about how it might affect the community? Or worse, MY CAREER or REPUTATION??! Is what I say louder, because I am saying it? Do different rules apply because I am a grown up? Do grown ups not get to do things simply because they are fun? What if I am something terrible happens and it sets off my life into a series of terrible events....! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
What if I go ahead and OWN my humanity, instead of pretending like, because I'm a leader, or an adult, that I am not still growing/learning/changing/exploring and (gasp) IMPERFECT?
Because, really? I have to be perfect, and I don't get to grow because I am a leader, or an adult? That's ridiculous.
And no fun.
So what kind of work do I want to show here? What is this an opportunity to model?
What do I need? What is going to make this experience a good one, for all involved?
I need to respect tradition.
I need to express myself in my dancing.
I need to get up to dance at all, perform nice clean steps, let myself improvise completely, and connect with the music.
But what about the other people? The judges? The audience?
The other people there (judges, audience) are simply there to witness that work.
Whether or not they know that is their problem.
I mean, at the end of the day isn't this is all just one way to keep busy being human? A competition is just human beings' way of ensuring we remember our ancestors (dance or otherwise), and that we keep doing our best work.
I was 90% convinced.
In the end, I asked the children what to do.
They didn't even hesitate.
Of course I should do it, obviously, because that's where the dancing is happening and I am a dancer.
There was very little discussion, it was decided unanimously in 1 sentence, and then they launched into a discussion about nerves, and what to wear, and what the judges think, and all of the craic that comes with situations like this.
"Shannon what are you going to dance? I'm going to dance a reel. Or maybe a hornpipe. Or maybe a jig. I don't know!!! hahah!"
"Omg, remember the judge last year? He HATED me!" "Not as much as Seosamh O Neachatain hated me!"
"Remember what the woman in ireland wrote? 'Didn't care for the clicks'. OUCH! hahah!" "Yeah, well Ada won just because she danced in a circle!" (Uproarious laughter from everyone)
And guess what: that conversation alone was GREAT FUN. And we hadn't even done anything yet.
After that we decided to dance for each other and yell heckles at each other to try to make each other smile, or crack up, or dance better.
It was worth the decision to do it just for that moment, standing on the Upton's deck in the sunshine, between figures 1 and 2 of the Cavan set with a bunch of girls I have been dancing with for almost a decade, talking excitedly about how ridiculous competitions are, all the while knowing that without them we wouldn't have all this fun stuff to talk about.
I will do it.
And I'm going to really try my damnedest to have fun.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go vomit.... ;)