“You have to come to CPSalsa! How will you know you don’t like it if you don’t try it?” my friend Michael pleaded.

“I just know! I’ve never done a partner dance before, I won’t know anyone other than you there, and it’s so SCARY!” I exclaimed. He looked down in resignation and shook his head.

I was at the end of my freshman year, and I thought I had college all figured out. I was getting good grades, I had a group of friends that I loved, and, most of all, I had already found fun activities that captured my interest. What was the need to add more to that list? I was content, satisfied, happy.

But one fateful Friday in May, everything changed. I had had just about enough of my friend insisting on my going to CPSalsa with him, so I put on my nicest (and in my opinion, salsa-iest) dress, and I headed over to building 5 room 225 for lessons at 8. I expected the worst: I would spend the night sitting in a corner because no one would want to dance with me, those that did would laugh at me, and I would run back home crying, confidence completely shattered.

I arrived, begrudgingly paid my $5, and entered room 225 at 8:04. I got a couple looks for my tardiness, but I put my things down, hurried down the stairs, and found a spot in line. The instructors were teaching the basic step, and though I struggled with the timing at first, I found myself completing the steps with ease. Halfway through the lesson, I rotated to my next partner, which, as my luck would have it, was the male instructor. My face burned from embarrassment, as I knew that I was nowhere near the caliber of the dancer in front of me. After finishing the pattern, however, he looked at me with a smile and said, “Wow! Great job! You’re a natural!” and walked away. My heart was fit to burst from elation: I was a natural! I wasn’t completely incompetent! I really could do this! It was impossible to wipe the smile off my face for the rest of the lesson.

After the lesson was over and I was reunited with Michael, my anxieties returned, and questions swirled in my mind: who in the world was going to dance with me? Who do I talk to when my friend is dancing? WHAT HAPPENS IF I MAKE A MISTAKE?

As these thoughts threatened to consume me, however, my friend courteously moved to introduce me to his friends.

I had a good idea of who they were. They were the amazing dancers that were part of the source of my anxiety. They all introduced themselves to me, their easy nature an almost comically stark contrast to my nervousness. I introduced myself with a smile, and not even ten seconds passed before my friend whisked me off for my first salsa dance ever.

Needless to say, the dance was awful.

I was confused and overly conscious of how terrible I was, my feet were everywhere, and I had completely forgotten everything I had just learned in the lesson. By the end of the dance, I was ready to throw in the towel. I was not a salsa dancer, and I should just stop trying before I made a fool of myself.

But as I danced with more people, I got a lot more comfortable and, dare I say it, started actually having fun!  By the end of the night I was officially hooked.

I was riding such a high by the end of the night that when the music stopped around 11:45, I still wasn’t ready to go home. The stragglers of the night (the same amazing dancers from before) invited me to Taco Roco with them. I enthusiastically said yes, excited at the opportunity to socialize more with these awesome strangers.

We spent hours there talking and hanging out, and I felt almost instantly comfortable with the group. I could talk to one person about choir and singing, another about geeky Asian anime, and yet another about the stresses of college life. Was I still intimidated? Yes, but that trip to Taco Roco showed me that these people were more than just awesome dancers. They were awesome people too.

As I got into bed that night, still hopping from the excitement of the evening, I grew slightly angry at my stubbornness to not try salsa dancing before. How could I have not done this the minute I got to college? I wasted almost an entire year doing nothing when I could have been dancing salsa! I felt immensely frustrated at myself. But I comforted myself with the thought that in only six days and 18 hours, I would be back in that room dancing salsa.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

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