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Dance Class: My Refuge This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Walking down the hallway with my seventh-grade classmates after art class was not exactly part of the school day that I looked forward to.

"All she does is yell. She is definitely the meanest teacher in the school," said one. Another replied, "Yeah, why is she so strict? She is the reason I hate art class." I cringed. Here they were, talking right in front of me about my own mother, the art teacher.

Besides the fact that my mother was the art teacher, I had huge eyeglasses that took up half my face, and I was very shy. All these factors resulted in one thing: low self-esteem. Easily upset by classmates' comments, I never stood up for myself.

My only refuge from the rejection I felt at school was dance class. Since the age of six, ballet has been where I excelled. Standing in front of the mirror with my hair in a neat bun, wearing my black leotard and pink tights, I felt important. At the barre I carefully practiced my pliés, making sure that with every bend of the knee and graceful movement of the arm I felt my muscles stretching. In the center of the room, I would show off my pirouettes to the teachers who would carefully inspect my body to ensure the perfect position.

As I danced with flowing movement across the floor, I was in my own world. For that short time each day, I would let go of my problems and forget everyone else. Dance class was where I found true happiness.

One day, however, my infatuation with the world of dance took an unexpected turn. At school, a classmate, Nicole, told me, "Dance is retarded." When others agreed, they made it seem as though it was some pointless hobby. I held back my anger. How could they make fun of something that was so important to me? They didn't even know anything about ballet!

Even though it didn't seem like much, their comments made me distraught. For days I thought, Maybe she's right, maybe dance is a waste of time. I mean, no one else in my class takes dance. I tried to stop thinking like this, but couldn't. Nicole's remark not only affected my concentration but also my dancing. I wasn't putting in as much effort. Longing for acceptance from my peers, I eventually stopped dance lessons and quit for two years.

It took me two entire years to learn that what my peers said to me did not mean a thing. And even after I stopped doing what I loved, I felt no more accepted by them than before. I discovered that all that matters in life is what I want to do. Taking a break from dance is the biggest regret I have.

After searching deep inside, I found the passion and love for dance I once held. The decision to dance again was a huge step and I had to start all over again since I was completely out of shape. With dance, even a week without training makes getting into shape a challenge.

Now I appreciate dance more than ever, and I don't take anything as important as a talent for granted. Peer pressure doesn't affect me anymore and I have learned to stand up for myself. There are times when I want to go along with the crowd, but I know the consequences. I just keep thinking of how peer pressure led to the worst decision of my life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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