By Kim Zabel
I drove to my first Zumba instructor certification class four years ago. It was an intense, all-day training process. I didn’t know what I was signed up for at the time, but driving on the highway to the gym where the class was being held, I heard a calm, quiet voice in my head:
This will change you in ways you cannot imagine.
I wasn’t new to Zumba. I had taken Zumba classes from a variety of instructors for a solid year beforehand, making it an almost daily part of my life.
Before Zumba Everyday
But before Zumba became part of my everyday existence, I had just been let go from my position as an English teacher at a small parochial school. That job meant the world to me. I loved the kids, loved the curriculum, loved being able to work with each student individually. When I was told that changes had been made to the school that included getting rid of me, I fell into a deep depression.
The weight of losing my beloved position as a teacher was too heavy and too hard for my gentle bones.
For months afterwards, my depression was dark and unrelenting. I didn’t care if I got out of bed – and there were many days that I didn’t bother. I didn’t care what I ate – or even if I ate at all. I was listless, going through the motions of my life with zero enthusiasm. The whole experience cut the cord to my natural energy. And I didn’t care about that, either.
Nothing mattered. Everything did. Depression at its finest.
But there was one thing I did still (sort of) care about, one thing I regretted flinging to the wayside of my now beleaguered life: my once-religiously attended Zumba class. Even though my depression made me believe I didn’t care, I knew that I still cared about this. With just an inkling of hope, I made a promise to myself that I would attend an early morning class each day. I doubted my ability to do much else, so I told myself that if I wanted to come home right after it and go straight back to bed, fine. But I decided that Zumba was the new (and only) must-do.
So I did.
Dancing out of depression
I went to that class. At first it was difficult. I had lost my joy. Self-doubt made a mockery of me. I looked in the mirror and thought I looked ridiculous prancing around with everyone else who seemed to be so much better than I was, so much more rhythmic, so much more coordinated, so much more, period.
I was convinced I was a lost cause on all fronts. But I kept going to that class because I promised myself I would. And because for an hour each morning, I could feel a small smile on my face. I looked in the mirror and confirmed it. There it was. That bit of joy – found.
And I never crawled back into bed after class like I thought I would.
My energy returned in fits and starts after my daily Zumba. Enough return so that I was hired as a writer for a local publication. Enough return that I lost 20 pounds and gained back my sense of self-worth. Enough return that I had the courage to think I might enjoy teaching Zumba to others.
And when I was on that highway, driving to my first instructor certification class, I figured the most that would come out of this experience would be to work as a sub for a few classes here and there. I never thought that I would become a full-fledged Zumba instructor with my own classes and devoted students who attended them. I never thought that I might have students in my class that made a promise to themselves to keep showing up to the place that allows them to notice a small smile on their face, to notice that bit of joy returning, that energy restored.
I had been changed in unimaginable ways.