12:01 am. January 1st, 2016.
I’m sober. Surrounded by strangers. Barefoot.
Forehead glistening with sweat. Ecstatic.
I was at my first ever “conscious dance party,” a freestyle dance event being held on Granville Island in Vancouver. A cross section of society like I had never seen before was in attendance and I was definitely the youngest body in the room. But despite our hugely varied appearances and life paths, everyone there was united by an obvious passion for dance, eclectic music, and an unspoken yearning for freedom and unadulterated self-expression.
The instant I saw the colourful flyer for this alternative NYE a few weeks prior, with promises of “intention setting,” a “midnight blessing ceremony,” and music going from “contemplative stillness to ferocious dancing,” I knew I had to go. I knew, despite the anticipation of feeling a little awkward and a little left out from mainstream activities. I was certain that the way I rang in my new year would set the tone for the year. Hell, maybe the rest of my life. And I wanted things to be different. I craved for things to be different.
Despite their wholehearted attempt to derail my curious plan, I left my dinner companions with their rich conversation and beautiful food and took off into the unknown of night. Alone.
After giving my name to women beaming at me as they swayed back and forth behind their table, arms locked around each other’s hips, I peered hesitantly into the main room of the theatre where the event was taking place. Very, very, slow music was playing, and there were very, very few people in attendance.
“WTF AM I DOING HERE?!?!”
I gave myself exactly one minute to hide in the bathroom for a mandatory pep talk, and then forced myself out and onto the dance floor. I felt painfully vulnerable and exposed and self-conscious. And then I chose to let all of that go and gave in.
I spent the next three hours pretending nobody else in the room existed, becoming more and more expressive and confident as each song melted into the next. I retired all conscious thought, instead letting my body be pulled energetically in new directions across the smooth hardwood floor. How unbelievably refreshing this way of being was compared to the calculated movements I was typically used to trying to execute in the city, all in the name of looking good. My God it felt amazing to be anonymous.
Eyes closed. Eyes open. Huge sweeping gestures. Tiny contained movements. On my tiptoes. Crouching low to the ground.
I felt joyful. I felt authentic. I felt free. Exactly how I wished to feel every moment of every day.
Other than making an awkward comment to someone beside me at the snack table about how amazing the organic mint dark chocolate was, I didn’t say a word to anyone. I ignored the Snapchats and texts from friends who were dotted around the city at events inevitably similar to those I had been to every year since I was a teenager (overpriced, long lines for drinks, you know the one), afraid that they would cause me to start questioning my decision. I knew I needed solitude. Despite this, I found my mind wandering from time to time...
"Am I missing out on some epic party? An amazing hookup? Would I have been having more fun with a glass of champagne in my hand wearing a perfect new dress instead of my favourite old leggings and hair in a ponytail?"
But then I would snap back into the gift of the present moment as the pulsing electronic music pulled me back onto the dance floor, feeling inspired and grounded and grateful.
I needed to prove to myself that I could be different. Walk my own path and be OK. I needed to prove to myself that I could have a January 1st that didn’t entail me waking up in a fog, with raging anxiety stemming from the huge gaps in my memory.
“My headdddd. What did I even drink?? Did I say anything embarrassing on the phone? Pleeeeese don’t tell me I texted him. SHIT I THINK I LOST MY PHONE. Oh thank God here it is, but my jacket is for sure gone. Only 3 weeks old. Awesome. Whyyyy do I keep doing this???”
I needed to prove to myself that I could be sober and content.
I knew I looked crazy to most of my friends. I figured that some might even have been judging me for straying from our usual style of celebrating. But some deeper part of me had pulled me there. I was guided by an inner voice that gave me confidence to venture off alone. This voice told me I wouldn’t be led astray, and I wasn’t.
As I walked out into the brisk, early hour air of January 1st after our heart rates had settled and the event had come to a close, I knew I had come to the right place. I also knew, with every inch of my being, that this new year would now be different.
And in that moment, I also felt the Radiant Rebel was born.