Extra Mile Writing

Extra Mile Writing

How Giving the Finger to Ballroom Dancing in High School Helped me in Business

yellow and orange flame

The human spirit is a pretty awesome thing, and I’m so glad for mine.

I boarded at a co-educational private school known as Sacred Heart College in Perth for my five years of high school.  

outback dirt road

I’d come from a sheep station, where all of my primary education had been through School of the Air with my four siblings. 

So at the age of 13, I went from a classroom that never had more than four students (who were all related to me) to a co-ed private school of 800 students in suburban Perth.

I was roundly shit at adjusting and I was shy and very homesick.

I was also a late developer and completely at a loss with the “group of friends” system.  I didn’t seem to fit into any of the groups in my year, and couldn’t be bothered forcing this just so that I had somewhere to sit at lunch time.  I was basically a loner most of the time, and this suited me quite well.

As per the below photo, the summer uniform at Sacred Heart was basically a brown sack dress with a fabric belt around the middle.  If you were cool, you’d wear pretty ribbons in your hair in the Sacred Heart approved school colours and you’d take up the hem on the dress as high as you possibly could to show off your legs.  You’d also wear closed in school shoes with beige socks on your feet.  I didn’t bother with raising the hem on my dress because I wasn’t trying to show anyone anything, and in my first couple of years of high school I wore leather sandals over my beige socks in summer.  Of course, socks and sandals are always a fabulous look. 

And yes, even I think I look like a space cadet in the below photo.

photo of me in school uniform

Anyway, during my second year of high school, when I was the age of 14 (a year after the above photo was taken), the school decided that we should all do ballroom dancing as part of Physical Education (PE).  I think it was for a term. 

At the first lesson, we all gathered in a large room and the teacher instructed that the boys had to ask the girls to dance. 

As I was somewhere near the bottom of the hierarchy, I had to sit on one of the chairs around the outside of the room and be one of the last girls asked to dance.  When I was finally asked, I was approached by one of the “unpopular” boys who was also near the bottom of the hierarchy.  I accepted, but the lesson was awful in every way. 

It wouldn’t have mattered which boy asked me to dance.  I wasn’t interested in any of the Sacred Heart suburban Perth boys.  They were not at all like the station boys I’d grown up with.  To me, they were asexual, spoilt, and had never worked a day in their life.

I don’t even remember the particular boy I danced with that lesson.  I hated being forced into physical contact in a relatively intimate way with someone I didn’t want to dance with, and the lesson seemed to last an eternity.

Interestingly, my brothers attended a single sex private boarding school, and they seemed to actually enjoy ballroom dancing when it was organised with a sister single sex private boarding school.  Because I was a late developer I still wouldn’t have been a popular pick in this situation.  I’d have also hated physically contact with a complete stranger either way. 

Anyway, following the horror of that first ballroom dancing lesson, somehow or other my spirit came to the fore.  My urge to fight this stupid and unfair imposition came in strong.  Forcing people into dance seemed a complete abuse of the whole concept.  Dance to me was a celebration of music and joy, and something that should only ever be undertaken with someone else when you really wanted to be physically close to them.

lockers in school hallway

Luckily, I had the advantage of knowing when my PE lessons were scheduled. 

So the next time a ballroom dancing lesson appeared in my diary, that morning I told the house mother at the boarding house that I had a cold or migraine and stayed in my room for the day.  For the lesson after that, I went to school but prior to the PE lesson I went up to the sick bay and reported a bad headache or a head cold.  I took whatever pills they gave me and lay up there resting until it was safe to leave.

dogs paws under doona in bed

I had no grand plan, but I basically just kept alternating the above two strategies whenever a ballroom dancing lesson clouded my horizon. 

Amazingly, no one suspected a thing.  This was probably because I kept my nose under the radar, and I was a good student who was otherwise quiet, cooperative and well behaved. 

Anyway, to my immense delight, I eventually found out through other students that the ballroom dancing lessons had finished, and we were back to normal sports activities.     

I couldn’t have been more privately satisfied with my victory when I went home for the holidays at the end of that term.  

female boxer

The moral of this story is that the human spirit can be powerful when it rises up and takes care of you.  It did in this case, and I achieved the outcome I wanted.

And it’s my spirit that gets me through in business too. 

My spirit has kept me going when I’ve started a business, and I’m going through that awful period we all go through where everything is in front of you.  When all you’ve got are expenses going out, financial stress because nothing is coming in yet, and no proof that the business will work at all.  That horrible period when all you’ve got to lean on is faith, and you’ve just got to keep getting up in the morning and doing something until things change.

My spirit also helps me grit my teeth and keep going when shit goes wrong, which it does regularly. 

And it helps me deal with challenging situations when they arise with clients, helping me finding a way to delight them and to get them on side instead.     

It also keeps me going when I haven’t slept well but I have commitments to honour, like all of us do.  I’ve had nights where I’ve barely slept at all, and I’ve been amazed at how my spirit has got me through the next day.  I know I can get through whatever presents, because my spirit never fails me.  


© Annemaree Jensen