My studio has become my sanctuary. My bubble. When I’m there, the outside world ceases to exist. Not home or work or the stresses of real life. Yes, dance has a tendency to stress me out too, but it’s a stress I understand. It’s a frustration about not being able to give my best to something that gives so much to me. It stresses me because I care so much. It’s a stress we all at the studio understand.

Despite knowing me to a depth most never see, my dancemates know very little about my personal life. After knowing him for nearly a year and a half, my dance teacher only just found out I’m vegetarian. Many are surprised to learn how many siblings I have or how old I really am. They don’t know much about my everyday: the problems and stresses and little things.

Why is that? These people are my friends, so why wouldn’t I confide in them? It’s not that I don’t want to. In a two hour drive to an out of state social, confiding was all we did. But when I’m at the studio, I want the outside world to stay outside. As people like to say: “leave it at the door.” I don’t want to bring it inside with me. It’ll still be there waiting for me when I leave. For a few hours, let it stay out there.

But this can backfire, because I’m an adult and I have problems that need to be dealt with, and there’s no such thing as a magical place that makes those problems go away. But when my life gets hard, the longer I spend at the studio: practicing, helping, just talking. On more than one occasion you would have found me asleep in the back hours after my lesson ended (though total and utter exhaustion plays a part in that). The harder life becomes, the harder I find it to leave. In true escapism, I want to stay where the rules are simple and I understand the stakes. I want to stay doing the thing that makes me happiest when it feels that everything else has become so emotionally exhausting.

At this point, you might be saying that this isn’t healthy, and in turn I could argue that my physical, emotional, and mental health have never been better since I began dancing. And it’s not because I spend all my time pretending my problems don’t exist by running to my coping mechanism where no one knows of my problems and can remind me of them. It’s all about balance. Rather than my work and life suffering, they’ve improved. My family and coworkers say I’m noticeably happier. I find it easier to face obstacles, they not feeling as insurmountable as they once did after a great day at the studio.

“Maybe you’ll feel better after some sleep.” It’s a phrase we’ve all uttered. A chance, for several hours, to block out all that has been weighing the body down and let it rest and rejuvenate. And we all have known that moment of exhaustion when even the simplest task is overwhelming. What sleep does for the body, dancing does for my spirit. Days come when I’d rather “sleep in” or not wake up at all, but wake up and face the world again I eventually do. And when I do, it’s feeling stronger and rejuvenated. The world no longer seems so overwhelming.