May 6, 2017

How I Learned to Answer the Question: What Do you Like to Do?

I found myself sitting alone enjoying the view.

A man approached me, and we began to have a brilliant conversation. It was fun, earnest, and enjoyable—until he asked me a simple question: “What do you like to do?”

I sat on the barstool and felt time and motion stop—the Jeopardy clock and theme music ticking away.

Wait, what? He might as well have asked me to define quantum physics. I was dumbfounded. What do I like to do? I am the mother of two sons; I am someone’s daughter; I am someone’s sister; I was someone’s wife. I am many people’s friend. I work.

What had happened to me that I didn’t know what I like to do? After what felt like an eternity—I made something up and we continued our wonderful conversation.

That night, the stranger and that simple question changed my life. His question haunted me for months. I had worked so hard to dedicate my life to the needs of my sons and work, I had forgotten my own needs, myself, and my own happiness.

I started a routine after work to exercise. In all honesty, it was to avoid traffic on the way home. Anything that worked with my schedule was fair game—bootcamp, yoga, and aerobics. A workout buddy said, “Come try this Zumba teacher, he is amazing.” The thought of incorporating dance with exercise was a fun idea. I had been a dancer since the age of three: tap, ballet, jazz, African, and modern.

My Zumba teacher hosted a special event with many instructors. There was a teacher there who inspired me to look her up online to see that she taught Brazilian dance. I had never heard of this form of dance. I decided to go to her class.

Believe me, it was not easy to waltz into class that first day—the teacher made sure of that. “You are too late to start class, and why are you here?” She scolded me. Somewhat embarrassed I mumbled, “I took Zumba, met you, and miscalculated the drive time.”

“This is not a Zumba class” remarked my teacher. Feeling reminiscent of my old ballet teacher pushing, crying out again and again. I pronounced that I would watch and return next week. My old self would have been humiliated and would have never come back. The new me stayed and returned and kept returning.

“Dance has no age.” ~ My Kizomba teacher

I have done so many new things since going down this path of reconnecting to what I like to do. Thank you my beautiful teachers who bring their “A game” to teach and correct me, and the rest of the class!

I learned the the history of the African Diaspora, and what these steps mean in relation to the earth and the heavens. We dance to the Orishas, the mythical gods, the luscious music, and sometimes live drumming which is so empowering. We heal ourselves to understand this journey we are on. Five years later, I have found my form of tribe.

I have had so many adventures and opportunities since that fateful question that I beg for you to get off the couch and escape the woes of life as I did. Do something you used to love—whether it be bowling, tennis, archery, try a class and see what happens.

This brings me to today and one of my ultimate adventures of putting myself out there for the world to see. Here I am sharing this article for elephant journal. I never in a million years thought this beautiful website that I read everyday would give me this gift.

I had no idea taking a social media and writing class would create so much angst. Can I write what I want to say? Can I share how I have changed and all the incredible things I have been doing in such a short few years? Can I let people know who I am now and share memes and quotes I relate to? Could the stories and articles I choose to click also be my healing process?

I believe dancing to the Orishas and live drumming did start healing my soul. The dancing said, “Wake up, your life is waiting.” I didn’t need to stand on the sidelines cheering everyone on. I had my own parade to attend.

Yes, I am still my sons’ mom, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, a stepmother, was someone’s wife, but I am now also forging my own identity. Bring me that question again. Today, I have something to say.




Author: Helen Saenz Maksutovic
Image: Flickr/Mateus Lunardi
Editor: Samantha Eddy/ Editor: Travis May

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Helen Saenz Maksutovic