For the first six months that I was a Jazzercise instructor, I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. I wasn’t sure how my family and friends would react. I knew my loved ones would have questions, whether or not they gave voice to them:
- What is Jazzercise anyway? Isn’t that a fad from the 80s? The one with the legwarmers?
- Why aren’t you focused on getting a real job?
- You’re spastic, remember?
- You’re too fat to be a fitness instructor! (This was a variation on an old theme from my mother, who once claimed I was “too fat to faint.”)
Still, I’d known I wanted to get up on that stage from my very first class. The dance-fitness program’s combination of theatricality, fun, and physical intensity appealed to me. Regular classes had already improved my endurance, energy and fitness level. Instructors often commented on how I smiled through every class. It was obvious that I enjoyed the workout. With its endless variety of moves and super current music, I was never bored.
But I was ready for the next challenge.
I had been immersed in the world of nursing and diapers and mommy groups for five years after quitting my corporate job, and I was in no hurry to return to an office setting. With the kids in preschool and a husband supporting us, the timing seemed right. So after many, many weeks of testing and training, I finally became a Jazzercise franchisee.
Becoming an instructor was a form of reinvention for me, though not in ways I’d expected. I lost more weight and toned muscle, of course. But I also began to feel more graceful and walk with better posture. I smiled more than ever – on and off the stage. I gained confidence as a public speaker. I led my children in nightly dance parties. I gave myself permission to act goofy. I made lots of mistakes on stage in front of large groups of women. And as my customers forgave me, I learned to forgive myself. Perhaps most surprisingly, I began to see myself as a role model for my kids, my husband, and my customers.
Slowly I gained more confidence in my abilities, and began telling family and friends about Jazzercise. I corrected their ideas about legwarmers and leotards, and encouraged them to check out a class. But by the time I got around to sharing my news with family and friends, it no longer mattered what they thought of me. I was hooked.
Now, six years later, when I’m on that stage four times a week, I am still a version of my former self. That spastic, nerdy girl comes out when I occasionally flub a move, or when I make a geeky reference to Pi Day or Glee and I’m greeted by blank stares.
But I’m also a new, better version myself.
On that stage, I am a performer, a mentor, a sadist, a cheerleader, a therapist, a conspirator, a ringleader, a troublemaker, a choral director, a friend, and I’m the host of the hottest party in town. I’m good at what I do, and I’m thrilled to share it with others.
If I can make just one other person smile and sweat with me, I’ll have done my part in making the world a kinder, healthier place. How many people can say this about their jobs, or even their pastimes?
These days, I’m not so shy about telling people that I teach Jazzercise. It is not everything that I am or all that I do, but I hope it always will be a part of me. This version of myself – the confident, strong, flexible and charming Tammy that comes out on stage and occasionally spills over into the rest of my life – this is a version that I’m happy to keep around.