Dancing to Your Own Tune
T.W. Winslow


When I was a boy, my parents owned a small mom-and-pop grocery store.  It was nestled against the foothills of the small Idaho town where I grew up.  It was one of those neighborhood stores where customers were greeted by name, bags were always carried out, and if someone was short a few dollars, they could simply make it up the next time they were in.

At the time, I occasionally resented having to work in the store while all my friends played.  But in retrospect, the many wonderful experiences working in the store afforded me more than made up for any lost freedoms of my childhood. Though I learned what hard work was all about and the value of a dollar, many of the most memorable experiences from my days working in the store came from the people I met.

As I think back to those days, many people come to mind.  Some of the faces I can still see clearly; others have become blurred with time.  Some I remember for their kindness, others for their eccentricities, and still others I remember simply because they were so unique.  One such person was Nick.

I still remember the first time I saw him--or perhaps "experienced" him is a more appropriate term.  The moment he entered the store I could feel a surge of energy fill the place.  Singing at the top of his lungs, Nick made quite an entrance.  He had jet-black hair and a thick moustache.

Being nearly as round as he was tall, his colorful tie rested comfortably on top of his prominent middle.  He claimed he was Greek and that he was quite the ladies' man--both of which I seriously doubted, but chose to believe anyway. 

Though his job as a wine salesman might not have been the most exciting or rewarding, you sure couldn't tell it from how he acted. Nick had an irrepressible zest for life.  If he ever had a bad day, I certainly never knew it.  Never before or since have I met anyone whom I instantly liked more or who could, without fail, make me smile--both inside and out.  I marveled at his ability to be completely himself and at ease with everyone he met and in every situation.  It didn't bother him in the least that some found him to be quite the spectacle.  In fact, I think it just encouraged him that much more. 

Nick was as charming as he was loud, as kind as he was funny, and as warm as he was obnoxious--you couldn't help but love the guy. For me, his appeal wasn't really what he did or how he did it, but rather that he was absolutely comfortable simply being himself--a true free spirit.  The memory of Nick reminds me of the encouraging phrase, "Dance like no one is watching."

I can remember watching him as I went about my duties at the store, wondering what possessed him to act as he did, and laughing at what a character he was.  But when I think of Nick now, beyond the craziness, I see the confidence he had in himself, the confidence which allowed him to cast away his inhibitions and insecurities, to live life on his own terms.  And, as much as I admire him for that, I can't quite seem to find that same confidence in myself.

Countless times I've suppressed expressing myself--joy, sadness, laughter, tears--simply because I didn't want to risk looking silly or foolish.  I often hide my true self behind a wall of insecurity, but revere those who lack this inhibition.  No doubt this is why I remember Nick so fondly, for he was who he was, and didn't for a second hold any of it back.  Whether you loved him or hated him, Nick most certainly danced to his own tune and never apologized for it.

Perhaps someday I, too, will have the courage and confidence to learn the steps to that dance.


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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.