Let it Go

Allie McKinney - Senegal


April 11, 2014

I’ve never been a confident person. Insecurity has plagued my life ever since the dreaded onslaught of puberty. Whenever the opportunity for an awkward situation arises, my first instinct has always been to eject myself from said situation and hide until it is over. This characteristic has never been attractive to me and I thought that perhaps Senegal would eradicate it.

It took time and lots of grinning and bearing terribly uncomfortable situations to get me to the point I reached on New Year’s Eve (and where I still am today). I went to a soiree with Jahshana and my sister Saly at a club in Kebemer. We arrived early, Beyonce blaring, looking and feeling good. As more and more of Kebemer’s youth filed into the club the music switched to popular Senegalese hits. I felt the all too familiar panic rise in my chest. Thoughts of ” this is awkward” and “you can’t dance like them” flooded my head. I was ready to give into my unease, to call it a night and resort to becoming a spectator, but I decided  to give it one more song. In hindsight I should’ve known that Senegalese songs tend to go on forever, but as I was bumping a long different people came up to me asking me to dance, showing me some moves, and encouraging me. To my surprise I was actually having fun, embracing my “toubab-iness” (or my white girl-ness). It didn’t matter that I couldn’t master the moves, it mattered that I was trying.

Life is full of causes for anxiety and awkward situations. In any given day here I face multiple encounters that would have pre-Senegal Allie cringing. The difference between these encounters versus past encounters is my attitude. I could run and hide from all uncomfortable interactions, but living in fear is exhausting and frankly no fun. So I choose to let it go, to embrace the discomfort and try. Because life is way more fun out on the dance floor than on the sidelines.

Allie McKinney