"At least on the football ?eld I know what I'm doing," he said as we began the dramatic descent toward the audience. I felt so much better knowing I wasn't the only one who was feeling way out of the comfort zone. If a tough football player was nervous, then my legs had every right to be shaking like a skittish colt's.
After the opening sequence, I went backstage to wait for my cue. Jonathan kept telling me to just have fun. He sounded like my dad before huge matches. There was no way I was going to have fun out there. I'd do it, but it wasn't going to be fun. I was too busy mentally replaying the sequence of steps in my head to remember something as silly as having a good time. Convinced I wouldn't hear the beat of the music, I told Jonathan to wink at me when it was my cue to start our dance. We took our places on the stage, and before I knew it, he was winking at me.
Showtime. He twirled me around the floor and I tried to keep up with his flawless fox-trot as best I could. My turns weren't as tight or controlled as they could have been, but I didn't miss a step and I didn't fall flat on my face -- a success in my book. Unfortunately, not messing up wasn't a strong enough showing for the judges. I got the lowest score of the night and was told that I looked "uncomfortable" and "awkward" and that my "core wasn't strong enough." How ironic. After years of working to build up my inner core and working out with my trainer, Gyll, to strengthen my physical one, the biggest criticism was that my core wasn't up to par. Yikes. Thirty seconds of negative feedback wiped out the hesitant confidence I'd built up over the past several weeks of practice. Thirty seconds was all it took to shake me off kilter. After the show, all of the contestants moved through the press line, doing short interviews with the media outlets. To my total shock, halfway through the line, tears started flowing down my face. I finished the rest of the interviews as quickly as I could and rushed backstage to get myself together. The harder I tried not to cry, the more the tears kept coming. Jonathan immediately found me and told me there was no reason to be upset. I'd done every thing I was supposed to: our goal had been to get all our steps into the routine, so who cared that we got the lowest score? Big deal. Easy for him to say. He hadn't been torn apart for being awkward, uncoordinated, and cursed with bad posture in front of millions of households in America. The thing was, I truly thought I'd done well. If I had thought I'd performed horribly, then I would have been fine with the criticism. But my definition of "well" and the judges' definition of it were not even close. I had never danced before, so my frame of reference was quite different. I was going to have to accept it. I went to my hotel that night upset and rattled. I took a look at my puffy eyes in the mirror and went into reality check mode.