Like medicine and golf balls, new experiences are often hard to swallow. Take dancing.

Now you might not think a church youth dance is something to be afraid of, but for my friends and me, this one was different. It was our first.

Unfortunately, the bulk of our adolescent training to this point was in camp-outs and knot tying. Girls had scarcely begun to crack our vocabulary. We tried to look excited, but secretly we were scared stiff.

So when the music finally started, we found ourselves standing at the edge of the dance floor, staring straight ahead like timid zookeepers looking into an alligator pit. Just one false move and …

“Do you want to dance?”

Yipes! A girl I had known since first grade was standing in front of me in a new role: potential dance partner. What do I say? What do I do? I wanted to say yes, but I choked.

“Uh … thanks, but I’m just going to watch for a while.”

Rats! I couldn’t believe what I had just said. But while I was busy feeling sorry for myself, she turned to Rob, a friend of mine, and asked him. Incredibly, he said yes.

What courage! The rest of us watched in awe as the couple moved to the middle of the room. Though Rob wasn’t winning any awards for grace or style, it looked like he was actually having fun. And when the music changed, he asked someone else to dance.

Wow! He made it look easy, but my remaining friends and I would definitely need more experience before trying something that risky. Until then we would stick to safer jobs, like supporting the cultural hall walls.

After hours of indecision, the night finally ended. I had kept my position along the wall, but by holding out I had forfeited any chance of having a good time.

When the next dance came, it was a stake Halloween dance, so I could pretend to be as confident as the identity I was assuming. I chose to be Zorro, but as I walked in the hall carrying my sword and wearing my mom’s frilly white blouse, it didn’t look like I was going to leave my mark anywhere quick. I laid low by the refreshment table and tried to muster some courage.

Then suddenly a girl approached me. She was dressed as a princess.

“Do you want to dance?” She assured me she didn’t bite.

To this day I don’t know who said yes, me or Zorro, but the next thing I knew I was out there—talking and dancing (or at least flailing my arms and legs). I didn’t know exactly what to do, but no one seemed to care.

When the music stopped I was brimming with confidence. I cautiously walked up to a girl dressed as an angel, and feeling like I was on top of the Empire State Building, I closed my eyes and jumped.

“Do you want to dance?”

“Sure, let’s go!” she said.

Really? I could hardly believe it. I had landed on my feet. As we headed to the floor, I realized how much better it was to join in instead of hold back. I started searching for something witty to say. After all, I had nothing to lose.

Illustrated by Nathan Pinnock