psy·chot·ic leop·ard sīˈkädik/ˈlepərd/ noun · anything that is funky, interesting, beautiful, niche, useful, and grabs one's attention

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What Matters To A Teenage Boy Is Probably Not What You Think

Posted by Lisa Johnson on



The following was a response to a question to a college essay asking, "What matters to you?"  A bit unexpected...

 (GUEST BLOG by Izzy Johnson)


Ever since I was young, one of my biggest fears has been being alone.  That’s why community is so important to me.  Although it has been challenging to feel a sense of belonging within groups, I crave connection.  

Who would have thought that spending Wednesday evenings sweating with a bunch of middle-aged women, dancing to R&B music, would be something that makes me happy?

I was born almost a month early, making me relatively small.  However, I quickly grew to be as large as the other babies because I was always nursing.  My mom told me that just after she gave birth, she never had to watch her weight because she ended up losing more than she gained during the pregnancy.  

I don’t think my hunger subsided when I grew out of infanthood.  I loved food.  My parents put a lot of effort into broadening my palette, and my favorite exposure to other cultures was sampling their cuisine.  I tried Indian, Taiwanese, Ethiopian, Mexican and other fare, and found all of it delicious.  

I was also addicted to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  I would sometimes eat half a bag in a single sitting because I couldn’t control myself.  This was especially bad around Halloween, when I would regularly harvest about a dozen pounds of candy, to the dismay of my mom.  Within two months, it would vanish.

When I was little, I used to play football with my neighbors, but as middle school came around, I realized we didn’t have very much in common, and gradually stopped hanging out.  Instead, I turned to reading books, and playing World of Warcraft.

Even though I was exercising less, my appetite had not subsided, and I was on the edge of becoming chubby.  At this time, I was also discovering the miracle of the other sex.   Girls were really attractive, and I worried  I wouldn’t find someone if I maintained my habits.

I needed to exercise to stay fit.  

There’s this idea for guys that working out must involve lifting hundreds of pounds and growing biceps the size of watermelon.  I tried to be a “gym rat.”  I’d show up to the YMCA in a muscle shirt, and mindlessly run on the treadmill for half an hour.  Then, my body would quiver as I attempted to lift up the thirty pound barbells.  I would rather be doing anything else, but I needed to stay in shape, so I continued.

One day, while waiting my turn on the elliptical, the song “Millennium” came on. I found myself grooving to the music, and it took four minutes to realize that my lack of skills was probably being posted on Youtube.  I decided then that I was going to learn to dance.  I went down to the front desk to see if there were any classes for beginners.

The schedule said there was Zumba every Wednesday night.  So, I put on my "Prove People Wrong" t-shirt and headed on in to class.  

I’ve always been overly active.  I was unable to sit still in time outs, and to this day, I tap my foot and click my pen incessantly.  Zumba class was perfect for me because I could finally channel my nervous energy.

Need I remind you that I was the only male, and the only teenager, in a class of women my mother's age.  

My spot is always in the third row, behind Bonnie, a lady with six grandchildren who can’t stop smiling.  She wears knee braces, short shorts, and a white t-shirt, with her wheat colored hair in pigtails.  When Jason Derulo’s song, “Wiggle” comes on, she gyrates like she’s in a Lil Wayne video.

At first, I tried to mimic the motions of the instructor, which were like liquid. But I was the awkward solid.  Yet even though my dancing needs work, so does everyone else's. I feel carefree. I don't think about school, or stress, or the existential nagging that I am not good enough.

Dancing has become my connection. I may come from a different walk of life, but when I dance, my steps are the same as everyone else's.


For a view of Izzy's dance skills, check out a snippet from last night's dance party:

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