This is Patricia, the mother of 2 brilliant girls, an incredible project manager (PM), whom I thought was another full-time working parent and whose daughter shared a class with my son. I came to discover a completely different side of this power house lady..........
Patricia comes across as energetic which can be quite contagious as whenever I finish speaking with her I seem to be energized and often wondered how such a tiny framed lady could be this vibrant, little did I know she is a Zumba Master!
I was informed about Patricia's side hustle by another friend, as we discussed the stress related in raising kids in a foreign country whilst holding on to advancing in our careers and the need to engage in other activities that took care of body, soul and mind. I am no sport freak but I know the benefits of actively staying fit and was looking for another activity to compliment my weekly jogging. I wanted a dance-like programme that I would enjoy and enable me burn out some stress from my hectic hours of office day work.
“Zumba”, my friend exclaimed!
“You have to go to Patricia’s zumba class”.
I was surprised, “surely not Patricia, the small Spanish lady?” “Yes” was my friend's response!
I immediately contacted Patricia and not long there after, was signed up for my first zumba lesson at SportSchool Kenny Evers in Voorburg, which is a convenient bike ride away from home…talk about a problem shared as half solved! I pestered Patricia to tell me how she became a zumba Instructor, I was just so curious to understand. As a working mother myself, with a vibrant side hustle (UnikBlends), I am most thrilled and impressed by how Patricia manages to combine her passion with an intensive day job as a PM.
Patricia has been most gracious in sharing her story and hope her journey spurs you on to unleash your talents and be the best version of yourselves.
Aligning Body, Soul and Mind
Along Jose Antonio Street in Boadilla del Monte, between the years 1983 and 1985, which was at this time, a rather small city in the surroundings of Madrid, you may have seen in one of the portals, a girl practicing day in, day out with immense constancy, her dancing choreographs. Using the mirror effect created on the glass of the main door, by the reflection of the light inside the building and the darkness outside, completely oblivious to stares of observers on the street.
That ‘always-dancing’ little girl, became a dancing teenager till the day my parents decided to stop my registration at the dance school due to my poor Math grade. Something I reluctantly accepted as it became too difficult to combine intense dancing lessons with preparation for my entry exams into the University.
Dancing is my passion as it has always been a major part of me and hence the idea to teach zumba naturally came to me couple of years ago as a very rational or logical-processed way. I wanted to compensate for the frustrations at work and in general my sense of not fully belonging in The Netherlands. For a long time, I had sadly conformed to what I considered as opportunities, instead of claiming and fighting for what I love: something truly in line with myself and my deepest desire.
After a burnout that kept me partially away from work for over 4 months, I have rediscovered my love for dancing through teaching zumba. These dance motions are no mere mechanical reaction to compensate for the things I dislike or frustrate me but rather a kind of latent talent, that reached its peak and had to resurface, rather forcefully to remind me of my true self the direction I needed to take in life.
Rediscovering Pure Joy
Each of us have one or several latent talents that clearly defines us. Quite often we do not readily identify them as we easily excel in them with little or no special effort and as such perceive them as unimportant or not socially recognized. But these latent talents and forgotten or ignored abilities have the potential to reconnect us with our fullest purpose of being. And once they show up in your life, they serve as concrete landmarks for learning and growth. One needs to embrace them and not oppose or resist, as there is really nothing you can do to stop their dictates....and this is exactly how my Zumba teaching story goes.
I decided one day to do something about my mediocre office life, which had become somewhat boring. I found myself drawn to the Zumba organization website, specifically the section ‘Become an Instructor’. I would repeatedly open the page, thinking it was just what I needed to do but soon after, I would shut it, as the possibility of embracing the idea made me feel somewhat embarrassed: My consideration here was that I was not in my 20's, nor in my 30's any more, I had two kids and a demanding job. I would close the website saying to myself, that it was a crazy dream.
The following days at the office passed in exactly the same way: open/close, yes/no, a lot of excitement when dreaming about my venture which then turned into what felt like mental punishment as I doubted the possibility. I had such mixed feelings and was wrestling with the pros and cons of it all.
One evening at dinner time I babbled to my partner the idea of teaching Zumba. To my surprise he said: “well I think you would be a splendid teacher, it is really your thing”. The first thought that crossed my mind was “he must be kidding!”, but this really gave me the momentum I needed and before the night was over, I had booked myself for Basic Zumba Instructor training.
Take Small, Concrete Steps
And then began the real hard part. My training program was in the North of Netherlands, which is a considerable journey from where I live. For 2 days, I woke up very early, took a 2hours train to my training destination, followed with rapt attention the theory and the lessons and then made another 2hours journey back home. I got home thorough exhausted but very proud for having made the step and been in contact with other people with my same interest. Some were quite fit, others I felt still had a long way ahead. I however could not really rate myself. I may be in good physical condition with some dancing skills, but surely these were not enough. Furthermore, a two days course does not really transform one into a fitness instructor, so once the training was over, I felt I was back at the starting point.
The next days after completing my course, I practiced with enthusiasm all the choreographs in the beginners’ CD we had received. It was not easy to memorize all the small details, retrieve them when executing the steps and maintain the tempo but I was determined to get better. Following the advise from my training, I visited several gyms to study teaching styles, class dynamics and levels. I wanted to absorb as much as I could. Most of the instructors seemed to be far more advanced than me but not all were as energetic and inspiring as my training teacher. I began to wonder if this was not all wasted effort.
Summer arrived and it made it five months since I got my Zumba certification. Besides training harder, I still had not figured out how and where I would teach and if there was anyone willing to take instructions from me. During our summer vacation in Italy, I literally ran away, embarrassed when my partner got an opportunity for me to teach in one of the kiosks on the beach. Despite all my training, I felt absolutely unprepared and I almost abandoned the entire idea but for some reason the idea of quitting resulted in a lot of pain.
Take a Chance
I came to realize soon thereafter that I was the only person to blame for not taking opportunities as they presented themselves. I was stalling the process and constantly doubting myself when others saw my potentials. So as soon as we returned to Netherlands from our vacation, I decided to give myself a real chance; I registered at the Zumba Network, which offered me quite some support. I also practiced with greater intensity and learnt by heart a number of choreographs. I was so thrilled when a friend said that she would love to join my zumba class (if only I had one). This spurred me on to looking for a place to rent couple of hours per week.
Unfortunately, all the renting options I found were very inconvenient, that I became convinced that it was time to put this dream to an end. It was consuming a lot of energy and producing a lot of uncomfortable thoughts, making me feel like a loser. At this time, I started to experience an intense pain in my back, perhaps due to my intense training. But for some strange reason the exact day I planned to cancel my Zumba license, I found myself heading to a small gym next to the judo club of my children. I was expecting a firm “No, we do not have any vacancy!” and I was prepared to take that a definite sign to support my decision to quit.
However, everything turned around, for the best. Despite my inexperience, age (40+), difficulties with Dutch language and all the other rejection reasons I was given the previous months, in less than 10 minutes I got a 10 weeks trial period! I literally, on top of the world, I was floating. How could this all be?
And then, I panicked. The first trial lesson was in four days! I had to keep repeating to myself “you have to make it, you can make it”. I practiced at every free minute I could spare; in the train on my way to/fro to the office, during my lunch break, while making dinner, after dinner and in dreams 😊. My dream became a reality and I went through my trial period. There have been good, bad and really terrible days but there hasn’t been a single class in which I haven’t learnt something about myself, my students or how to keep moving on. I have lived my zumba dream and I have enjoyed immensely sharing it with my students or the occasional joiners in the spontaneous lessons I have given at birthday parties or during my holidays. I no longer run away when asked to give a lesson...even on the beach.
It's been a year since I started giving zumba lessons and I find my classes to be so much more than just giving dance instructions. I share quite a lot of connection and empathy with my students. I have also learnt to encourage new joiners by interacting more with them to discover what they may wish to do and found that this is improving my my Dutch! Occasionally, I am reminded to spice things up and infuse the lessons with my own unique style and touch. I have therefore introduced small weights in the routine as my interest is in tonification and I think this is quickly becoming a very distinctive feature of my zumba classes.
How I make it work? Self Care is Essential.
Combining zumba, work and family has been manageable based on an approach I refer to as “continual innovation and re-engineering”. Specially after the birth of my second daughter, I had to very consciously adopt new strategies to increase my level of energy and gain time wherever possible. I found this process of readdressing and reorganizing my priorities particularly necessary after my recent burn-out.
My burn-out period introduced a whole different understanding of my life and what I was doing or trying to do. I realized I had to be careful with trying to be everywhere, doing everything and enjoying it all was a tall order that was practically impossible.
I found the practice of meditation very helpful in recovering my mental functions and restored my energy levels. It has opened a completely different world to me as I have discovered how to interpret my body reactions and vibrations to discern clearer what is for me, or not and where to focus my attention.
It is a bit scary to confront yourself and understand that what you thought you wanted, may not be what you need and that your ‘all-these-years-back’ way of doing things is probably not suitable for you.
I have since made small modifications in my diet, went back to regular sport, applied some Lean-Kaizen practices to my daily routines such as less is more, personal value definition and value optimization, back-log refinement and found inspiring quotes and messages on the internet very helpful in staying positive.
At a point, I stopped all kinds of distraction to maximize my time and energy. I stopped watching television, socializing for the pleasure of socialize, etc. I also looked for extra help at home and bought a kitchen mini-robot (a thermomix) that thankfully does most of the basic cooking.
Of course, it would not have worked without a good dose of passion, self-determination and the patient support of my partner, children, family, friends, manager, colleagues, the owner of the gym and the people attending my zumba lessons.
You can contact Patricia via her FaceBook Page.