My Biggest Gift to Become a Street Dancer and an Engineer
I have suffered from mental health and psychological problems from a young age. It meant I struggled with sleep, memory issues and depression. My brain enters moments of little chaos during which I would withdraw socially to let it settle so that I can deal with the pain. The opposite side to all this was that when I couldn’t sleep, I would dream of achieving great things. I had a picture of Neil Armstrong’s moon landing next to my bed and I used to dream that one day there will be an asteroid heading toward the earth, and I would be the one that would be selected to save the world. Looking back now it is clear that I was never destined to be “normal”. Back then though I didn’t know I had a problem as such.
My life changed dramatically when my parents moved to the UK when I was around 12 years old. It was a change that I found difficult to adapt to. A change that I didn’t really want. My life was met with so many challenges growing up in a foreign country in a different environment. Trying to adapt to a new culture, new school and a new society weren’t easy. Not having a support network made things a lot more difficult. The relatives and friends I knew were gone and eventually, I lost purpose to it all. Financially things got tough too. It wasn’t long before I was sucked into a depression which would take almost 10 years for me to recover.
I constantly broke down during secondary school years. The depression was a huge weight to carry on my shoulders. I hid it from most people so I dealt with it on my own to the best that I could. I became suicidal by mid-teenage. My life was a battle.
Despite all of this though I still did very well at GCSE’ getting my self into a really good Sixth Form. Even after I broke-down I picked up my books and I studied. There was something still inside my brain telling me that I would achieve something great. I kept going but as the years rolled by though I got weaker and weaker. In the year 2007 when I entered university, I had lost the will and got tired of the pain. I then failed every examination at university. I was just lost looking for that purpose but soon things would start to change.
One day I was in a bar and one of my friends did an arm wave. I thought it was cool, and I thought “hmm this is what I need to do to get the girls”. So, I learnt to dance from Youtube but I was pretty terrible. After my friends laughed at a video I made, I decided I needed professional street dance lessons. I booked in for a dance class at the Basement Dance Studio in London not knowing what to expect.
I arrived at the lesson early and waited for the teacher. A guy called Sep then walked through the door. He shook my hand and put on the music to practice while he waited for the rest of the students to arrive. He stood in front of the mirror Body Popping and it blew my mind. I had never seen a professional street artist before and my life changed from that moment on.
Sep also introduced me to break-dancing (bboying) and as crazy as it may sound, I made it my goal then to win Britain’s Got Talent. I took a year out of university and I trained day and night. Both Popping and Bboying. I loved both dance styles. I soon met Sep’s dance crew Goodfoot UK who invited me to train with them.
When I walked into the studio with Goodfoot for the first time I was amazed. They were one of the best professional street dance crews in the UK at the time travelling and performing for big artists. To be in a room full of them was intimidating but inspiring. I learnt so much from them.
The dance ambition gave me a goal to fight in life. It also bought something I did not expect. Relief inside my brain. I had received psychiatric therapy to help with my issues but nothing came close to the cure that dancing bought. It wasn’t a fix but it helped me so much. I found over the years exercise was the key to helping me get through. Once the gap year was over, I was ready to go back into university to recover from my failure. I had two years left and I needed to smash it.
The next two years at university was a path to recovery and were two of the best years of my life. I studied hard and danced like no tomorrow. Day by day my health got better and so did my studies. I eventually recovered to graduate with a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and my dancing also improved a lot. It was the happiest that I had felt for a long time and it was unthinkable to me what I achieved looking back to my darkest days in teenage. If someone said to me, I would have achieved that during those bad moments I would have honestly laughed.
Upon graduation, I wasn’t still good enough to become a professional dancer so I looked for a graduate job. I eventually landed a job at Rolls-Royce as a naval engineer. My dancing stopped because of relocation and work. I did very well at work and got promotions, but two years later I felt that my mental health issues were coming back. I needed an active life. I got back to dancing, trained alongside some of the best dancers in the UK and within a few years I went onto perform on several big stages. Including a performance at UK’s Best Dance Act at the Glasgow Exhibition Centre. I felt an amazing sense of achievement. I then left my job to work with children in education and entertainment. Today I work in schools talking to children about my life and running STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) workshops. So far, they have been a big hit and I’m really glad to be helping the next generation. I’m still on a journey connecting the dots to it all.
I still struggle with my issues but the difference is that after everything I been through, I’m stronger and I know how to cope. I still have bad moments but I tell myself I have a lot to give. I wish I had known things better in my teenage. I have accepted today my brain is my biggest gift. It is the reason I dream in my own zone when it’s painful and I continue to move forward in life achieving things. Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am.
To anyone who struggles with disabilities or other issues in life, my advice is that try to find a positive from it. Learn not to give up and find a goal to battle through it all. If you have a vision it can help you drive through your problems. Try to find a coping mechanism as distractions during troubled times. Hobbies can be very useful. If you have friends you can trust talk to them. There will be people who doubt what you can achieve but you will only know by trying. Failure is certainly not the end. My path to recovery was a long one so be patient because life is always changing. You can’t control the future or what the world does but you can keep going. Just as I found out you may also find that your biggest weakness may contribute towards something positive and life-changing towards others.