I slept for 17 hours straight between Sunday and Monday.
How is that possible, you ask? Well, I had been standing for the 26 hours before that, so I felt I was justified to sleep from 3 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next day.
I’ve now done UCLA’s Dance Marathon three times throughout college – my first, third and fourth years.
This column is supposed to be about taking me out of my comfort zone by doing new things on campus, and standing for 26 hours is going pretty far out of my comfort zone – physically and mentally – no matter how many times I’ve done it before.
Here are some things I learned while dancing for 26 hours this year:
1. It’s easier to do something if other people expect you to.
Before the marathon began, my friends and I had established that I am usually the “energetic one” during Dance Marathon (it mirrors my role in everyday life), and I had promised multiple people that if they needed someone to lean against for a nap, they could find me. I have made no such promises before, but this year it worked out well, because any time I saw anyone else tired, I forced myself not to be and instead danced with them.
I was most tired around 10:30 p.m., after my family had come to visit. They all had more energy than I did and were helping me instead of the other way around, so I actually recognized my pain. The rest of the time I just ignored it, so that other people wouldn’t notice my exhaustion (although I’m sure they did at some point, probably around 7 a.m.).
2. I’ve learned that Dance Marathon really is not about dancing. You have to love dancing to participate – or at least I do and it helps – and it’s nice to be able to say that you were on your feet for 26 hours. Most people haven’t done that.
But some of the most memorable parts of the 26 hours did not involve dancing.
Like making crafts next to some of the kids who are somehow affected by HIV.
During every shift – or three-hour period – there was a different craft offered. One of them was to make jewelry out of condoms. Seeing kids who looked to be about 5 years old playing with condom wrappers and tape to help me make a bracelet was extremely comical.
They were wearing Dance Marathon T-shirts, but I don’t know that kids that young could possibly have understood that all these people in ridiculous costumes (I was wearing a Lakers’ jersey, a yellow skirt and a mardi gras mask for that shift) were standing for this long for them. At some point in the future, though, they’ll find out more about HIV and how it affects them, and that there are a lot of people who are trying to help.
Seeing them made it notably less difficult for me to dance.
While Dance Marathon did raise a lot of money, its focus was also on increasing education about the disease and how to avoid the spread of it so that these younger kids wouldn’t face some of the same problems that the older kids who spoke at Dance Marathon have faced, like the teen who faced ridicule from her soccer coach, or the girl afraid to hug her mother for fear of contracting the virus.
“It was really encouraging and really inspiring in terms of energy to hear what this cause is going to,” said Jacob Lui, a first-year psychobiology student and first-time dancer. “I knew (Dance Marathon) would be fun … I just didn’t know I’d feel so good about it after, morally.”
That’s the way I felt about it during my first year, too. What I didn’t know coming into the 26 hours this year was whether I would have the same reaction to these testimonials – the same motivation to stay standing – as I did the first time I heard them.
Turns out, I did.