I started working with Dunrovin full-time in September but I have been involved with Dunrovin’s programs since 2009. As one of the newest members on staff and part of the new Retreat Team, I decided to start by telling you a little bit about myself. As strange as it feels, here I go!
My full name is Teresa Marie Philomena Kostohris
I was born and raised Catholic in a little neighborhood in Saint Paul, MN. There are five kids in my family and my brave mother home schooled us, so yes I am home schooled and proud of it!
I was a very adventurous and energetic child; which basically translates to me running in circles around our house constantly! To preserve their sanity my parents put me in Irish dancing when I was three years old to:
“Give me something productive to do with all my energy.”
Basically what this meant was instead of running circles around our house, I danced circles around our house. But hey at least it was being productive! I literally have been dancing as long as I can remember and not only do I love it, but it has really played a role in shaping who I am. I will explain what I mean.
My dance career has been both a joy and tons of hard work, but through dance I learned that most things that are worth doing take a lot of hard work. I was incredibly lucky to be able to study under world champion teachers, perform with professional bands and dance companies during the fourteen years I studied dance. I know those things all sound really crazy and intense/professional but my favorite part was really just being able to learn how to dance! In dance there are so many rules, techniques, and workouts that are required. Through all those things I learned what I was capable of and worked hard so that I could perform to the fullest reach of my abilities. So I could dance with freedom.
I guess that has always been what dance boils down to for me: freedom.
Through dance I learned that freedom isn’t just being able to do whatever I want; true freedom comes through giving everything you have to something, sacrificing, working hard and knowing yourself and what you are capable or not capable of. The rules, technique and guidelines were there because they provided more freedom for me to dance – not less.
Example: For years I struggled with my leaps, my front knee would always bend. No matter what I did or how hard I focused on straightening it, I couldn’t. One day my teacher realized that my posture was off – I leaned too far forward, even just standing normally. She told me to lean backwards, to the point where I felt like I was going to fall backwards, and then told me to dance like that. (insert hysterical laughter here) I was almost falling over just standing! She was crazy to expect me to dance like that, it was very uncomfortable, awkward and threw my dancing off completely! I decided that she was crazy. But she insisted; ALL PRACTICE LONG I just worked on leaning backwards. It turns out that she was right and by the end of practice I was able to do several leaps (while still leaning backwards to the point where I felt like I was going to fall over!) without bending my knee.
Dance showed me the importance of fundamentals and integrity, a lesson which created a foundation for the person that I have become today. God took the rebellious, stubborn and independent rule hater that I was as a child, and through dance, taught me that rules/technique, while annoying, uncomfortable and not always the most fun thing to do, were the key to true freedom within dancing; a lesson that I eventually realized also applies to life and to faith as well. Nineteen years later dancing, from Irish to swing to bachata to teaching, dance is still something I continue to love and do to this day. I could talk forever about dancing and just plain dance for even longer but that is only part of my life. So on I go.
Another part of my life that had a huge impact on who I am today was Lyme Disease.
I am not going to talk about the specifics (but I was sick for 4 years and miraculously healed last March, ask me for the story if you don’t know it!!!!! God is good.) Rather I want to talk about the impact it had on me, because this spotlight is about me not Lymes disease.
I grew up in a culture where suffering was bad, and needed to be avoided at all costs. A culture that claimed you could only be happy if you weren’t suffering, if your life was perfect. I never realized how false this was until I encountered real suffering; not just having to having to eat honey when I wanted jelly on my peanut butter sandwich. I learned that suffering is beautiful! Bear with me, I will explain. Before I got sick I was on the fast track to success by the standards of the world. I was a straight A student, I graduated high school with a 2 year college degree, I was the top of my dance school, I was ‘mature’ and ‘had direction’ and ‘was going places’ because everything I tried I had to be perfect in – so that was my life: being perfect. And dang I was good at it.
I was so obsessed with perfection, with what I had to DO to be successful in life – that I gave no thought to WHO I was becoming.
Through suffering I was stripped of all those things that I sought perfection in: school, dance, my future goals and plans, relationships. One by one they were all taken away and as I (eventually) gave each one up I also gave up a little bit of that obsession with perfection. Yes it was the hardest, most painful and frustrating thing I have ever been through: I watched the life I had built for myself fall apart and years of work just become meaningless;
I say it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.
It freed me from myself. It freed me from an obsession with perfection that I had built my life around. That is one, of many ways, that I learned to see the beauty of suffering – a gift that I will always be thankful for.
God has a plan for the rest of my life that is just as crazy, beautiful, hard and wonderful as the plan that got me here.
God Bless, Tess