For most of the year, I’d swear to anyone that my favorite season is fall. Cool autumn air is a relief from harsh summer humidity.

Changing leaves remind us that there’s beauty in endings.

The two best holidays (my birthday and Halloween) are practically back-to-back. Fall is crisp and cozy; what else could you want?

But man, I gotta tell you. Every spring, I fall in love. I wake up to sunshine. I see bunnies in my yard nibbling on flower patches that grew practically overnight. The air is warm and soft and smells of rain. Things are growing.

You know that first big full-body stretch you do in the morning, right before you get up? That’s what spring feels like. Waking up. Blossoming.

When I first started pole dancing, I was a retired water polo player. I was used to working for strength and speed, not for grace and control. So I struggled. I was able to improve in strength moves, but I thought that the beauty of my instructors was unattainable. They were slim and flexible and confident.

I was broad and awkward, with too much body to fold into the shapes I wanted.

I figured that pole was going to be an outlet for having fun and making friends; I never thought that it would end up the path to becoming the type of woman I saw in my mentors.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone that is starting pole fitness: no matter what your goals are, or where you’re starting, keep going.

Trust that you’re making progress, even when you’re discouraged. I get it, it’s tough. Pole fitness often starts off with discouragement. People come into class thinking it’ll be all easy twirls and dances, and they leave realizing that this shit is harder than it looks. It bruises and rips your skin and strains muscles you’ve never had to use before. You realize that the coolest tricks take years to master, and it sucks. It feels unattainable.

It’s not. Keep going. You’re trying something completely new and challenging.

Progress happens with practice.

I was lucky to have the access to train almost daily, and within a year I was performing at national competitions. And you know what the most surprising part of that is? It isn’t that I had the skills to perform – competitions take all levels of dancer, and there’s a lot you can learn in a year! The most surprising thing was that I was confident enough to do it at all. But that’s what pole dance can give you. It isn’t about the tricks and spins, it’s about the pride that you earn by dedicating yourself to something difficult and beautiful.

Tomorrow morning, I’m probably going to wake up to birds tweeting outside the window. I’ll walk out with the dogs, and my feet will get wet from the dew, and I’ll check to see which flowerbeds are blooming.

Tomorrow afternoon, I get to teach a full class of beginner pole dancers – some who are months into the curriculum, some who are brand new. It’s gonna be a good day.

Thanks for reading, Shyla