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Where Do I Fit?

My story starts with my name: Jordan Maria.

“Jordan,” most people immediately say. “Oh, like Michael Jordan?” I love basketball so that never bothers me. But Jordan is actually Hebrew, and it means to “descend or flow down.” Since I’m a dancer, that translation’s fine with me. It sounds graceful.

But names can also carry baggage.
My middle name, Maria, has a few different meanings—including “bitter”... and “rebellious.” I’m only 22, but I’ve learned that those two things can make their way into your life because of choices you’ve made, but also because of choices you never had.
As a kid, I tried not to call attention to my sand-tinted skin. I went to a lot of trouble to straighten my hair every day and do what I was told. But I didn’t fit in. Baptized at ten, I knew I wanted to follow God, but everything was so focused on following rules. And what I loved most in the world, dance, was viewed as a sin at my school. 

That was a big problem for me. I was one and a half years old when my mom brought me along to my older sister’s dance class at a local studio. The teacher, watching me move to the music, said I could start hip-hop as soon as I was potty-trained. Dance was a huge part of my life that I couldn’t give up.
“Dance was a huge part of my life that I couldn’t give up.”

Trying to Belong

In sixth grade, my life did a 180. I auditioned and got accepted to a local school of the arts where the students came from all over. Finally I didn’t stick out because of the color of my skin, and my classmates were a mix of atheists, Muslims, and Christians, and still others who didn’t bother thinking about spirituality at all. At this school, you could say and do practically anything. But still, I was told I spoke too White — and for others — too Black. Where did I fit? Depending on the people I was around, I adapted to their traits. Theirs. Not mine.

That same year, my parents divorced after three years of painful transition, and my going to church went from every week, to every other, to only on holidays. I tried to pretend everything was okay, but it wasn’t. That’s why I had dance.

And dance was going well—actually, too well. At the studio, my teacher put me into a higher-level class, with kids my sister’s age. She’s five years older than me. My peers didn’t like that and made sure I knew it. They started bullying me. And the older kids I danced with didn’t want to hang out with someone so much younger. Once again, I didn’t fit in.

The Wrong Kind of Attention

I clung to dance, my light, where I felt I could be myself. And that’s when I got hurt. God blessed me with amazing flexibility, but my joints have a lot of room between them. When I was thirteen, all I did was raise my hand to ask a question, and my shoulder popped, and soon afterward, at a dance competition, the girl next to me kicked on the wrong count, jamming my shoulder. From there, it was surgery, a cast for six months, and no movement for nine.

I went from dancing every day for five and a half hours to sitting around at home, which led to too much time on Instagram and Snapchat. Anxiety and depression, they change you. I didn’t make the best decisions. I started partying and drinking, and hanging out with older guys who gave me the wrong kind of attention. I didn’t like myself at all.

My Voice

When I finally healed enough, I returned to dancing and thankfully, a teacher introduced me to the theater world. I loved it—and I met incredible friends who got me to start going to church again. I began to see that God’s love was about grace. Also I got the chance to go to an institute that taught classical ballet. The structure was good for me. I was happy there. But after another injury, I shifted to a studio that encouraged students to choreograph. It was there, that I found my voice through movement.

“But as for me, I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the LORD. I am filled with justice and strength to boldly declare Israel’s sin and rebellion.”

Micah 3:8

I was always searching to be accepted. But the moment I found Jesus, I was already accepted. Now I can give my anxiety to him rather than hold it all into myself. God’s love is unconditional. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. What color you are. Or where you’re from. He’s the God of love.

My True Name

I accept the sacrifice Jesus made for me. He lives in me... Jordan Maria.

Jordan, like the green river that Jesus was baptized in, “flowing” through me and washing away every bad memory, “descending” from generations of powerful women wearing robes of courage.

Although Maria can mean, “bitter” or “rebellious,” it also translates to “star of the sea.” I prefer that one. I bask in the light of God’s love that warms my sand-tinted skin.

For in his eyes,
I am Beautiful.
I am Strong.
I am Courageous.
And I am ready to fight for his honor and glory.

My legacy is his.
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