Just Us.

I’ve been to Oslo several times but I’ve never seen it like this. 

I arrived in Oslo from Amsterdam late Tuesday Night, well after my bedtime- and well into the beginning of my delirious exhaustion stage. In fact, I was so tired that I couldn’t even remain standing to wait for my bag in baggage claim. I stood with my back against the wall and slowly slid down it into a seated position. Who knew if I’d get up again.

It was from my position on the floor that a man squatted down next to me and asked which sport I played. Old Tianna probably would have lied, or would have been so curt that the conversation would have ended before it started. But I didn’t do that. 

I told him—Athletics. 

I also told him why I was in Oslo—Bislett Games. 

And he told me where he was coming in from— Athens Greece. 

And what he was doing there— interviewing people. 

It was all so interesting, he mentioned he used to work with Doctors without Borders! But that now he was running his own non-profit called The Human Aspect. He gave me his business card before we went our separate ways just outside the “nothing to declare” automatic sliding doors. I went to the meet organization transport team, he seemingly vanished into thin air.

I put the card in my pocket.

The following morning, I stared at the business card, saw that his name was Jimmy. I realized that I never told him my name either. Our conversation in baggage claim seemingly started off in the middle—

The URL on the card caught my eye: thehumanaspect.com

I opened my MacBook and typed in the address. 

The page loaded…

My eyes welled with tears.

The Human Aspect website is a Life Experience Library. You can literally search for an experience that you’re going through and watch video interviews of people who have gone through the same thing! The entire point of the project is to make people aware that they are not alone.

I immediately began writing an email. I introduced myself finally. But then asked, almost begged to contribute to the project in anyway they would allow.

I pushed send.

His reply was almost immediate. And he said two things that I was thrilled about: 1st, that they’d love for me to do a video interview. 2nd, that he and his colleague Isabelle wanted to invite me to an African dance performance at the Opera House that evening.

I agreed to both.

I met Jimmy and his colleague Isabelle in front of the Opera house. It didn't feel as though we were being newly acquainted. It felt as though three old friends were simply meeting up to enjoy a show together. 

Which brings me to the show. Called Limbo- Where Stereotypes Go To Die by the Tabanka Dance crew.

Words don’t do it justice. But I cannot remember a time when I’d been more moved. From the original poem by Madame Kat Francois called Dusky Skin which provided the backdrop for the opening scene, to each dancer expressing themselves in a solo moment, to the last declaration narrated by the choreographer and director himself (“I am not a threat-unless you are threatened by progress”). I had never been so proud to embrace my heritage, my complexion, my ancestry. I had never been so proud to be a part of something so primal as self expressing through dance and music. There was nothing more electric than being in communion with the audience cheering and encouraging the dancers on as they poured their souls into every movement.

When they had danced their final number, they stood shoulder to shoulder across the stage, heart rates elevated, chests rising and falling rapidly as they tried to catch their breath, tears streaming down their faces as the house lights came up and they could actually see us. All of the people who were granted the honor of sharing that moment and witnessing the abandonment with which they danced. 

I cried too. I know that feeling…to give it everything you have. And to realize that everything you had was enough to win it all. I recognized it on each of the dancers’ faces. And I told them as much when I had the opportunity to meet and shake hands with them. I was in awe of them. It was a performance I will never forget.

Isabelle, Jimmy, and I said good night with an appointment for the following morning to film my interview. They met me at the hotel at 10am and together we walked to their offices. But they came with a gift! They brought me the official performance program- only this one had a note to me from each of the dancers!!!  My heart nearly burst.

I had never walked the streets of Oslo before so I was experiencing more new things with my new friends. Their office building was a converted bank with a tremendous amount of charm and character. We filmed in a trendy walkway with exposed brick and beams, and I spoke of the most difficult thing I’ve had to do, how I got through it, and how I continue to move forward.

After the camera stopped rolling we sat like old friends talking about life. Isabelle (a truly beautiful woman inside and out) and I learned that we were sisters in our life experiences. Just by being together we felt more strengthened and encouraged. 

Jimmy is a force of nature. One of those people who radiate energy, light, and love. A person living out their purpose and living it fully. The kind of person that elevates everyone around him. Conversations with him acted as a mirror for me, my last morning over Chai tea lattes an understanding dawned on me about myself that I hadn’t quite been able to piece together before. 

I was able to get two tickets for them for the competition. As the long jumpers were escorted on to the field, I scanned the crowd and somehow located them (what were the odds of that happening!?). I actually heard them cheering! So it was an added bonus that in their first ever attendance of the Bislett Games it was to support me, and that they got to see me win.

As I sit on this plane now writing— I see that the last few days were all about the same thing. From Charles Ryan sharing my blog post, “Note to Self,” meeting Jimmy and Isabelle, to being introduced to The Human Aspect, attending the African dance performance, doing my interview finally opening up about my greatest difficulties for the first time, looking up into the stands and having a “squad” one thing became apparent— I am not alone.

That none of us are. 

If I’ve learned anything over the past week it’s that none of us is going through something new to the human race. 

All it takes is an openness… 

A willingness…

To accept and embrace your role as a citizen of the world. 

There is no us and them. 

Just us.

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The Tabanka Dance Crew after their performance of the show  Limbo .

The Tabanka Dance Crew after their performance of the show Limbo.

Jimmy and Isabelle of the Human Aspect...They were singing me a song. ;-)

Jimmy and Isabelle of the Human Aspect...They were singing me a song. ;-)

nick steadman