Overcoming adversity is something that can be extremely challenging and something that faces all of us in one way or another. Rising above the challenge and putting it behind you can be one of the most rewarding experiences in our lives – and, sometimes, a scary and dark chapter too.
As many of you know, my daughter Olivia is a triple threat; A Dancer, and Singer, and a Actress/Model. She is a National Dance Champion many times over, sings on one of the current “Trump Make America Great Again”commercials, and can be found in print or on TV – most recently in an ad for The Gaylord Opryland Resort.
Olivia has always been outgoing – if you have met me you know exactly where that comes from. She has never been afraid to jump into the middle of a situation and introduce herself to everyone there. In fact, for many years we have called her “The Mayor” because she know everyone, it seems, who comes within a 50 foot circle of her. Just ask one of a dozen country stars here in Nashville – from Little Big Town to Brad Paisley to Manuel to her favorite Bryan below….
Her most glowing attribute is her big heart – she is always the first to jump forward to help someone in need, or to assist a person or child with special-needs. Her compassion for others is extremely special and I know she will do great things for our community, and beyond, in the future.
Olivia has been a Dancer for nearly 10 years – starting at a local dance studio and moving up through several disciplines that included; Ballet, Jazz, Tap, and Hip Hop. For some reason or another Hip Hop is what she has been drawn to and is extremely talented in performing. (if some of you know me from the late 80’s and early 90’s you are welcome to leave comments below).Her Hip Hop routines and skills are nothing less than amazing & breathtaking. So, while working with some of Nashville & America’s top choreographers, she soon became ‘show-center’ in routine after routine and helped her teams to pull in many 1st Place awards in local, Regional, and National competitions.
What is important to note is that although Olivia was extremely talented and had mastered all of the complicated routines, she was smaller in stature than many of the girls her age – much smaller. We had met with her doctor and this became a topic of conversation when she was 10 year old as it seemed she had stopped growing all together. The doctors assured us not worry and that sometimes children went through this ‘growth stall’ many times catching up later in their teens.
Well, for Olivia, it did stall. And, although she was extremely talented, the reality of modern culture stepped in – the teasing and comments began and her self-confidence took a direct hit. By the fall of 2014 she reached her breaking point and ran-off the stage of an exhibition performance…..and never returned.
This was unlike anything I had ever seen from Olivia. As the days and weeks went on it became evident that there was something was extremely wrong. We were stunned – our triple threat, the one who sought the limelight and always stepped up to a challenge, was completely over and done with competitive dance – in fact, with any dance at all.
It just happens to be that Olivia entered Middle School in that same time-frame.
We quickly learned that Middle School is a beast in itself – a new experience for ALL involved. “The Mayor” was now thrust into the new environment of a much bigger and diverse school. The size differential between her and the other 6th graders quickly became an issue and it boiled over into our home.
The facts are simple – some kids are mean spirited and social media gives those children a channel to distribute their teasing and ridicule. By Christmas of that year it was a chore to even get Olivia to go to school – in fact, sometimes she wouldn’t go – or if she did, we ended up having to go and get her mid-day.
It was an extremely tough time. I was worried for the future of my daughter – she had quit the very things she loved so much and was now almost an introvert – 180 degrees from what she had been for nearly 11 years.
The good news:
Olivia kept putting one foot in from of the other. Together, her mother and I encouraged and supported her daily – we hugged her, we talked to her, we read the bible together, and we stood beside her. The Williamson County School (WCS) helped too – you see, this isn’t an isolated thing we learned – many other children (and by many, I mean a LOT) are going through the same thing. WCS had counselors and teachers who wanted to help Olivia through this…..and she DID make it through.
Last year Olivia started taking one-off classes & clinics at different dance schools and academy’s around Middle Tennessee. Then she joined the Middle School dance team. Once evening, while working late, I received a call from a business partner. It went like this;
- Friend: ” Hey, is your daughter Olivia on the Middle School Dance Team
- Me: ” Yes, she is, why? “
- Friend: ” I kind of thought it was her. My son plays on the JV team and I am here for every game. Each week more and more people have been staying through the half time to watch the Dance Team and now this week the basketball teams are staying on the floor to watch the performance…even the visiting team. Olivia is front and center and she is putting on a show if you know what I mean… WOW “
And then it began – the comeback.
A few weeks ago Olivia returned to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in downtown Nashville and put down one of her best performance…EVER….! Pictures and video were strictly prohibited, but below is a picture of her before the performance – you can see the confidence in her face and body language.
The Mayor is back – in fact, she has now become an up and coming internet phenom. With over 1 million likes on her featured dance videos she is now being approached all around Nashville by random boys and girls wanting her autograph and selfies with her. Olivia handles it so well, always taking the time to make time and be kind.
I’m about as proud as a dad can be and even prouder to have shared her story with you !
The GRANDEST OF FINALE’s
And, for the record, GOD helped too.
He not only gave her the peace & strength she needed and asked for, but he also threw in a few inches of growth over the past year – 5 to be exact.
2 thoughts on “One inch at a time….”
The Zbierajewski family has your back!
Dream BIG Olivia!
You have a wonderful family and Olivia is going places. . Keep supporting your kids and your family. . Because that’s what father’s do. .