When I was little I had this affinity for all things that were sharp, flammable, and potentially caustic. My little brown curly top head would run around sticking forks, pencils, and all sorts of paraphernalia into the light sockets. It's no wonder my mother was such a worried woman as she chased me around the house with the fly swatter, her favorite tool of discipline. I can hear her repeating words like "Don't talk to strangers and left, right, left when crossing the street." Yet, despite her constant reminders I was determined to walk on the wild side. I believe that I found satisfaction and comfort in knowing I was under the careful eyes of my parents; that despite what catastrophe or minor injury I might find myself in my mom and dad would be there to swoop me up, wipe my tears, and make it all better. Yet, the problem with this is as I have gotten older I have noticed adult life does not come with caution signs or black box warning labels. We have been forced to enter at our own risk.
Perhaps this is part of the beauty of life; learning to recover from the hurts that we incur over time. Growing up as a pudgy kid, I will never forget the torment I experienced at school or on the school bus. Come to think of it, school buses are bright yellow, I should have recognized this huge Twinkie- like structure as a giant caution sign. Because as far as my childhood goes, the school bus served as one of those places where many tears were shed and life lessons were learned. Santa was destroyed and my hair bows were a constant topic of ridicule. But through all the tears I would like to believe that I emerged from the yellow bus of terror a stronger and more courageous soul.
The difference between back then and now is that we knowingly place ourselves in danger. It happens everyday. We constantly are entering situations that could potentially cause injury or harm. We get in our car everyday with the hope that we will arrive home safely. We make decisions at work that could jeopardize our future. We enter relationships knowing that they don't always work out. Yet, the problem is we have read the warning labels, but we have decided that we are willing to throw the dice and see how our luck fares. We dance with disappointment daily, but I believe it is the way that we deal with our heavy blows that makes us ready for any duel.
I willingly admit that I would avoid pain and injury at any cost. I would wear elbow and knee pads out in public if I could convince others that it was fashionable. Yet, perhaps even more honestly, I have placed parts of my heart in a witness protection program. I have kept a part of myself incognito and locked away as a type of self-preservation, in the hopes that I will never experience pain or disappointment. Yet, what I have learned over the last couple of months is that this is no way to live. Placing your heart on the table is terrifying. It's like riding your bike around naked in a large crowd. You are vulnerable and nervous, but there is something liberating about the experience.
In the end what I have learned is that while placing the pieces of myself out in public view has caused me some pain and disappointment, I have no regrets. I am glad that I disregarded the warning labels and that I have been willing to take a chance. Because the truth of the matter is life is a lot like learning how to ride a bike- dangerous, exciting, a lot about balance, and learning how to fall. The stinging of your hands and knees from the fall are reminders that you are human. Your only option at this point is to peel yourself off the ground, brush yourself off, get back on the bike, and try again.