Tuesday, February 21, 2012

skatING in circles by yourself

I will never forget my tenth birthday. I had a skating party. All of my friends came, there was cake, music, presents, everything a ten year old Ali could have wanted. There was just one thing about it though--I was the only one who skated (at least to the best of my memory). By myself, I circled and circled the rink. I requested songs, I had a blast. Knowing my competitive self, I probably timed myself to see if it could get better. Now, I did take the time to spend with my guests thanking them for coming, eating cake, laughing, hanging out etc., but I alone skated, probably wearing some nerdy shirt that had something about NASA or the planets or something like that on it. I had my weird short haircut that made my head look like a mushroom, but I didn't care, I just skated.

When I look back at that memory I have two initial reactions. The first is that I sort of  want to recognize that memory as sad. How did I not realize how "uncool" I was? Were all my friends just pitying me by being there? Oh my gosh, I was such an nerd and didn't even know it. The worst kind! I almost get embarrassed over my ten year old self. No wonder I was  never a "cool kid." It can kind of be a painful moment to look back on.

Then I think about it for a second longer, and I laugh and I'm honestly proud. The thing is, when I look back at that memory, I wasn't embarrassed at all. It didn't occur to me on February 20,  1995 that nobody else skated. It didn't occur to me that I was skating in circles by myself. I just had a blast. The DJ played the music and I just went for it. I skated forward and backward, and did the scissors, and tried to go faster and faster each time around.  I would say I was brave, but to be honest, I don't remember it being something I was afraid to do, I just did it because it was fun and I wanted to.

Now, why am I telling you about my tenth birthday??? Lately, there have been these moments where I've felt like I'm skating in circles by myself. I've had moments where I didn't even know I was alone in what I was doing, and I looked back and realized no one was joining me. This feeling has come up with my job, with some friendships, just everywhere lately. I felt like maybe I was still that 10 year old skating in a circle by myself not going anywhere, looking uncool.

Then I rethought it again. I realized that sometimes in order to really live, you just have to skate in a circle by yourself, because it is fun. The truth is, everyone else usually wishes they could go out there and skate. After all, how is not fun to listen to "Ghostbusters" and feel the air flutter through your mushroom haircut,  as you zoom around on a bright orange floor while the lights from the disco ball swirl around you??? I mean, come on.  Everybody is just too afraid and fear makes us miss out. We sit and we think of a million reasons why we shouldn't be out there. We think about our ability or lack thereof, we think about how dumb we might look or how uncool it is (adults worry about coolness just as much if not more than Jr. higher's I've noticed).

Life sometimes, is trying to rip the hope right from us--through criticism, through painful experiences, through disappointment, but I've realized that that's the fight. The battle is to hold on to hope, simply because its worth it. Sometimes in order to do that it takes skating in a circle by yourself. It even takes grit. Not the kind that makes you calloused, but the kind that can still love even when things feel unlovely. The kind that believes in other people (or even yourself) even when it seems like there is no reason to. It takes laughing and smiling and rejoicing even when no one else seems to care to join you. The hope is that maybe they will join you, maybe they will feel less alone, less afraid, if they just get out there.

Maybe this still seems sad, but I don't think it is. It's freedom. I hope that I can always look back at 10 year old me and have the courage to rejoice and to hope, and to just be me really; I hope that you can be you too.

" Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place." --Unknown
"No child on earth was ever meant to be ordinary, and you can see it in them, and they know it, too, but then the times get to them and they wear out their brains learning what folks expect." --Annie Dillard

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