When I sat down to write this morning, I had the strangest memory surface. I was in kindergarten in Mrs. Bland’s class at Carl Cozier Elementary School. Our classroom had a little fenced-in playground that we would sometimes take our recess in. Most of the time, though, we shared the big playground with all the rest of the kids in the school.
Even as I’m typing, I’m remembering the time I shimmied all the way up the long pole on the swings and hung from the horizontal bar at the top. Just then the end of recess bell rang, and everyone beat it back to their classes. There was no quick way for me to get down, so I just let go. I dropped to the ground sticking an epic landing flat on my back. It was the first time I had ever had the wind knocked out of me and I thought I was going to die. Even then though, my primary concern was being late for class. I was such a typical first-born rule follower.
And then there was the time that I found an agate in the poured aggregate, again, on the playground. In my family of beachcombers, agates were as good as gold. I decided that I would dig that little sucker out and be famous for finding such a treasure not on a beach, but the playground. For days, I used little sticks and sharp little rocks to chip away at it. At that age though, with the attention span of a gerbil, I bailed on the project and probably decided to conquer the long pole at the swings instead.
Kickball And Picture Day
My initial memory, though, was of kickball. I loved kickball and I was really good at it. My legs were strong for kicking that ball high and far, and fast for running the bases. It’s fun to think back about how that felt to me. I wasn’t self-conscious at all.
It was picture day and so my mom had dressed me in some uncomfortable dress with fru fru tights and shiny patent leather shoes. If you ever wore them as a kid, you’ll remember they were slippery as hell. Not good shoes for kickball, that’s for sure. But what kindergartner takes that fact into consideration?
It was my turn to kick, and I remember booting a real doozie! It sailed out onto the playground and I ran like crazy. I knew I had a chance at a home run. I employed all the focus available to me. I rounded first base, then second base. It was amazing, they still hadn’t gotten the ball. When I got to third base, I must’ve been pushing my little five-year-old body to its limits because as I rounded that final corner, my feet slipped right out from under me.
Those stupid slippery shoes! The details at this point get fuzzy for me and my next memory is of sitting on a bench, inside the school, crying my eyes out. The sweet teacher who rescued me was lamenting my ripped tights and bloody hands. My disheveled hair and dirty dress. On picture day too.
I’m sure I cried way longer than was necessary or comfortable for the teacher. I remember she reassured me that we’d get me all cleaned up for pictures. That no one would know what had happened since the pictures were just our heads and chests. I didn’t care about the pictures at all.
The Worst Thing
I didn’t even care about not getting a home run. The thing that was causing my world to end in that moment was the fact that I had completely ripped my tights to shreds. I had ruined something. For some reason, in my little girl brain, that was the worst thing that could have happened.
That’s a heavy burden for a kiddo. Feeling like I should have known better and not fallen, and not ruined my tights. That multi-level thinking being nearly impossible for a child with the attention span of a gerbil. Kids are great recorders of information but not good interpreters.
I have no recollection of what happened after I got home except that it was uneventful. I do remember not playing very much kickball after that though. And when I did play, I was very careful. Quickly I lost interest as I restricted myself from playing my hardest and doing my best.
This was me at five years old. I’ve hauled those patterns around with me for my whole life. Making myself small. Not playing my hardest. Not truly giving my best. It’s been terribly limiting.
Over the past few years, I’ve come to the end of my tolerance with those restrictions. I would love to tell you that I’m all in and taking life by the tail and knocking down doors and obstacles that stand in my way. And sometimes I do this. But mostly I find myself checking in a lot. What do I want? How do I get there? And then, in my quiet and calculated way, taking baby steps forward and making different choices.
Choosing differently is a giant step forward for me in changing my habits from the same old same old, into what I really want and wish for.
Today, as I’m sending love and kindness back to little girl me, I would like to reassure her of a few things: First, shredded tights are a sign of a fierce competitor. When you know what you want, run like sixty toward it. Second, setbacks happen. Take what you learned and do it better next time. Finally, you are worth it. All of your experiences are teachers leading you forward into the best and brightest version of yourself. Embrace the journey and have some fun.
If you are running like sixty, or find yourself on the bench, if you need time to be quiet and calculated or if it’s time to lighten up and have some fun, let’s be friends~