I’ve always had a white-knuckle grip on my life.
Well, aside from the standing back tucks I threw in my cheerleading days—but I didn’t dare attempt a twisting full. And, aside from the rebellious teen years drinking underage—but I didn’t dare try the hard stuff. Oh, and aside from going to a college eight hours away from my home—but I didn’t dare try living in any other state.
I cling to comfort. I wrap my decisions around me like a weighted blanket. Is it the trauma? The chaos in my upbringing? Maybe. Lately, though, I think it’s less so. Since childhood, I’ve secured a tight cap on how much of myself I would allow to spill out into the world.
I still remember the gravel crunching underneath my bright white bike tires as they wobbled on my newly established driveway. My grandfather, whom I only got to know for six years of my life, stood at the bottom by the garage. His robust arms, that supported him when he did handstand push-ups on kitchen chairs, waved toward me with encouragement: “Go, Katalina!”
His Austrian accent bellowed up to the top of the driveway where I envisioned the imminent fall before me on my Barbie bike. My brother zipped past me, popping wheelies while I helplessly honked the hot pink horn on my tiny handles. My slender fingers encapsulated the bars, clenching for dear life. I wanted to make my grandfather proud, but I didn’t want him to see me fall.
To no one’s surprise, biking never became my thing. Even 20 years later, a man stopped me while I weaved through foot traffic in Hoboken, New Jersey to not-so-politely joke that “the Tour de France was not for me.” No sh*t, Sherlock.
Skiing was another undertaking that I quickly got over. I appreciated the majesty of the mountains and the serenity of the snow. But when I skied, my movements were deliberate.
Intentionally, I scaled each trail from one side to its absolute other, and made sure I was leaning more toward pizza than french fry. I was more concerned with eating both of those in the cozy lodge after the pass was over, anyway.
When I learned to drive, I barely tapped my big toe on the gas pedal. A year ago, I was pulled over…for driving too slow. The officer thought I was under the influence. No sir, just terrified of speed and sudden changes. He gave me a side eye and sent me on my way.
I have consciously placed the people and structures in my life in a formation to defend my comfort. Only what I could handle could be let in or out. We could point to my unstructured past as the explanation, but it’s always been more than that—from my Barbie bike days to my recent police pull-over.
My soul searches for connections to people and things that are reliable, safe, and, sometimes, stagnant. When I’ve veered away from that, it’s typically been disastrous—at first.
Then it transforms into magic.
I’ve arrived at a place now where I can see that the magic outweighs the risk of the wreckage.
I can see where the cracks have formed in the walls and the bricks of my comfort, and it’s time for a renovation.
I want to loosen my grip on the handles, I want to take sharper turns, I want to speed up.
I’m ready, now. It’s time to fall on my face.
I think the scratches will make me more beautiful.