The Day I Learned To Swim

“What makes you who you are?  The question was followed only by deafening silence.

I was sitting in a therapy office for the first time in my life. Less than 24 hours after my best friend had locked me in her car and made me promise to meet with a teacher, whom I now consider more like family, and ask for the help I needed. I had been beating myself up – figuratively and literally – for longer than I could remember. Life felt like a never ending downpour of fear and worry and doubt and I was focused on making myself as small and invisible as possible in as many ways as I could find. My biggest goal in life was to be a wallflower; or maybe even disappear altogether. Because if you disappear then you can’t disappoint anybody. Including yourself.

This particular morning I had shown up, as promised, and spoken my small truth for the first time out loud. I had looked my teacher in the eyes and quietly asked for help. I will forever be grateful for the safe space she built and the courage she nourished within me. It gave me the strength to show up that day. Her response was simple, but it created a sense of safety that became the anchor as I began the journey: “It will all be okay. You don’t have to figure this out alone.” And now, four hours later, I was talking with my new therapist. Trying to find a light at the end of the tunnel. But the only thing I could find were more questions. No answers.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” -Peter Pan

After what felt like ages of dead air, my therapist walked across the room and began sitting out plastic boxes overflowing with toys like you would find in kid’s meals; small plastic figurines of various characters. And I spent the rest of my session choosing characters that I could identify with for my “outer self” (the parts of me I showed to the world) and my “true self” (the parts of me that made me who I am). It was the first time I thought about what values I held; not just the roles that I played in my life. My outer self was represented with the “good student”, the “well prepared girl”, and “chicken little”. But as soon as I laid eyes on the small Peter Pan at the bottom of the box I knew I had uncovered something important. A tiny light appeared at the end of the tunnel. My true self was visible for the first time; values of courage and compassion, a love of adventure and the kind of magic kids hold close to their hearts.

That was the first moment I realized how strongly I believe in the importance of fully submerging into all of the experiences this life has to offer – to dive deep into the waters and find adventures around every corner. To see as many corners of the world as my feet will carry me to and travel as much as possible, all while not overlooking the beauty that hides in the small corners of familiar places. To soak in every ounce of adventure. Because some of the biggest magic in life can be found on the ocean floor; not just above the water. And that requires leaving the shore. Making it necessary to swim, sometimes through turbulence and murky water, but always better than not knowing what lies beneath the surface.

“To live will be an awfully big adventure.” -Peter Pan

I carried the small Peter Pan home with me as a reminder of those values. And I kept walking down the path of discovering what makes me who I am. Today, almost ten years later, I have a red feather tattoo on my shoulder for a very similar reason. Still walking down that path one step at a time. Striving for courage over comfort; traveling as much as possible and soaking in every ounce of adventure along the way. Swimming can be scary sometimes, but always worth it. That’s where you find the magic.

Over and out,
#RedFeather

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