I’ve been told that when I was a very young girl, before my thoughts and actions were pressed into my memory, my Grandfather taught me how to ride a bicycle. Well, he tried to teach me. According to my Mother, it looked more like me riding around in front of our house, falling off my bike, getting frustrated, and getting back on my bike. I’m sure there was a little yelling involved, too. And all the while, I was making sure my Grandpa Mallett stayed on the steps at a safe distance away close enough if I decided I needed help, but far enough away that I could figure it out on my own. I guess this must be true because I have several scars on my knees that I’ve always had, I can’t remember learning how to ride a bike so I must have learned before I was capable of forming memories, and that same need for independence and figuring things out on my own still pulses through me.
In fact, most of my childhood and early life is marked by that determination and strong will. Even in the smallest things, like when my Grandma and Mom told me during a shopping trip that they were going to leave with or without me when I made it clear I wasn’t done shopping. I kept walking away from them with my one hand on my hip, tossed my other hand over my shoulder and waved goodbye to them. My Dad can still do an impression of me with one hand on my hip and something sassy coming out of my mouth. Or the summer my sister and I decided we wanted to learn how to swim. We spent hours practicing putting our heads under the cool water with our noses unplugged. We never did learn how to swim, but you better believe we can put our heads under calm water for ten seconds with our noses unplugged. :) Making the cheerleading squad, getting the cutest guy in the freshman class to ask me to Homecoming, turning my life around junior year and deciding to put more time into my grades and family than boys, opting to go to college in New England across the country from everything I knew… I tend to be a little fearless in life when it comes to figuring things out of my own.
Recently, I have started learning how to balance my life better. I’ve started to figure out that it’s okay to be a little stubborn, a little independent, and to have opinions. If I want to metaphorically teach myself to ride a bike, I certainly can. And it will probably give me a huge sense of accomplishment. But I’m also learning that it’s okay to let others help. I don’t have to do it all on my own nor can I do it all on my own sometimes. In different situations, I need others around me to help make things happen. A friend of a friend who knows of a job or borrowing money from my parents to make ends meet after losing a job.
I am so horrified of going to either extreme because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve completely fallen head over heels for someone so hard that I lost all sense of identity. I had no opinions and no outlet for me to just be myself. I wanted to be with that person so badly that I took on their identity and lost any kind of independence I had. But I’ve also seen the downfall of what it is to be completely impenetrable by others. I’ve wanted to do things on my own so badly and regain my identity so strongly that I’ve put walls up around my heart and resisted help. Both sides of the fence are just as lonely, just as pathetic, and make you just as resentful.
So lately I’m working on finding my balance and I think I’m getting there. I’m finding the happy medium that is just me. Someone who prefers to work independently, but is not afraid to ask questions or take feedback. Someone who sets high goals and makes plans to achieve them, but isn’t afraid to take help in order to break them. Someone who knows exactly who she is and what she likes, but is willing to let another into her life that has different opinions and beliefs without feeling like she has to take them on for herself. Someone who doesn’t get lost in anyone else’s identity, but can recognize the need for intimacy. Someone who is completely happy and fulfilled on her own, but who wants to go down the road of life with others at her side. I intend to live the life that my Grandpa began teaching me several years ago. I want to fall and stumble and figure things out for myself, but always have someone on the steps to turn to when I realize I need some guidance. And then I want to ride together with those people willing to be there for me through what’s left of this life. Easy as that. Just like riding a bike…