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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Keeping Up

You can come as long as you can keep up. As children this point seems obvious. You make the team if you can run as fast as the other kids. If the popular girls skooch together and make room for you on the sidewalk, you can keep up. If they push you off, you'll fall behind. The first time I became conscience of this truth was on my way back from 5th grade recess. By that point we were past playing but not quite sneaking away to smoke. I had a new friendship blooming. Sarah had effortless charm. I had hard-won humor. Jane was striding along with us, a constant companion to Sarah for the past few years, they were best friends and I was the intruder. We all made the walk back from recess together daily, our conversation vacillating between random inside jokes we soon forgot the original meaning to and gossip about who in our class had gotten her period. Days passed, Sarah and I getting more comfortable as friends, our bodies seemed to fill out. We were young and still had some growing to do. It's possible we weren't leaving Jane out, we were just casually expanding her right off the sidewalk. Jane felt the nudge, for a while tagging behind us on the diagonal, but by that time it was too late. Your friendship is over if you say to someone, "Hey! Wait up! Ya'll are leaving me out!" If you end up crying, you might as well fail a grade and try to make new friends the next time around.

Growing up only makes it harder to keep up. As kids, being encouraged to be independent was a form of child abuse. As an adult, it's a requirement. I can comfortably eat lunch alone, travel internationally, and strut into a party dateless. I'm destiny's child. An independent American woman. That all melts like a snowflake though when I'm overcome by the urge to keep up with the cool kids. They come in all genres, but for me, at this moment in my life, the cool kids are those effortless skiers who taunt me with their skill because I can't keep up with them long enough to ever see how the magic happens or how good they really are. Where I fail as an athlete, I make up for with enthusiasm for short term goals. This time the goal was very short. An idea spurred getting off the tram at the top of the mountain. There were those two guys, friends of my boyfriend, who are sweet guys, and great skiers. They have encouraged my skiing, similar to encouraging a baby to walk. Positive support is great, but the false ego which sometimes convinces me that I'm a badass wants to shout, "I ain't no baby, baby!" In the fantasy, I then jump of a 20ft cliff, landing in a soft billow of snow. As I ski away, the guys think, "Damn. That girl can really ski, especially for being as intelligent, pretty, and successful as she is". Sighing, they return to their listless skiing, their motions slowed by the memory of my action.

That's not at all how it went down. For now I'd have to settle for just trying to keep up for as long as I had in me. Skiing as fast as I could, keeping only my destination in mind, being held steady by determination, and these guys were probably waiting up a bit, I kept up. Frozen cheeks drooped on my face like cracking ice slabs as I watched a guy land a 30 ft cliff jump onto a tough snow blanket. So, that's what I've been missing. I can't do it myself, proven once again a few days later when I face planted off a 5ft boulder. I lifted my head, grinning, a strange taste in my mouth. "Am I bleeding?" Negative. The coldness of snow can give the same metallic taste of blood.

Still, haven't been nudged off the sidewalk yet.

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