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"Roller blading is walking for the brave," I said to my friend when she told me to imagine said activity like walking.
"I don't think I can do it."
I'd been a timid kid, a timidity that carried over into my existence as a young adult. Afraid to lose control, I'd never learned how to bike, never learned how skate, never learned how to swim, never learned how to step out of my comfort zone. Until recently.
In freshman year, I had been forced to take the swim class that was required of students until the rules changed with the onslaught of the class of 2020. Being a 2019er, I'd missed being spared of the shame and embarrassment by one year. Swim class was a blessing in disguise, as I'd gotten a nice helping of a lesson best served cold: humility.
I'd been humble before, a product of both my nature and my girlhood. And yet, I'd also grown up being an academic scholar, a characteristic that when pared with my humility resulted in a hodgepodge of pride and contempt for my abilities. Swim class forced me to start at the basics: floating, treading, baby backstroke, beginnings my mom had scarcely experienced despite her origins on an island.
In learning to swim, I'd learned my limits, but also that they were only as concrete as I made them.
Now back to blading. As I write this, it is one day after my friend Lily's 17th birthday. To celebrate, she'd invited six of her closest friends to a roller rink in Florham Park. Me, being ever the adventurous one, decided to join the clan on the skating expedition. I remembered that the last time I had engaged in the activity had been that summer, visiting cousins in Maryland. I'd held my mother's hand the entire time, craving independence but afraid to fall. I'd hoped that around friends, acquaintances, and strangers, the social pressure would be high enough for me to conquer my fears and rise victorious.
Unfortunately, it wasn't. As I put those blades on, I felt pangs of the familiar fear of losing control of my already chaotic youth. Standing, I felt the pull of gravity on my knees, legs, and feet, a pull that activated the most primitive fears in my mind.
Still, I rose, and hit the floor. Clutching the wall and the hand of an ex-friend, I slid tentatively along the wall and into the abyss. After getting around the rink once or twice, the fear had morphed into exhaustion.
Still, I tried again.
Switching my blades from an 11 to a 10, I hoped that the change in size would result in a change of heart. Needless to say, it didn't.
As I write this, a pair of skates sits at my feet, waiting to be tried. I've heard of their difficulty, being the primitive predecessor of the oh-so easy blade, but still a part of me wondered if they'd prove easier than their younger sibling.
I don't want to be the girl who lets her fears rule her life, who decides that settlement is better than adventure. I don't want to die without having lived.
So, with tears in my eyes and tentativeness in my step, but with steel in my blood, I will try.