When I was in the fifth grade, I joined the gymnastics team.
The mean girls who didn’t make it made a point to tell me that the only reason I did, was because I could do a split.
But, I like to think I did a pretty bang up job on the balance beam too.
As I’ve grown, I’ve approached vulnerability much like tip-toeing on a balance beam.
I thrust myself onto it and take one step at a time, until I’m somewhere in the middle.
That’s the point where I start to question, I wonder if I’ll make it all the way across without stumbling,
my feet and hands begin to shake,
I hold my breath and contemplate jumping off before risking embarrassment or possible injury.
I believe in being open and receiving other people openly.
I believe in the power of standing in your truth.
So much so that it has me tied to mine and unable to move beyond it.
However, the sort of vulnerability that comes with relying on another’s approval is really quite tricky for me.
Applying for jobs, romantic interest, performing, it’s all the middle of the beam for me.
These are things that I avoid out of fear of being vulnerable and open to rejection, or even emotional injury.
Often, I jump off the beam before I even reach them.
Lately, I’ve tried to stand tall and look each of them in the eye.
But, what some people can’t see is that my hands and my feet are shaking.
Pursuing strength of character and doing my best to find fulfillment within myself doesn’t really mean that I’ve succeeded. It just means that I’ll keep trying until I do.
But, the truth is, I don’t like to feel out of control.
I don’t like waiting for approval and I’d much prefer to pave my own way than to wait for someone else to believe in me.
At times that appears brave and perhaps it often is.
But, it takes a different kind of strength to simply put yourself out there and wait.
To hope that an employer sees the value that you bring to the table, that a potential partner will think you are attractive and worthy of interest, that your friends will still want to know you tomorrow, that a publisher will read your work and find it engaging enough to share.
I’ve been more vulnerable lately than I’m used to. I’ve been waiting a lot.
I could feign apathy to protect myself from the sting of potential rejection.
But, I’ve refused and that’s opened my chest up to expose a heart that is shaking at the temptation of retreat.
As I pry my ribs open with one truth at a time, I have to believe that my heart will be safe there.
Exposed and vulnerable, I have to trust that it’s worth more than being hidden behind the layers upon layers of false protection.
I can walk alone in this life, never hoping for another’s approval.
I can move forward without regard for the people in my life and their opinion of me.
But, it’s tricker to rip open my chest and ask the world if what they see there is good and beautiful.
I guess birthday’s have a way of making you ask these questions.
Another year of life on this Earth, another year of hoping that my existence will ultimately mean something for the greater good.
A solitary day to remind you that you’re waiting.
That you hope the people in your life feel loved and appreciated, that your presence means more than another warm body taking space.
A single moment in time to either break your heart or motivate you toward a greater year to follow.
Cheers to 29 and my beating, shaking, scared little heart.