Note: this is my first post in the #trust30 “Ralph Waldo Emerson Self-Reliance” project. In the project, you commit to writing a bit every day in response to a given prompt. Today’s prompt is “the story you’d tell with 15 minutes to live”.
So many of my memories of being twelve years old are of what the pavement looked like. I remember relishing the different textures, the deeply-pocked slabs of gray, the brick-red squares. I found it comforting to watch myself propel the sidewalk behind me, its cracks passing in a rhythm that helped pass the time.
Besides, it was only practical. I would never trip on anything if I was always watching my next step.
This also provided a shield from onlookers, avoiding the discomfort of coming into eye contact. I hated eye contact, it always seemed to carry some kind of judgement with it.
But my shield was constantly under attack. My dad sharply criticized my posture, saying that my constantly staring at the ground was one of the reasons that I was picked on and bullied; that I brought it on myself. He was right, naturally.
I tried to correct my posture physically, at his advice, as if this would somehow change my entire perspective on life. Just as naturally, it didn’t.
As I got older and started deciding that I was a fundamentally good human being with intrinsic value, I began noticing that I hardly ever looked down. I began tripping on things periodically. I would smile to myself each time, a little bit proud that I’d graduated past the safety of watching my steps.
Now, my memories are of the faces of people I care deeply about, people I care less about, and people I barely know, if at all. I don’t have any idea if they had to fight for their ability to look around and see others, rather than watching the ground whoosh by.
I hope that when my eyes meet those of my young son, he sees approval and his immense value to me and to the world. I hope this becomes a model he can use for the rest of his life.
I think he’s going to be okay; he surely trips and falls enough.