When I was 8, a boy named Craig ran me over with a sled.
I was trudging up a slope with a sled that measured roughly twice my height. My then iconic blonde bob was, well, bobbing up the hill, and my outfit incorporated 20 different shades of pink. The ground was unforgiving with cold, but the thought of sledding down this glacier kept my feet from going numb.
I imagined it was the North Pole. White tree branches sagged low, icy dust bit my face in the wind, and everything smelled like a very plain snow cone. Caught in a daydream of Santa and hot cocoa and Jack Frost, Craig’s toboggan met my squirming little body, and I tumbled down the hill, feet meeting face meeting hair meeting… which way is up?
My coral boots thrown downhill, I took my magenta glove to my face and felt warmth. That couldn’t be good.
See, I was used to nosebleeds. For some reason, I used to get nosebleeds constantly as a kid. Once I felt the syrupy fluid gushing out of my nose, I snapped into nosebleed mode. My parents trained me well—Pinch, sit still, hear a story, keep pinching.
Except this time I didn’t have a story. I had a glacial bunny slope. I didn’t have a tissue, either. I felt paralyzed on the hill, but not just cause of Craig. I didn’t have everything I needed. And my nose was still oozing blood.
Then I met the man who saved me from this hillside disaster.
He was a lanky dad, his sweatshirt dangled off his shoulders. He hustled up the icy knoll to me, found my boots and put them on my bare feet (I convinced my mom that Uggs would be warm enough without socks). He reached into his back pocket and handed me a red bandana, folded up like a handkerchief. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I sat on the mound and pinched.
With the few swift movements, this man transformed the icy knoll into my kitchen. Instead of the afternoon sun piercing my eyes, I felt the moon at my back, seeping in through my kitchen window. I was sitting on the linoleum counter with a box of tissues at my side and my mother cradling my head. When my eyes would get heavy, she’d even pinch for me. I opened my eyes and he was pinching.
Sometimes I think back to that frozen moment in time and laugh. 14 years later, I’m generally frantic everyday. I run from place to place, usually carrying 4 more items than I have hands, usually sipping coffee and spilling it over my—oh shit, I’m wearing this shirt again this week?
Through the course of a week, I wake up at various hours of the day in a panic, without fail. My stomach feels like I ate a battery (some days, that’s not too far off—I’m convinced liquor is poison). Half empty coffee cups litter my bedroom. I mistake my laundry heap for my bed far too often.
I’m usually out the door, still arguing with one shoe and 5 minutes to get to class.
But after college, I won’t have classes to make, but quarterly meetings to attend. I won’t be able to wear the same shirt everyday, because I’ll get those judgy eyes from my cubicle mate. Instead, my alarm will buzz at the same time every morning. I’ll know which slacks match with which belt. I’ll know the bus driver who breaks a little too quickly and sends me and my stylish lunch tote hurdling past the seated school children up front.
Until college ends, though, this whole freak show I perform every morning is my routine. It’s become the sitting and pinching of my young adult life. To some, this is diagnosable.
But I thrive on it.
Morning adrenaline kick starts—no, roundhouse kicks my day. I know what do to, more or less. Wash my face, put shit in my backpack that makes me look important, don’t leave the apartment naked. And there’s always a lot of dancing. Or tripping, I’m not sure which. It’s simple, and it’s just enough to stop the bleeding.
Leaving college, I’m trudging up that frozen hill again. But this time it’s Mt. Kilimanjaro. It’s the real world. I’m trying not to look behind me at all those house parties, papers, unpaid internships below, but I see Craig’s sled in all its pomp and circumstance, coming full force.
As his sled leaps over every rock, a pang hits my stomach:
I won’t be able to stay up until the sun rises.
I won’t find pockets of time to slouch in a coffee shop after class.
My mental health days will be documented now.
Whether I like it or not, Craig’s barreling down that mountain. And I’ve survived this far, so I can learn to adapt, right? If I could impromptu pinch ‘n sit when I was 8, I can make it work 14 years later. But this time I don’t have that hoodied father to steer me back to my habits.
That has to be me. I need to have my tricks in my back pocket everywhere I go. I’ll challenge myself.
I’ll blindly accept the lead role in the theatrical remake of Cristina Wakes Up. I’ll make obstacles courses with my laundry. I’ll transform my shoe hunting into a game of I Spy. I’ll metro surf on the train, determined to defy all of Newton’s Laws or something like that.
And perhaps then not much will change after all.