?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

What's Changed?

I'm taking a break from my normal reading material, and I'm currently
reading To Race the Wind: An Autobiography by Harold Krents. The description
says: Recollections of a former Harvard law student who is blind. Krents
fell in love, graduated with honors, and passed the New York State bar exam.
Recalls childhood loneliness and being taunted in public school. Credits
family support for his perseverance. Krents's experiences inspired the
popular play and movie Butterflies Are Free. 1972.

I've never seen the play, but I've seen the movie with the same title, and
also the movie To Race the Wind. There are many things about Harold's life
that I think are a bit different, some things that I don't totally agree
with, but in other ways, I can most definitely relate. As a male though, the
expectations for Harold were different from what they were for me but it
sort of got me thinking.

As I'm sitting here reading, I'm remembering things that I haven't thought
about in years. One thing that came to mind took place when I was probably
about five years old. I don't remember if it was Kindergarten Round-up when
this happened, or if it was just something that happened. As a kid, (and
before I knew that exercise was bad), I absolutely loved to run. On this
particular day I remember walking into a gym with my mom and just taking off
across the floor, running at top speed. I wasn't afraid that I was going to
get hurt, and in fact, the thought apparently never even entered my mind. I
don't know what exactly was going through my five-year-old mind, but I knew
it was an empty space, and I wanted to run. I think it was that same day
when I discovered climbing bars that ran up the side wall of the gym. I
climbed those too, and at one point I think I dropped off before actually
getting to the ground. At no time did I give any thought to my safety, and
at no time did I actually hurt myself. I had no fear. I climbed on
everything, took crazy risks, and enjoyed every minute of it.

This fearlessness took me through several years, but somewhere along the way
it started to go away. I remember a time in fourth grade. It was during
afternoon recess, and we had plenty of snow on the ground. One of our
teachers was standing by the monkey bars with a pile of snow in front of
him. We were taking turns climbing on the bars and then we'd jump off. The
idea was that the teacher was going to catch us before we actually hit the
ground, but the snow was there as a back-up just in case. Not once did my
teacher miss catching me, but I remember starting to feel uneasy about
jumping after a while, and eventually I think I said I was tired rather than
admit to my classmates that I was starting to get scared. The drop couldn't
have been more than about five feet but for the first time I think I
realized that I could possibly get hurt.

A year later, I was practicing the high jump in gym class. I had gotten
pretty good, and I pretty much always managed to hit the mat without
knocking the poll down and I was really excited. I think it was the day of
the actual test when it happened though. I started to execute my body turn
too far to the right. My leg went over but I landed too close to the edge of
the mat and kept going. The mat was fairly far off the ground, (I'm thinking
about three feet, but considering that I was shorter at that point my
perception might be off a bit now.) In any case, the mat was outside on
concrete. I landed on my arm. Nothing was broken, but I was pretty sore for
a while and I either had a strain or a sprain, I can't remember which
anymore.

After that, I think I started to be a bit more cautious. I participated in
trust games and high ropes course things during summer camp, but those
things were different for me. I was in a harness for the ropes, and although
I knew that if the person holding onto my rope lost their grip I'd be in a
world of hurt, the absolute freedom I felt dangling so far up in the air was
amazing. There's nothing like the feeling of controlled free-fall, and I
think I still remember that feeling of total freedom.

These days though, I prefer to be more cautious. I'm not as likely to wander
around in unfamiliar areas, I'm a much more careful walker, and, for the
most part, I prefer to keep both feet planted firmly on the ground. I'm sure
part of it is just me getting older, and hopefully a bit smarter, but
sometimes I wonder what happened to that part of me who used to love the
unknown. What happened to the kid who used to climb up the slide from the
slide end instead of the ladder? What about the kid who could climb up the
side of a swing-set bar and hang upside-down from the top bar? I think back
to some of those things and absolutely cringe because I didn't get hurt, but
I wonder what made me change. I was the kid who used to pull kids into the
swimming pool when I thought they should be swimming rather than sitting on
the edge of the pool in tears because they were afraid. (Okay, so that's
cruel, but I even remember the name of the boy I did it too. His name was
Billy, and he just couldn't bring himself to get into the pool and since the
rest of us were there I thought that he should be too. My teacher wasn't
pleased, but Billy was even less pleased.) These days though, I'm more
likely to be like Billy and let everyone else try things first before doing
it myself. Am I chicken? What happened to change me? Are these changes good
or am I truly missing out? Does the fact that I know I can't see, and
understand what that actually means have anything to do with any of this? I
just don't know, but reading this book has really gotten me thinking.