I peered over my toes at the water streaming fifty feet down to the muddy pool below me and felt a queer beat in my stomach. For half an hour I had hiked a steep incline up to the cliff in flip-flops. Clinging tenaciously to the footpads, I skipped across small creeks, pulled myself up with the aid of jutting rocks and tree roots, and swung across gaps in the path on branches. But as I stood on the cliff, barefoot now, I forgot my strenuous climb and remembered that every step was taken for one reason - to jump. So I stilled the fear bouncing in my stomach, counted to three, hurled my body into the air, and fell.
I have been climbing uphill in flip-flops all my life. While I am aware that everybody climbs hills and faces obstacles in their lives, I also believe that the success of those battles may well be based on the foundation upon which one walks - how firm and supportive it is. As I look back, I realize that the challenges I have faced have enabled me to find a strong footing within a situation that was not altogether stable.
As a ten year old I grappled with panic attacks and even ulcers, a physical manifestation of the fear, guilt, and anxiety I felt primarily as a result of my father, an alcoholic, manic depressive, and sexually abusive man. Though I do have a few positive childhood memories of our motorcycle rides and camping trips, they are unfortunately surrounded and superseded by the majority of my experiences with him. Before I attended therapy and biofeedback sessions in fifth grade, the best way I knew to cope with my intense and disturbing feelings was to imagine them away. Every night before falling asleep I would fold my body tightly together and construct a world in which my father did not exist. He disappeared in a variety of ways - a chance fire, a freak accident, an unexplainable vanishing. In his place would appear a new gentle and supportive father. With these images I wooed myself to sleep every night, but the following morning I would again awake to the reality of my life. Eventually my coping mechanism became insufficient, and I began seeing a counselor.
Quickly this woman taught me to transform my paralyzing fears into a determined drive for success. With this skill learned, my life and my feelings about it improved immeasurably. My relationship with my father changed dramatically resulting from both a change in his behaviors and a change in my responses. Now, my drive for success is no longer fueled by a need to transform my life into something more positive, but rather a desire to continue its trajectory. I am the first person in my immediate family to attend and graduate from college, which I was able to do with the assistance of various academic scholarships. Due to my 64 hour/week job working with developmentally disabled individuals, I have been financially independent from my mother since my first step onto campus. In addition I have been able to financially assist my younger sister who now attends college. Most importantly, I have developed into a woman I am proud of -thoughtful, determined, compassionate, and forgiving, even of my father. I know now that though he has left an indelibly negative imprint on my life, he has also prompted a positive one.
After so many struggles, I'm now emotionally and mentally ready for new hills to climb and new pools to jump into, one of which I hope will be law school. I believe that with my now developed determination I will be able to successfully complete law school and with my heightened sense of compassion I will be able to assist those who, like me, perhaps began life with a shoddy foundation. As for me, my footwear is finally more supportive and sturdy. I've transformed my flip-flops into hiking boots.
Leave a Reply.