I’ve been walking with a slight limp lately. Not as dramatic as Igor but enough that it has cramped my style. The cause of my limp was a bad pedicure that ended up in an infection just like you see on the 5 o’clock news. I feel ridiculous because as my friend, Priya says, “These are problems of abundance”. As I drag my foot along me, I could hear Miss Jay from American’s Next Top Model critiquing my walk in my head because….well, I’ve always been proud of my walk.
In 5th grade my principal saw me walking across campus and remarked to his daughter, Bethany “That Shemaiah always looks like she knows where she’s going”. This is the person I try to convey and apparently, according to Bethany, I have since I was 11. I try to appear as if I know where I am going and what I am doing, even if I don’t.
When I was 11, I had no clue what I was doing. I was fortunate enough that my grandparents paid for me to attend a small private school. This school was well above my socio-economic class and it seemed like everyone else knew what to do, how to act, and where they were going in life. My family struggled to provide basics so the thought of college, vacations were a dream to me, let alone often food and electricity. When I showed hesitation or weakness, bullies at school seized upon the insecurity and would torment me. So I learned to fake it. I acted like I knew exactly what to do and where I was going.
These survival skills morphed into actuality as I realized I had learned along the way how to adapt quickly to new situations. I size up situations quickly and adjust accordingly. Always, always act like you belong in the place you find yourself, even if you don’t.
I want to teach these survival skills to my boys. When my boys shuffle or flounder about, I chide them to pick up their feet and walk with intention. The thing is, they don’t need it. They float through the world easier than I did. They know their place in it and they are strong and confident.
This past month with a bum foot in tow, I am in middle school again, feeling insecure and vulnerable. I look for the bullies of the world to tease me, even though this is not the case. My community helps. They want to know the boring minutia of my injury, my recovery. I blow the conversation off but they ask more questions. They care. They are concerned. They offer their assistance and I have to take it. I need the help. Being vulnerable isn’t as bad as I thought it was.
Who knew so much of myself was caught up in the way I walk?