I remember a girl who was fierce and free. A girl with an endless imagination who felt things deeply. She was fearless, despite so many things that she didn’t understand, so many adult things that she found strange and confusing. She thrived in her gymnastics class, hurling herself across the pommel horse with ease and triumph and defiance. At the pool she was right at home, and could fling herself backwards off the side, up and over plunging head-first into the water without a thought. She would find car glass left on the street, remnants of some poor bastard’s bad luck, but to her they were diamonds and she would fill her pockets and be entertained for hours with the stories in her head of princesses and mermaids and fairies and magic, lots of magic. Her home extended beyond the doors of the third floor flat that she grew up in, and she would run wild in the neighborhood – to the park, to the shops, up the hills, in the school yard and to the crawlspace behind the storage shed that seemed to be built for her small body, able to creep through close to the walls, climbing up to sit on the windowsill hidden in the back or all the way up to her perch on the roof where she felt larger than life, above it all, untouchable. The things that did attempt to frighten her mostly made her angry. She didn’t like being small. She didn’t really like being a girl. Little girls were vulnerable, so the world seemed to keep telling her. She didn’t want to be vulnerable, not to the boys who kept reminding her she was just a girl, and not to all of those adult things that she found so strange and confusing.
One day, she ran at the pommel horse, and instead of hurling herself over with abandon as she had done so many times before, she hesitated and stopped short. She tried the parallel bars, but they too held power over her and denied her freedom. She stopped going to gymnastics. The next time she visited the pool she stared at the water for a long time. Then she stood with her back to the pool, clinging to the edge with clenched toes, peeking over her shoulder and wondering how she had ever defied gravity before. She went for a cannonball instead—a classic, a crowd-pleaser—and left the backflips to the daring. She no longer dared. It was batters-up for a round of moonball (softball played with a volleyball) and she swung and she missed, and the momentum of her swing carried her through and down to the ground and stung her knee as she landed and her teacher cried, “You’re out!” dismissing her injury and trying to usher her off the field and she screamed back, “Fuck you, you motherfucker!” She was no longer free, but she was still fierce and growing angrier every day.
Trapped between a world that claimed to want to protect her, and another that only sought to ridicule and exploit her weakness, she didn’t see any third options. She didn’t see a way out. As if she was stuck forever on the windowsill in the crawlspace behind the shed, but could no longer make it to the roof. And if she could climb up that high, where would she go from there? That roof was but an island, isolated, cut-off, sans issue. She would be above it all, but she would also be alone. She was afraid of being alone, like she was now afraid of so many other things. The princesses and mermaids and fairies no longer kept her company. There was no more magic, none that she could see. And so she opened the door to that world of adult things that she found so strange and confusing. Surely the answers must be there, she thought. Surely there was a place for her there, a place with the promise of freedom, a place that would understand her fierceness and anger and let her become fearless once again.
She lost herself there for many years, many formidable years, still a child playing at being an adult. So much so that she didn’t notice when the time came that she had actually become an adult, still with the mind and temperament of that fierce and angry child. An adult who hadn’t allowed herself to feel things deeply since that day she opened the door to escape a world she didn’t understand. It was the price of freedom in a world with no magic. You could be free, or you could feel. You couldn’t do both. Because when you are so angry, feeling is agony. Feeling is torture. Angry is alone and isolated, on an island sans issue. Angry is trapped between two worlds, fighting them both and losing every time. Angry is oblivious to the fact that it is both shield and weapon, protecting us while it slowly kills us. Angry cannot find understanding or rise above because it is blinded and desperate. Desperately seeking a way out, but still clinging to its own survival. Blinded to the fact that the magic is still there, just waiting to be recognized, waiting to be put back into play, capable of making the pain go away. With magic we can be free and feel deeply, we don’t have to choose. We aren’t caught between two worlds, but have infinite options at our fingertips. With magic we can create bridges and tunnels and roads so that we are no longer isolated, no longer alone. Magic is all around us if we can lay down the burden of our anger to let love in, feel it deeply and be free.
This text is originally from my newsletter, Making Connections, and may have been modified for publication here.