Olympics and Flying: What they Have in Common

When I was little, I would watch the Olympics in complete awe and reverence. I would watch the gymnasts run down the mats like an airplane taxing down a runway, fling themselves off the vault, fly through the air, twisting and turning like a leaf in the wind, and stick their landings. I would watch the ice skaters glide on the ice like a knife over butter, twirl in the air as they complete their triple axels, and come back down to earth all with the grace of an angel.

And I wanted to be a gymnast and an ice skater and a fairy princess. So, I tried my hardest. I put a step stool down between the lines on the carpet in the living room. I would run and jump off of it, doing a half twist in the air before my feet hit the ground. And in that moment, I was an award-winning gymnast. I would “ice skate” in my socks on hardwood floor, and as I glided over the floors I pretended I was Michelle Kwan. I would take my light pink super hero cape and pretend it was a Queen’s robe, until I decided being prim and proper was boring. Saving the world is more fun.

When I was little, I was obsessed with the idea of flying. I would stand on the bottom step of the staircase in my home and channel my inner Buzz Lightyear by saying, “to infinity and beyond.” Of course, being 3, it would come out “to infiniby and beyond.” And then I would jump off that 6 inch step and flap my arms, because I was convinced that if I flapped my arms hard enough, I could fly around the room. One day, I told my Dad with all the enthusiasm little me could muster, “Daddy. I was in the air for 6 whole seconds!”

Of course, I wasn’t. Children don’t understand time… or gravity.

Sometimes I still don’t.

Time is a relative concept. It’s not a line. It’s more of a… of a… big ball of timey wimey stuff. Gravity isn’t concrete either. Sometimes, when I feel particularly unhappy about my body, I remember that I would weigh less on the moon. So, if I ever fulfill my dream of becoming an astronaut, I’m all set. Because what is weight, but the force of gravity acting upon us? And the amount of gravity depends on the mass of the object. The earth is bigger than the moon. But compared to the size of the universe, the earth is miniscule. A speck of sand on the finger of God. So it’s easy for me to feel small.

On the day I decided to test gravity and throw myself off the metaphorical cliff, I wasn’t small enough for God to see me, to protect me, and save me.

I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of flying, and I’ve learned that 37,000 feet in the air is beautiful.

Gymnasts fly. Ice skaters fly. I’ll never be either.

And that’s ok. Because I’m a writer. I believe in metaphors. I believe in life. And what is life but a metaphor anyway?

When I was little, I believed that if I jumped high enough and flapped my arms hard enough, I would sprout wings and fly around the room.

One day, I woke up, and I had wings. And now I’m flying.

The girl who is scared of heights, which is more a fear of falling aka a fear of trying to die, is flying high in the sky. And nothing will ever bring me down.

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Clock Tower Ministry

“What time is is?”

“I have no idea.”

“Oh, wait… We’re sitting under a clock tower.”

*facepalm*

This past week was my favorite week of the year: Bible Quizzing Nationals! Every year, this is a week where my faith gets tested, my hatred towards high stress situations becomes apparent, and where friendships are made and strengthened. This year was no exception (I regret to inform you I was unable to watch my youngest sister in her Semi-Finals for Individuals, because of stress. And, had she made it to the Finals, I wouldn’t be able to watch her there either. I rather enjoy not being bald and having finger nails. If not being able to watch her makes me a horrible sister, oh well. Persecute me).

However, my experience this year was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in all my previous years of Quizzing. Last year was my last year being involved as a student in Quizzing, and as such, this year was my first year being a Coach. Being a Coach is a completely different than being a Quizzer, and like in every situation, there are goods and bads.

Bad: I miss jumping.

Good: My knees don’t hurt, and the skin on my elbows is intact.

Bad: I miss knowing things.

Good: I don’t have to study, because studying: Ain’t nobody got time for that!  (Study kids! It’s important!)

Good: I can talkasquickly or as s l o w l y as I want to.

Even better: I can still make my point in 20 seconds or less, so don’t get into an argument with me.

Being a Coach this week afforded me the opportunity to get to know some people. And a lot of the conversations I had took place at this clock tower in the center of my College Campus: 17595_10201556207572955_2020817768_n

The thing about this clock tower is I hated it. I hated it when it was being built, because while it was being built, the shortest route from one end of campus to the other was not able to be used. I hated it after it was built, because I kept running into it. I hated it because even though I’m in College, I have a hard time reading analog clocks.

This week, my perspective changed. Every night, I would sit here, and I would talk to anyone who needed a friend. I would talk to the misfits, the lonely, the ones who were struggling, the ones who were metaphorically lost, the socially awkward, the ones who needed someone to cry with, the ones who needed a hug, the introverts who just needed someone to sit with. Basically, I sat and talked with anyone who reminded me of myself. We all had something in common. It provided healing for me, and I hope it started the healing process in them.

Yesterday, my Dad told me he was proud of my “Clock Tower Ministry.” I mean, he’s supposed to say that, because he’s my Dad, but I’m proud of me too. Because there was a time not too long ago when I would have been the one who needed someone to be at the Clock Tower, and I might not have found anyone there. And I would have been too shy and afraid to ask if I did find someone. But this week, I was the person at the metaphorical Clock Tower. I was the one standing in the Harbor with my light glowing, safely guiding people home. And if this is the only worthwhile thing I ever do in my life, then so be it. Because I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

 

This week, I was President of the ACFCL (Assistant Coach and Fanclubing League), which let me say, is fantastic! Because this week, I was able to watch a lot of the teams from my Church quiz, and I was able to cheer them on without the pressure of having to be at this place at this time.

And for that, I am thankful.

Because this week, I learned something about myself. I learned that even though I am insecure, even though I am loud and obnoxious in large groups, even though I have been broken in the past, even though I have no idea what I’m doing ever about anything, even though some days I believe I’m worth nothing, even though I am a misfit, I can help others. I can be their listening ear of understanding. I can be there to share their laughs, to listen to their struggles, to sit there in silence when words just aren’t enough, to be their shoulder to cry on, and I can be their Fan Club when all they need is a little encouragement.

And that is why I am thankful for this ministry and this week, because I was surrounded by fantastic teens from all over the country. I am surrounded by teens who are hungry for the word of God, and who are destined to do great things. I am thankful for the people I meet, the people I talked to and got to know, and I am thankful for all the students who stood at the front of the Auditorium and shared how God has worked in their lives. And I am thankful for the people I didn’t meet, the people who attended, and the people who couldn’t.

Because I left this week more fulfilled than I ever did when I won trophies and accolades. This week reinforced the concept that people are what matter.

Testimony 2.0

The first word is always the hardest.

It’s hard for us to admit that there’s anything wrong. It’s hard for us to admit that there are things that have happened to us that have destroyed the person we once were. There are things that have happened to us that have drastically altered the course of our lives.

And we can’t admit we’re broken. So we go on wearing a happy face, rocking our own cape, because we are told that we should deal with our problems ourselves. And then we look in the mirror one day and realize we don’t recognize the person looking back at us.

I didn’t recognize the person looking back at me.

The first word is always the hardest. But I’ve heard when telling a story, it is most effective to start at the beginning.

But, I can’t start at the beginning, because I’m a “Good Christian Girl,” and the story I’m about to share doesn’t happen to “Good Christian Girls.”

And I don’t really know how to talk about it, and sometimes, I feel like I can’t talk about it; so I’m sharing it here.

When I was in 8th grade, I was sexually assaulted by 5 guy friends of mine. They stole my innocence. They tore my proverbial Cinderella dress leaving me in my Cinder Rags. They stole it in a bathroom at school. And while I can’t get it back, the act itself isn’t what’s left me broken.

It’s what they said. “You deserve this. You’re worthless. You’re never going to amount to anything. No one will ever love you.”

And I couldn’t tell anybody because school is filled with the wrong kinds of people. It was my word against theirs. And they were popular and I was not. So I suffered in silence.

The suffering turned to self-hatred. The self-hatred ate at my soul until I felt nothing. I was breathing, but I wasn’t alive. So to feel alive, I began cutting. And with each cut the words “you deserve this. You’re worthless. You’re never going to amount to anything. No one will ever love you” echoed in my mind.

Eventually, after months of this daily battle that left my skin bloody and torn, I decided that wasn’t enough. I started eating less because everybody loves the pretty, skinny girl.

And I didn’t fit any of that criteria. But I wanted to. Because if I couldn’t love myself, who else would be able to.

And over time all these feelings piled up, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I tried to kill myself. I probably would have succeeded too if a little voice in the back of my mind hadn’t told me, you are good enough.

I threw up the pills I took.

I decided to live.

I decided to fight.

And every day I’m still fighting.

Because even though I don’t cut anymore, the urge is still always there. And I don’t know everything that triggers memories to come rushing back. And I wish I did, because then maybe I could tell you what to stop doing. But I don’t. So I can’t. But I will tell you to watch my reaction to jokes, to unexpected physical contact, to certain images, to people that remind me of someone I’d much rather forget. Little unconscious facial expressions can reveal so much about a person.

Don’t tell me I’m a bad Christian for hating myself. God is one of the only things that forces me out of bed in the morning.

Don’t tell me I deserved what happened. Nobody deserves pain like that. I was young, naïve, and didn’t know how to deal with the pain I was going through.

I see many beautiful people while going about my day. I’m not one of them. I don’t think so.

But that’s ok.

Because I’ve figured a few things out.

  1. I am capable of so much more. In the battle between Who I Think I am and Who I could Be, Who I think I am won every time, because that’s what I let get a hold of me. that’s what feeds off my energy. It doesn’t have to be that way.
  2. We are all capable of doing something great. I am, you are, we are all. But we all have something holding us back.

Every mirror tells me something different. I can tell myself that I’m beautiful over and over again, until I’m blue in the face, but there is an irrevocable flaw ingrained deep into the recesses of my brain that refuses to let me believe it. And even though deep in my soul I know I’m capable of greatness, there is something holding me back. And until I figure out what it is, until I figure out how to overcome it, I am destined to live in my own shadow.

I’m held back by fear and self-doubt. Fear that I will never be good enough, and enough self-doubt to give all the arrogant people a healthy dose.

Even though I know all this, it’s not enough to stop the feelings. It’s not enough to cure me. it’s not enough to make me whole again. But it’s enough to keep fighting. And you can be damn* sure that I will.

Sometimes when I’m sad, or hate myself, I look at the lines on my hands. They remind me that I have been stitched together by the master sewer, and I’ve learned that sometimes, that is enough.

 

*Pardon the swear word. I don’t swear normally on principle, but it’s emphasis. It’s important.

Be the Change You Wish to See

Friday, December 14, 2012, 27 people were killed in a shooting at an Elementary School. 20 of the people killed were children. It breaks my heart to hear about any loss of life, especially when the loss of life is the life of a child. These children had futures as bright as the stars, and now are not given the chance to grow up; they are not given the chance to change the world. These children had all of life to live, all of life to experience, and in an instant, it was all gone.

It is not just about the children that died either; it is also about the children who survived. Those poor kids, who are still babies, should have had years of innocence left before they realized that life can be cruel. These are children who still believed in Santa Claus, magic, and wishing on a star, whose biggest hurts could be fixed with a Band-Aid and a hug. These babies are too young to be experiencing this kind of grief, pain, and heartache.

It is not just about the children either; it is also about the parents. Parents should not have to bury a child because of life lost at the hands of another. Parents should not have to remember Christmas as a time of grief and mourning. Parents should not have to bury a part of their soul. Parents should not have to have these conversations with their children when they ask why their sibling is not coming home.

It is not just about what happened; it is also about how we move on. It is about how we change. This is not the first time this has happened, and it probably will not be the last. Violence has always been a reoccurring theme throughout history, not just in our society but also around the world. Wars and Genocide, Shootings, Murders and Violent Revolts have rocked the world while trying to solve problems.

I do not know enough about society to start making policy. But I do know about right and wrong. I do know about pain and suffering. I do know that the past can influence the future, and I know that the best way to learn is to look at our mistakes and ask ourselves “what can we do better next time?”

As children we are taught that violence is not the answer, but as soon as we reach adulthood it seems to become the answer. We say to other countries, “don’t mess with us because our weapons are better than yours.” We go to war to prevent future violence. The reoccurring theme is that violence leads to violence.

How many more innocent lives are we going to let be lost before we actually do something? Change starts with us. It starts with you and me deciding that enough is enough. Violence is not the answer; it is the problem.

It starts with you and me putting down our hate, weapons, and fists, and picking up our forgiveness, pen, and microphone. It starts with you and me deciding that our words are powerful enough to change the world. Words combined with actions are more powerful than wars will ever be.

Learn a lesson from this.

Learn a lesson from the first thing my parents ever taught me: “Use your words, Kaleigh. People will understand you much better.”

Learning to Love…Myself

I don’t like people.

I, er… What I mean is… I guess… technically that’s a lie. I don’t do well with big groups of people (and by big, I mean more than 5). I’m fine one-on-one. I can make eye contact, have an intelligent conversation and really connect to people. But as soon as you stick me into a room with more people than I can count on one hand, I turn into this socially inept creature. I stumble over my words. I play with the rubber band around my wrist. I twirl my hair around my fingers. I bite my lip. I look everywhere but at the people around me. I don’t make eye contact. It’s as though my brain completely shut down. 

Sometimes, if it’s a really bad day, I will be louder than I wish to, or I’ll trip over my own two feet.

This whole social anxiety, introverted-ness thing makes college kind of difficult. I’ve never made friends easily, and I’m not that trusting. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin—almost as if the skin I wear isn’t even mine, as if it’s on loan from someone else. But I’m trying really hard to fix this. I really am.

And yet, I still hideaway in the library among the books, because that’s where I feel the most comfortable. The written word has always been better at communicating what I want to say better than my spoken words ever could. The books don’t judge me. The notebooks filled with my words don’t judge me as I pour out my inner thoughts, struggles and questions. Books and notebooks just soak it all in.

And that’s where I sit, day-after-day, wanting to meet people, but being unable to–two sides of the same coin that’s never in harmony.

I prefer to be alone, because it allows me to ponder and think. But I still thoroughly enjoy talking to people. I like connecting heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul, one-on-one, without the fear of judgment.

But I don’t know how to make friends.

Is this all a product of my past (besides the obvious introverted part of me)?

I feel as though I’m completely useless and broken, pieces that don’t fit together as they should. I have been hurt in the past. People have left me broken and bleeding, again and again. My heart heals itself, but my brain doesn’t. And I’m trying really hard to step out of my comfort zone, leave the library, talk to someone new. I’m just scared that I will be judged, or worse, not liked. Because, more often than not, that’s how I feel.

…because in that moment, I had never been hurt so harshly by anyone before. It was as if all my flaws had been impeccably arranged in front of me for the world to scrutinize. There was no gray area, no pointing out the things that made me special, admirable, or wanted. It was all the things about myself that I hated, all listed out. They were a despicable finger pointing at me, ridiculing. My ego had never been bruised in this way before. There was not a drop of self-confidence left in me after that. I have searched introspectively for things that I could grasp, hold on to for dear life, thing that once gave me a reason to love myself. I don’t always find anything.

But I’m trying. I’m learning to love myself. And slowly, but surely, I’m gaining my confidence back. Some days, I’m more confident than others. But sometimes, I wish I could be the mysterious and fascinating girl with long, flowing hair that you read about all the times in novels; the girl who always becomes the love interest of some amazing boy. They share lovely memories and talk forever of nothing and have a sweet relationship. Sometimes, I wish I could be the girl who is always sure of herself and who always has something interesting to say.

I want to be that girl.

“I’m quirky, silly, blunt, and broken. My days are sometimes too dark, and my nights are sometimes too long. I often trip over my own insecurities. I use music to speak when words fail me, even though words are as important to me as the air I breathe. I love hard and with all that I have… and even with my faults, I am worth loving.”

I just don’t know how.