11.07.2006

Experiences to Fall in Love With

Did I tell you I went to Miami? Miami, with the fantastic architecture and the warm water and the beautiful people and the Cuban food? Did I mention that I found what I think might be my true home city? I got into the water at midnight on our last night there, five hours before we had to wake up and leave for the airport. The moon was full, the air was warm, the shell sand of South Beach still held the heat of the day, a drunk nearby warned us not to take his picture, and all was right with the world.

I thought of Miami this morning as I bundled up to go to the polls. My fashion sense changed slightly after Miami, and I now often put on things that I'm not sure I should wear to work. It turns out I really like clothing that's just slightly inappropriate. This morning it was a camouflage headband. "What do you think, baby?" I asked my husband over cereal. "I don't know," he said doubtfully, "but you sure look pretty!" I'll probably wear it.

It's cold here. That's OK. It's November. It's actually pretty nice for November in the Northeast. As we walked back from the polls (pollworkers here always feel the need to pass some lengthy eyebrow-conveyed judgment on my name, no matter how long and impatient the line is behind me), we discovered that we'd unwittingly cancelled out most of each other's votes on the ballot initiatives. Nice. I think maybe ballot initiatives don't work.

I had another perfect experience right after visiting Miami. I taught a fitness class to fifteen at-risk 12-year-old girls. They were all on trampolines. Small, personal-size ones. You should have seen their faces. It was just a one-time shot, which is too bad, because I fell in love with the experience. I was very nervous beforehand, practicing late the night before and not sleeping very well. But then they filed in and I saw their tough, curious, cute little faces. It kind of killed me. And that was it; I was the teacher, I was in charge, I knew what we were going to do. I felt, as my mom put it later, that I had found my calling. I faced them as we slowly bounced on the mats. They smiled; I smiled. Even later, halfway through class, when half of them were tired and sitting down, I was thrilled to have the other half following my every move. And everything came together during the last 20 minutes of that hour. I noticed girls hip-hop dancing during a break. We all got back on the rebounders together. "Give me a move," I said. They did. "Dude, give me one more move." They did. I made it into a combination, and we practiced that combination for a full five minutes. It was awesome. Then we did it again. They created the entire end of the class themselves, and they did it with energy and passion.

Having hit my stride at the end of class, I sometimes think I would now do everything differently if I could have that hour back again. But I couldn't have known, at the start, how free and confident they'd become on the equipment. Adults aren't like that; they're scared, and even when that fear wears off, it's replaced by expectation. An expectation that the leader will fill in the gaps, somehow. I'm like that, too. But kids aren't. Just like they have a highly developed sense of balance, they also have a highly developed sense of freedom. It's pretty cool.

I'm so in love with that experience that I don't want to put time in between me and it. I actually just looked at the calendar and was relieved to see that fewer than 14 days have passed since I taught those girls. Everything else in my life is very rich; it's not as if this experience highlights some kind of drought. But it was precious, and stumbling on precious things like that, especially when they involve overcoming fear, is a mortality trigger. I don't want time to pass, anymore; I don't want the wrinkles or the gray hair I'm developing; I don't want things to move forward, and away from all the good moments I'm having. I'm grown-up, right now. I'm alive, right now. This is it, and worse, that was it.

Heady thoughts for a cold Tuesday morning.

So, that's what I fell in love with, and now I want to move to Miami and become a fitness instructor. The truth is that I'll remain a computer-based person in the Northeast instead, because everything I know and love is here. But maybe the better, more fun part of me could stay there somehow, and not age. Stay wild, I tell that self; stay true, don't get afraid, keep finding your balance on flexible surfaces.
Wear whatever you want.