Much of the field trips I went on as part of a south Florida public school involved parks, tourist attractions or aquariums. It makes me curious what field trips everyone else was was taking while elementary school year after year, I pranced around Disney World or Monkey Jungle or Parrot Jungle or Butterfly World or the Miami Seaquarium.
I remember a part of one of those trips to the Miami Seaquarium quite vividly. I don’t know what grade I was in, or what I wore, or if I packed a Lunchable that day or another favorite, a smushed ham and mayonnaise sandwich. What I do remember is standing in the front row, behind an almost face high plexiglas partition, watching the dolphin show. It was almost unbearably hot, but I was amazed by the trainer’s flailing arms and the way the dolphins responded in their round pool of too-blue water. The lead trainer, the one wearing the microphone, the one with the happy announcer voice, said that they needed a volunteer for the next part of the show. She walked up to the partition and pointed right at me.
“You. Would you like to jump in the water? The dolphin will swim up to you and carry you!”
I thought about it for a second and decided my mother wouldn’t appreciate it if I wet my clothes or my hair, which she always took pains to blow dry.
“No thank you,” I responded meekly.
“But it’s so hot out here!” the announcer continued without missing a beat. “How about you?”
She pointed to a dirty blonde haired classmate of mine, whose name is lost in the folds of my terrible memory.
“I can’t swim,” she said giggling.
I couldn’t swim either! I had just seriously considered jumping into that pool of deep water and I had no idea how to swim. I clearly remember being struck by how dumb I felt that I had not considered my own limitations.
That was childhood, though. I jumped from my bed to my sister’s across the room, because for some reason, I imagined I could ninja-sail and make it. I always wanted an extra large meal, because I felt hungrier than I could ever physically be. I signed up for choir when I couldn’t sing and theater when I was too shy to stand in front of people.
In my last post I set up a list of mostly serious goals for the summer. One of those goals was to read 10 books over the summer. For about half a second, 10 books seemed too small for how much I read, but I swatted that thought away. I let the number 10 swell and grow in my mind until it was settled.
And then I read 3 books in 3 days. (This is Not a Test, Something Like Normal and Shadow and Bone) (all YA, I know. Don't judge me.) (Also, I promise I left my house and did stuff. I just read fast.)
I'd say that clearly, I low-balled myself. I knew that I was, but I did it anyways. I set the bar low.
I do this a lot. So much has changed for the girl standing next to a too-blue dolphin pool who never thought of her limitations. Somehow she became this woman who now thinks of nothing but them.
I'm not sure why I'm so afraid of overestimating myself and why that drives me to underestimate. What would've been the harm in saying I wanted to read a millionty books and not reaching that goal? Instead, I said a safe and somber 10.
Granted, book reading is a harmless thing. I probably should not have jumped in the pool during that field trip. I couldn’t swim and that was the reality. I’m all for reality and self-awareness but I also know that I low-ball.
One of those books I read was about a US Marine and I spent the entire time thinking, “I could not do that.”
I mean, I know I would never want to do that, but why do I think I can’t?
I constantly talk about not being able to swim. I can’t swim.
My good friend Nicole is studying abroad in Paris, and I admire her so much for her courage. I always tell her, “I couldn’t do it.”
It’s amazing this whole list of things I’ve decide I am not capable of. No discussion necessary, no hope allowed: I can’t.
Somewhere along the line, my obsession with self-awareness has made me constantly underestimate myself. What makes it all sad is that there are some things that I truly can never do and never be.
For example, without the help of my vast collection of affectionately dubbed hooker heels, I’ll never be any taller than five feet. That is a true never. That is a true can't.
I’m not sure why I spend any time making myself smaller than I am.
I’m not sure when I decided I was weak.
I’m not sure why this is sticking with me today.
I just wanted to share. I count myself out sometimes.