When I was seven, I decided I was going to jump off the high dive at our pool. I slowly climbed the ladder, realizing with each step how very little I wanted to climb something high and jump off of it. I walked out on the board and completely froze. The seconds turned to minutes as I stood immobilized looking down at the faraway pool.
My mom tried to convince the lifeguard to let me climb down or to let her climb up; both of which are totally against the pool rules, mainly because of the risk of falling to one’s death. The entire pool was staring. My heart was racing and my eyes were swimming with tears. I was too scared to even be embarrassed; impressive, because I can always find room in my emotions to be embarrassed. As it sank in that I would have to either try to make a life on that diving board for myself or jump, I steeled my resolve, closed my eyes, balled my fists, and jumped.
My mom loves to tell that story as an example of my bravery. It’s a pretty embarrassing anecdote from my perspective, but I like when she tells it. Right now, I’m going through a period in my life a lot like standing on the high dive, gathering my courage to make the next move. I am looking for a new job, looking into graduate schools, taking improv, and working on the 2.0 version of my cabaret with the Marvelous Meerkat. It’s an exciting time, but one full of choices and character building experiences. I hate building character. It’s exhausting.
There’s an episode of my favorite Nicktoon, Rugrats, where Chuckie decides he’s going to be brave enough to go down this giant slide at the park. The slide seems way too big for him, and scary, and the metal can get hot and burn his legs. The only way Chuckie (the Rugrat I relate to second best, after Angelica) can get down the slide is by listening to someone else, Suzie, who gives him a mantra: “I’m a big brave dog!” He says it to himself over and over again until he can face the slide.
I’m not facing anything nearly as scary as jumping off the high dive or going down a giant slide. I’m just making my life work for me a little better. And if I have to tell myself along the way that I’m a big brave dog, so be it.